Gereranya, a platform developed by the National Bank of Rwanda to guarantee transparency and fair pricing of financial products and services as well as compliance with global market prices, was launched in March. The platform fills the gap and need for accurate, transparent, and consistent financial service information. It aims to protect financial services consumers from, among others, being fleeced due to lack of information. It gives information about what products and services different commercial banks offer and gives consumers the liberty to compare interest rates and prices. Gérard Nsabimana, Director of the Market Conduct Supervision Department at the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), talked to The New Times’ Glory Iribagiza about the idea behind the new tool, and what is expected from consumers. The platform will increase consumers’ bargaining power, and change things in the market, he said. The excerpts: What is Gereranya? Gereranya is a tool that was initiated by the central bank in line with enhancing the transparency of financial services and products especially the prices and charges. This is in line with the implementation of the law 017/2021 enacted by the Government of Rwanda in March 2021, about consumer protection. That law, especially article 19, stipulates that financial service providers should be transparent and publish the prices and charges of their products and services. The central bank has the power to come up with a platform whereby consumers can compare all prices using one platform. It is in line with that article that the central bank put in place this new tool. How does it work? There are two ways, the first being through the website: gereranya.bnr.rw and then you access the platform. The other is when you use a smart phone to download the application. When you enter the platform, there is a screen where you find ‘home’ to access the prices and charges of various products. There is another link where you click and access various websites of different financial service providers in case one needs further information. There is also an icon where you can ask questions in case you are having challenges. What gaps is the comparator coming to bridge? In the past, there was no system. A customer had to go to their financial service provider if they were smart enough to ask and they would explain to them. But there were some other tools that the central bank initiated. One required banks to publish their tariffs on their websites and at their offices. Later on, the central bank put in place another regulation related to what we call ‘key fact statement,’ such that when you go to look for a service somewhere in a financial institution, they give you a sheet of paper showing different terms and conditions of the products and the cost before you consume. This was already in existence, but this consumer protection law again gave the central bank the power to be able to publish prices and charges so that you can compare using one platform. It was not simple to go to every bank and every website, shifting from one to another. But if you have them on the same platform, you are able to see and compare very easily. Are there other expected outcomes from Gereranya? The system is beneficial for both parties. Consumers are able to compare available bank services or options using one platform, and they are able to make informed decisions on which products and services to consume, or which financial service consumer is more conducive and less expensive. From there, this may increase the number of people accessing and using financial services. Entirely, to the financial sector, we see that with that transparency, it will increase competition and improvement in terms of pricing of products and services. Also, when consumers are well informed on the financial services and the cost, it will reduce the level of non-performing loans. What has the feedback been like, so far? The last time we checked (June 2022) there were more than 3,000 people who downloaded the application. We organized awareness campaigns and people seem to appreciate that the system is working. What is expected from consumers? The consumer protection law’s aim is one; to protect the rights of the consumers, but again, to be able to inform the consumers of their obligations. What we request from the consumers is to appreciate the platform and use it, because if they don’t, things will remain the same. But if they use the platform and are able to negotiate, it will increase their bargaining power, and it will change things in the market. The system will bear fruit if used. For the financial service providers, we request them to update the right data on the platform and also contribute to the awareness of their customers.