The recently completed financial education reference manual Consumer Protection: Balancing Rights and Responsibilities provides a menu of key messages and training activities that can be used to help low-income populations exercise their rights and responsibilities when using formal financial services. While the information is presented in a classroom format, it can be used by many stakeholders interested in ensuring ethical delivery of financial services.
This publication fills an important gap. It places the customer’s perspective at the center of consumer protection. While other efforts are well underway to guide and encourage financial institutions to commit to transparent pricing, appropriate collections practices, ethical staff behavior, client privacy and mechanisms for redress of grievances (See the SMART Campaign and the Center for Financial Inclusion, ACCION International; http://www.centerforfinancialinclusion.org/), most reflect an institutional bias. Largely absent from their application of these principles is the stated right of the client to ask questions and seek the information they need to fully understand the products they choose, the contracts they sign, and the hidden dangers of aggressive marketing tactics. Consumers need to know their rights, have the skills and confidence to exercise them and recognize that institutions have an obligation to respond to their legitimate requests.
This resource represents client interests, empowering consumers to take decisions based on knowledge rather than fear. As such, it is a valuable reference for all stakeholders in the consumer protection movement. Sessions in the manual inform consumers of their rights and responsibilities; examine principles of ethical behavior, and discuss respect and privacy. In addition, it arms consumers with basic technical knowledge to evaluate their debt capacity and compare products and prices for more effective decision-making.