MFSA welcomes improvements following mystery shopping exercise conducted by the Authority at banks
DECEMBER 10, 2019

The MFSA has completed a second mystery shopping exercise within a number of branches of the main domestic banks, noting considerable improvements over the previous exercise, while acknowledging the need for further enhancements in the service offered by banks to their customers.

This exercise was a follow-up of a mystery shopping initiative carried out in 2018. Conducted by MFSA Officials acting as customers, the aim of these two exercises was to gather first-hand evidence of branch visitors’ experience who wished to open a bank account, and identify issues and deficiencies, as well as recognise good players and practices in the market. During the latest exercise, the MFSA supervisors focused on the suitability of products offered by the bank, the quality of information provided to the customer and the implementation of requirements emanating from conduct-related provisions in the applicable legislation and regulations.

The MFSA is satisfied to note considerable improvement in most of the branches visited, with most of them offering customers the Payment Account with Basic Features. Furthermore, branch representatives were in a better position than the previous time to provide information to the client, including in writing. In most of the cases, branch representatives also assisted the customer, to the best of their knowledge, using supporting tools and documents available.

Through the exercise, a number of recurring weaknesses were also identified, with bank representatives not always being forthcoming in providing the customers with information relating to the features and characteristics of bank accounts available. Occasionally, information in writing was only provided upon the customer’s request. Moreover, this information was sometimes limited and not consistent across branches of the same bank. In the majority of branches, no written information relating to fees and charges applied by credit institutions on their products and/or service was available.

To address these shortcomings, the MFSA issued a circular providing a number of recommendations to address these issues as a matter of priority.

Commenting on the conclusion of this mystery shopping, MFSA’s Head of Conduct Supervision, Michelle Mizzi Buontempo noted that “The MFSA considers mystery shopping exercises to be one of the most effective tools or methodologies used to monitor compliance and best practices in the banking industry; they are also a means for identifying potential malpractices and ultimately protecting consumers. Through these exercises, we also take the opportunity to clarify our expectations. In fact, we have already issued a number of recommendations regarding the way forward for banks to remedy the deficiencies which have been identified by our team.”