Tue, Dec 28, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Consumer group critiques banks

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A staffer of the Consumers' Foundation holds up a fake US$100 bill and a real one for comparison during a press conference over the failure of some local banks to provide conversion of US and other currencies to customers because of fear over potential financial losses from buying fake bills.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) yesterday praised the Bank of Taiwan (台灣銀行) and Bangkok Bank for being responsible financial institutions for offering greenback conversion services free of charge, but criticized some banks for flawed handling in the face of rampant counterfeiting of US bills.

counterfeit versions

To avoid suffering losses from buying fake dollar bills, different banks have adopted different methods when customers ask to change versions of the US$100 bill starting with CB and DF serial numbers. These types of bills are more commonly counterfeited.

Some banks flatly refuse to offer customers the exchange service, while others charge handling fees, according to the non-profit organization.

To equip consumers with more information and arouse the government's attention, the foundation had its volunteers visit 25 banks in Taipei between Nov. 24 and Dec. 8 to ask for dollar bills to be exchanged into New Taiwan dollars.

"It is unbelievable that a handful of banks disregard their obligations as stipulated in the Central Bank of China Act (中央銀行法) only to pursue their private interests," said Terry Huang (黃怡騰), the foundation's secretary general, at a press conference.

According to the survey, only the Bank of Taiwan and Bangkok Bank allow direct conversions for the two versions of the greenback at their counters. Another 11 banks only accept the DF version.

no services offered

Those who refuse to offer such services include the Sindian branch of Chinfon Bank (慶豐銀行), the Chengnei branch of Macoto Bank (誠泰銀行), the Daan branch of Farmers Bank (農民銀行), and the Fuxing branch of Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託).

The Dunnan branch of E.Sun Commercial Bank (玉山銀行), the Tungmen branch of Bank SinoPac (建華銀行) and the Sindian branch of Bank of Panhsin (板信銀行) only accept US dollars sold by themselves, and customers must provide the purchase certificates.

The Taipei branch of Citibank Taiwan restricts the service to its bank customers and cardholders.

The above-mentioned eight banks are accused of violating the Central Bank of China Act and Article 10 of the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法), which stipulate that banking institutions must not discriminate against customers.

The central bank said it would launch investigations into the banks' mishandling and those refusing to make improvements will be ordered to suspend this part of their business for months.

Lu Hsin-chang (盧信昌), the director of the foundation, urged banks to equip their staff with professional skills to recognize fake bills and protect the freedom of transactions.

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