'Waive bank fees for old and poor'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 12:00am

The elderly and the poor should be exempt from bank charges, Executive Councillor Tam Yiu-chung said yesterday.

Mr Tam said there was a trend for banks to impose more charges on clients and he hoped they would consider waiving the fees for elderly or needy people. He suggested the Government look into the issues.

A Consumer Council study has found banks have imposed a total of 80 charges over the past year on new services or services which were previously free. Some banks had cut interest rates on accounts with small balances or stopped interest on them altogether.

Starting from the middle of next month, interest on savings account deposits of less than $3,000 at the Bank of China will earn only one per cent interest, compared to the normal savings account rate of 4.25 per cent. Standard Chartered now charges $100 a month for accounts whose balances fall below $10,000 on any one day of a month.

Speaking before an Exco meeting, Mr Tam said: 'Foreign countries offer exemption on banking charges for the poor and the elderly. I hope the banking sector will seriously consider this idea.'

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was quoted as saying after a meeting with non-affiliated legislators yesterday that he was concerned about the problem and hoped banks would understand the difficulties of the poor and elderly.

Members of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood protested against the rise in charges before the Exco meeting. The party said the new charges would affect the livelihood of the needy. It suggested amending the banking regulations to tighten controls over bank fees.

Party secretary-general Tam Kwok-kiu said: 'The level of service charges is decided by the banks alone; the Government has no say on that. The Government should, at least, launch a review and introduce guidelines for the banks as a reference on service charges.'