In today's world, being customer-centric is no longer just a nice idea; it is now a fundamental part of doing business. This fundamental obligation in doing business cuts across all sectors including Banks and other financial institutions.
According to the data released by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) in 2021, it showed that the number of active bank accounts in Nigeria increased to 133.4 million.1 There is a likelihood that this number has increased since then, driven by a number of factors including easier account opening procedures and technology. Thus, it became imperative for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to embed a customer-centric culture by providing guidelines that protect and confers certain rights on a Bank customer.
Who is a bank customer?
The conventional view of a bank customer is of a person who has an account with the Bank2. Modernization and globalization have led inevitably to the proliferation of banking products and services. As such, a bank customer cannot be restricted to the traditional holder of an account. Flowing from this and the decision of the Nigerian Court in New Nigerian Bank v. Odiase[iii], a person can be a customer of a bank in certain circumstances, where no account exists. The only qualification is that there must be a money transaction arising in circumstances in which a contract can be inferred.4
Rights of a bank customer5
In a document titled "Bank Customers' Bill of Rights" which was published on its website, the CBN discussed the various rights a bank customer in the West African country is entitled to. These rights include;
- The Right to be informed: A bank customer has a right to complete, relevant and truthful information on the goods and services offered by the bank. The bank is obligated to explain to the customers understanding, all contractual terms and charges prior to the consummation of any agreement or contract. The essence of this right is to enable the customer to have relevant information to make rational choices.
- The Right to Choose: As a customer, you have a right to select from the range of products and services made available by the bank at competitive prices. A bank is prohibited from restricting your choices or compelling you to accept products or services that are ill-suited to the customer's needs. The customer, being unsatisfied with the delivery of the bank's service, has a right to end the contract or even the banking relationship, so long as all outstanding commitments are settled by the customer.
- The Right to privacy and confidentiality: As a bank customer, you have the right to freedom from disclosure of your account details by the bank as well as intrusion into your account by a third party. In essence, your bank is restricted from divulging your account information to a third party. However, like most privacy rights, there are instances where the right to privacy may be eroded. These instances include;
- Where the bank is required by law to make a disclosure
- Where the customer consents to the disclosure
- The Right to Redress: The CBN mandates a bank to provide its customers with a redress mechanism to express their displeasure or grievance. Such a mechanism must be free, accessible, transparent, timely, and convenient. The bank must also provide an efficient complaints management system through which customers can lodge complaints against the bank. As a customer, you also have the right to be kept informed about the resolution process (acknowledgment, feedback, updates, explanation) and the basis of the decision. The customer can further seek a review of the decision by either the bank, the CBN, or the court.
- The Right to good service: Every customer has a right to value their money which involves the right to be treated with respect and dignity by banks and their representatives. The hallmark of banking is customer satisfaction, and as such, your bank would have failed if it was unable to offer quality and value-adding banking services to you as a customer. Part of this right is that your bank must provide an appropriate response to your needs and complaints.
- The Right to equality: This right requires that a customer is treated equally as other customers regardless of differences in financial standing/deposit balance, physical ability, age, gender, ethnicity, or creed. It is wrong for a bank to offer preferential treatment to some customers at the expense of other similar kinds of customers. However, banks may decide to differentiate customers on account of the nature of the products customers purchase or subscribe to. In this case, some customers may benefit from certain privileges which are features of specific products or services.
- The Right to a free monthly statement of Account: The provision of the CBN Revised Guide to Bank Charges is that banks are required to provide their customers with free statements of account on a monthly basis. This means that you have a right to get your monthly statement of account from your bank at no cost. It should be noted, however, that the Guide provides that any special request attracts a fee of N50 per page.
Duties of a bank customer
As we all know, it is impossible to have a right without a corresponding duty. As such, every bank customer has duties/obligations which have been provided for by the CBN. These duties include;
- Duty of knowledge and understanding: Without adequate knowledge, customers are bound to make ill-informed decisions which may result in complaints from customers to their banks. It is generally agreed that sophistication in the banking industry has tasked the understanding of even people that are financially literate. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the customer to take all necessary precautions.
- Duty of financial obligation: This requires customers to repay credit facilities and pay mutually agreed interest on loans and other financial services rendered by their banks as and when due. This is one of your major responsibilities to the extent that banks are established to provide loans and other financial services to you and other customers. Thus, you are obligated to ensure that payments or repayments to your bank are not delayed in order not to suffer penalties in the form of default charges.
- Duty to protect instruments and information: It is your duty as a bank customer to keep your checkbook, ATM, and all information relating to your account like PIN, passwords, and codes safe. It is important to stress that a bank cannot bear responsibility for any loss incurred by customers as a result of their negligence in protecting vital instruments or information.
- Duty to provide factual information and not to mislead the bank: As a bank customer, you owe your bank and society a duty to provide factual information about yourself and, where necessary, about relevant transactions. You are also obligated to provide truthful information, and reasonable care should be exercised, in order not to mislead the bank.
- Duty to report suspected fraud or error: A customer is a duty bound to promptly report any suspicious act of fraud or compromise on such customer's account or in respect of a relevant transaction/information. suspects a fraud or compromise either in his account or in respect of relevant transaction/information. It is also the duty of the customer to report any wrong posting into such customers' accounts.
- Duty of personal safety and safety of assets: This duty is shared between a customer and his Bank. While Banks are obligated to comply with relevant safety laws and directives, customers on the other hand owe themselves a duty of personal safety while on the premises of their banks.
2. Banking: Theory, Regulation, Law and Practice by Oladapo Olanipekun Ph.D., SAN
3.  8 NWLR (Pt 310) 235, 243
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.