As technology delivers greater access to financial services, more consumers are now using financial products than ever before. A World Bank report in 2018 found that 69 percent of adults in 2017 – 3.8 billion people – have access to a bank account as compared to 62 percent of adults in 2014 and 51 percent in 2011. In the developing world, the proportion of account owners sending and receiving payments digitally has grown from 57 percent in 2014 to 70 percent in 2017.
This report describes the unique role consumer advocacy plays to ensure financial service marketplaces are safe, fair and sustainable for consumers, with approaches that are varied, relevant for the regional context and effective. The report shares the state of consumer protection for consumers of financial services in low and middle income countries and highlights six key approaches Consumers International members use to advocate for better financial consumer protection. These approaches range from direct engagement with consumers through complaints handling, to generating insights about the consumer experience through market research, to public interest litigation and consultations with policy-makers. In each case, we share a working case study. We also propose a series of opportunities and recommendations for consumer organizations, governments and policy-makers, bilateral/multilateral organizations and foundations to strengthen their engagement with consumers of financial services. Key opportunities and recommendations include the formation of advocacy blocs to focus on future sustainable finance objectives; the establishment of financial services consumer protection law; and the provision of technical expertise from international organizations. All can help empower consumer organizations and the consumers of financial services they represent.
Finally, we look forward and predict how consumer organizations can shape the future world of financial services by engaging with sustainable finance, driving agile governance and supporting the design of truly consumer-centered business models.
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