> Posted by Courtney Piper
Looking back on the recent holidays, I am reminded of the ease with which I can transform into the resident Grinch when encountering life’s little annoyances, especially during the holiday season. You and I can, however, take comfort in the fact that we are not alone in our not-so-seasonal sensibilities. According to a nationally representative survey in the current issue of Consumer Reports, a number of “daily annoyances” bother many Americans. These annoyances run the gamut from not getting a human on the phone (when calling customer service) to traffic jams, receiving spam emails, and unreliable internet and/or cell phone service.
What was the number one irritant? “Hidden fees,” which respondents rated 8.9 on average, out of 10 (10 being the most annoying). Also among the top five irritants was “incomprehensible bills,” rated 7.8. So hiding fees and making bills indecipherable aren’t just ethically questionable—they’re downright annoying! These survey results illustrate the need to make pricing information more transparent across industries as well as helping to solidify the robust business case for greater pricing transparency.
Indeed, the business case for transparent pricing has never been stronger in light of the recent global financial crisis. Few would deny that this crisis was largely precipitated by predatory lenders offering borrowers questionable loans they didn’t adequately understand. And with consumers expressing such a strongly negative response to hidden fees and incomprehensible bills in the recent Consumer Reports survey, it seems like the business case for greater pricing transparency will continue to strengthen.
The Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION International champions transparent pricing in microfinance as one of the Principles of Client Protection advocated by the Smart Campaign, a joint global initiative of industry players working to develop and carry out client protection standards in microfinance. To find out more about the Smart Campaign, or to endorse it, please visit the campaign website at www.smartcampaign.org.