The banking industry in the Kingdom of Eswatini is going through a period of rapid transformation. Like most modern economies, access to basic bank accounts and to consumer credit have become increasingly important in the country.
Consumers use financial services for essential transactions and savings, in a process stimulated by online commerce. Access to consumer credit and the rise of innovation in financial technology, strengthen the purchasing power of individuals, enhance consumer welfare and can reduce poverty if used in a responsible way. However, the rapid development of credit products and the sharp increase in the use of financial technology services have been accompanied by a rise in risks in the online banking space, irresponsible lending practices and over-indebtedness of consumers.
This is why financial consumer protection is crucial to address the vulnerability of customers who are exposed to these risks brought about by rapid changes and the lack of experience and understanding of financial products.
The role of the Central Bank of Eswatini is to ensure that consumer protection is strengthened effectively through regulatory laws to promote growth, enhance financial stability and increase consumer welfare. Equally, commercial banks in the country have a responsibility to sensitize their customers of risks that exist in the use of financial products. They also have a role to play in opening platforms for customers to give feedback on services rendered to them and report complaints.
The Role of the Central Bank of Eswatini Ombudsman
In terms of Section, 52 of the Central Bank Order, 1974, the Central Bank of Eswatini (CBE) established an Ombudsman for financial institutions that are licensed by the Bank. The Ombudsman offers fair, independent and easily accessible dispute resolution for consumers who are unable to resolve complaints with their banks. This service is free of charge to banking consumers.
How can the Ombudsman help you?
The office of the Ombudsman resolves dispute between banks and their customers in a cooperative, efficient, timely and fair manner as transparently as possible taking into account their obligations for confidentiality and privacy. There must have been maladministration on the part of the bank causing a customer to suffer a loss, distress or inconvenience. These involves understanding all aspects of a dispute without taking sides and then make a ruling based on specific facts and circumstances of each dispute.
Who can lodge a dispute?
Anyone who has an unresolved complaint with a bank can lodge a dispute, be it; individuals, small businesses, associations, cooperatives
What sort of disputes does the Ombudsman handle?
The office of the Ombudsman handles all disputes related to banking products and services.
Steps to follow in resolving disputes with your bank prior to contacting the Ombudsman
Step 1: You should start by making a complaint directly to the person/ department you are dealing with at the Bank. Be sure to let them know that you expect them to make things right
Step 2: If you are unhappy with the initial response, escalate your complaint. All licensed banks are supposed to have internal complaints handling process in place. Ask from the customer services representative about this process or you can ask for his/her supervisor or manager.
Step 3: If the problem still cannot be solved, you can then contact the Ombudsman Office at the Central Bank at 2408 2000.
What will the Ombudsman need from you?
The Ombudsmen’s office will ask you to explain your side of the story as well as provide a written statement on your complaint clearly stating what the problem is and how you would like it to be resolved.
You will be asked for any supporting documentation you may have including copies of all correspondences with your bank pertaining to your complaint, accounts statements etc.
Once we have your details and your side of the story, the ombudsmen’s office will contact the bank you have lodged a complaint against to get their side of the story as well. This will enable them to review both sides to determine what would be a reasonable and fair outcome as guided by relevant laws and or standards.
Placing complaints when they are already being dealt with in by a court of law
Banking customers are urged to lodge their complaints with the Ombudsman before the subject matter is sent for processing in a court of law.
Where to lodge an inquiry/complaint?
File a complaint with the banking institution.
File a complaint with the CBE when the institution has failed to assist you.
CBE: (+268) 2408 2000; Web: www.centralbank.org.sz
ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERINGMoney laundering is the process of making large amounts of money generated by a criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or terrorist funding, appear to have come from a legitimate source. The money from the criminal activity is considered dirty, and the process “launders” it to make it look clean. Money laundering is itself a crime.
How Money Laundering Works
Money laundering is essential for criminal organizations that wish to use illegally obtained money effectively. Dealing in large amounts of illegal cash is inefficient and dangerous. Criminals need a way to deposit the money in legitimate financial institutions, yet they can only do so if it appears to come from legitimate sources.
[Important: Banks are required to report large cash transactions and other suspicious activities that might be signs of money laundering.]
The process of laundering money typically involves three steps: placement, layering, and integration. Placement puts the “dirty money” into the legitimate financial system. Layering conceals the source of the money through a series of transactions and bookkeeping tricks. In the final step, integration, the now-laundered money is withdrawn from the legitimate account to be used for whatever purposes the criminals have in mind for it.
Different ways to launder money
- One of the most common techniques is to use a legitimate, cash-based business owned by a criminal organization. For example, if the organization owns a restaurant, it might inflate the daily cash receipts to funnel illegal cash through the restaurant and into the restaurant’s bank account. After that, the funds can be withdrawn as needed. These types of businesses are often referred to as “fronts.”
- In another common form of money laundering, called smurfing (also known as “structuring”), the criminal breaks up large chunks of cash into multiple small deposits, often spreading them over many different accounts, to avoid detection. Money laundering can also be accomplished through the use of currency exchanges, wire transfers and “mules,” or cash smugglers, who sneak large amounts of cash across borders and deposit them in foreign accounts, where money-laundering enforcement is less strict.
- Other money-laundering methods involve investing in commodities such as gems and gold that can easily be moved to other jurisdictions, discreetly investing in and selling valuable assets such as real estate, gambling, counterfeiting, and using shell companies (inactive companies or corporations that essentially exist on paper only).
What can you do to avoid money laundering?
- Do not disclose any personal data such as your name, date of birth, place of birth, address, and email address, etc. to third parties. This includes copies of documents such as your ID, passport, birth certificate, driver’s license, and so forth.
- Never give your bank account or bank and credit card details to third parties. This includes your email address, your password, and your bank and credit card pin.
- Be critical of information you find on third-party websites. You can usually spot false or misleading information.
- Do not open a bank account through a third party. We do not have financial institutions that confirm your identity through a video call. If you come across such a website, it is a fraud.
 For More information on this, please see the Guidelines on Banking Practice: