Lack of English, Tamil forms at State banks?

Several bank customers who are not proficient in Sinhala have recently highlighted the lack of English and Tamil application forms at state banks as mandated by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL).

The Sunday Morning Business noticed several Twitter posts in which customers had complained about state banks not having applications in all three languages for several key purposes including the opening of a new account and applying for debit/credit cards. Even more surprisingly, these incidents were reported at state bank branches in Colombo and its suburbs.

Recently, a customer posted on Twitter that he went to the Mount Lavinia branch of a leading state bank to open an account and was given an application form in Sinhala. When he requested for a form either in English or Tamil, he was refused. Even the clerk had refused to help him fill the application and the customer had signed the application without studying the stated rules and regulations.

A similar incident was recounted by another Twitter user, which mentioned that a month ago the user’s friend had visited the Colombo 3 branch of another leading state bank to apply for a new debit card, where the application form was given in Sinhala and a request for an English or Tamil form was declined.

Upon further investigation, several customers told The Sunday Morning Business on the condition of anonymity that they too had encountered similar issues and had been greatly inconvenienced as a result.

When contacted, the CBSL said that it had not received any complaints. “CBSL has not received any complaints against state banks in the recent past regarding this matter.”

According to the CBSL Spokesperson, it conducts on-site examinations annually on selected licensed banks, particularly in Colombo and its suburbs, and the last was conducted in 2018.

As per the Customer Charter of Licensed Banks issued by the CBSL to all licensed banks in 2011, banks should ensure that the “terms and conditions associated with each product or service are made available to customers in a language preferred by them”.

Further, the Customer Charter states that each licensed bank should have a key facts document in the form of a brochure or leaflet written in simple language for its products or services, separately or in combination, which should be distributed to the customers seeking such products or services. These brochures or leaflets should, at least, contain basic information and be available in a language preferred by the customers.

The basic information includes a description of the products or services, financial and other benefits to customers including any incentives and promotions, fees or charges, commission, interest charged from customers, procedures to be followed to obtain the product or service, major terms and conditions, and a common complaint procedure for customers.

However, the CBSL said if a customer complains of any bank not having trilingual applications, appropriate action against the particular bank which does not comply with the Customer Charter will be taken in terms of the provisions in the Banking Act No. 30 of 1988.