Banque du Liban issued a new circular on Tuesday limiting banks’ ability to increase banking fees and commissions at their own discretion.
Circular No. 679 comes a few days after Bank of Beirut, one of the country’s largest banks before the crisis, was criticized by some of its customers for abruptly and unilaterally increasing the fees levied on accounts in bank dollars (or “lollars”)— dollars blocked by the restrictions in place since the end of 2019.
The new text amends Circular No. 147, published Sept. 3, 2019, which governs the terms and conditions for opening and processing bank accounts. It adds three new obligations for banks:
. First and foremost, BDL prohibits banks from imposing new fees and commissions on deposits, other than those that existed prior to Oct. 31, 2019. At this time, banks closed their doors in the wake of the Oct. 17 protests, before reopening and harmonizing the restrictions they have since imposed on customers, which mainly limit access to dollar accounts.
. BDL also requires banks to prepare an exhaustive list of information on the “real cost of account fees,” how they are calculated, and how customers must pay them.
. Finally, the Central Bank requires banks to publish this list “in a visible place” on all their premises, including head offices and branches, as well as on their websites, by October 16.
When contacted, lawyer Karim Daher, who is a member of the committee set up by the Beirut Bar to defend depositors’ rights against credit institutions, welcomed the measure imposed under the aegis of the BDL’s acting governor, Wassim Manssouri. The latter replaced ex-governor Riad Salameh at the end of July, who led the institution for thirty years and left it with several investigations on his back and criticism of the way he managed Lebanon’s monetary policy before and during the crisis.
“For almost two years now, the Beirut Bar Association has been submitting requests for measures to combat bank abuse and report all offenses committed by banks. We have stepped up our mobilization since the interim governor took office. It’s a small victory that relieves depositors in their daily lives, but we have many other expectations, particularly on the part of Parliament, which must pass essential laws to deal with the problem on a global level”, he explained.
Lebanon has been in a severe economic and financial crisis since 2019, but the ruling class has so far failed to launch the necessary reforms to stabilize the situation and guarantee the integrity of deposits confiscated by banks without the cover of a capital