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FTC looking into unfair practices

Unfair trade practices in the banking and retail sectors were among some of the issues recently investigated by the Fair Trading Commission.

Speaking at the agency’s ninth annual lecture at the Accra Beach Resort, FTC Chairman, Sir Neville Nicholls, outlined some of the issues addressed in the organisation’s 2012 Annual Report.

He said: “The commission completed investigations into Local Banking Charges and Standard Form Contracts used by commercial banks. These investigations were undertaken by the Commission’s Fair Competition and Consumer Protections Divisions and made public at the end of 2012.”

He added that the FTC had also met with representatives of commercial banks to discuss the findings of these investigations.

“The investigation into local banking charges commenced on the commission’s own initiative and was based on public comments and queries regarding banking charges and allegations that charges were instituted without the customers’ knowledge… [It] was concerned with whether there is a lessening of competition … [presence of] collusion or anti-competitive conduct,” Nicholls noted, adding that there was no evidence found to suggest that this was the case.

The FTC Chairman explained that the banks had agreed to work with the FTC on reviewing their Code of Conduct. In addition, there was also an assessment of the fairness of over 1,000 terms used in the banks’ contracts, which were drawn up in advance by suppliers and not individually negotiated with consumers.

Nicholls said: “The commission found that 56 of these terms were in breach of the Consumer Protection Act and has been working with the banks to ensure that these unfair contract terms are amended.”

Examination of standard form contracts used in finance, property rental, the entertainment and retail sectors also came under review, with the FTC requesting that businesses amend terms where breaches to the act were found.

Public sensitisation also played a role in the agency’s activities over the past year, as Nicholls underscored that “consumer protection officers delivered presentations to staff of 37 businesses, which saw over 500 persons participating in discussions with respect to their rights under the Consumer Protection Act”.

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