Georgia Client Voice research included the perspectives of 1,000 current and former microfinance clients to identify the consumer protection impediments that persist in the country. The Smart Campaign selected Georgia as the market in Eastern Europe and Central Asia for the Client Voices project for several reasons, primarily because of the current regulatory reform at the national level. As the Consumer Protection Division becomes its own entity, operating outside of the regime of the National Bank of Georgia, this research will enrich the discussion and inform the next steps in the country’s consumer protection arena. The building blocks for a thriving industry are already set, including a credit bureau, CreditInfo. Regulators, local partners, and microfinance institutions all have a role to play to raise awareness among clients and cement customer protection in the industry.
Top concerns among microfinance clients in Georgia are: over-indebtedness, appropriate product design and delivery, and transparency.
Various research methods were implemented in the qualitative phase, including focus group discussions, individual in-depth interviews, and a photography exercise to gain a deeper and contextualized understanding of clients’ views of good and bad treatment. The quantitative sample consisted of 800 currently clients and 200 former clients, 59 percent of whom were women.
The research finds that the majority of clients, around 66 percent, are happy with their institutions and thus stay with their institutions for a long time. Primarily, microfinance institutions’ service and treatment was ranked as matching or exceeding commercial banks. However, clients’ understanding of terms and conditions is still lacking, especially around the high risks associated with taking loans in U.S. Dollars.