CODEDCO, Bolivia recently held a conference entitled: ‘The situation of consumers and users of financial and banking services in Bolivia’. The event was attended by 150 participants, including experts from the Spanish consumer organisation ADICAE, as well as other representatives from civil society, government and industry.
Bolivia is the only country in the region that still lacks basic consumer protection legislation. In an economy with high rates of informal employment and unemployment, many have little choice but to get heavily into debt simply to make ends meet. An estimated 13,000 families are believed to be in a 'desperate' financial situation.
The conference debated the abusive terms in credit contracts that Bolivian consumers must routinely contend with, and raised the issue of bias shown by financial institutions against poor families.
CODEDCO has called on the relevant authorities to guarantee independent financial advice to consumers, and for consumer representation on tripartite dispute resolution panels in relation to debt. The organisation is also calling for the appointment of a financial ombudsman.
In a promising move, the financial regulatory authority has promised to put pressure on banks to cut down waiting times, in particular for the disabled and the elderly, to a maximum of 30 minutes.
For more on the work AIS-CODEDCO visit their website at www.aisbolivia.org