THE ROLE OF THE OMBUDSMAN FOR THE PROTECTION OF BANK CLIENTS IN THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM OF THE REPUBLIC OF SRPSKA
The ombudsman for the protection of bank clients, as one of the main bearers of the protection of consumer rights, provides the opportunity for disputes, arising between institutions of the banking system and users of financial services, to be resolved in a fair and relatively quick way, where independent persons appear as mediators, with minimal formalities during conciliation, mediation or dispute resolution in another way. The ombudsman for the banking system of the Republic of Srpska, Srpska acts on the submitted complaint and mediates in the peaceful resolution of disputes between users and financial organizations of the banking system. The Ombudsman is authorized to receive, monitor and investigate all cases of violations of laws and other regulations by any financial organization of the banking system of the Republic of Srpska, and to submit information about this to the competent organizational parts of the Agency. The ombudsman is also obliged to provide information on the rights and obligations of users and providers of financial services and third party injured parties and perform other tasks established by law. The purpose of the research of this paper is to analyze the views of clients of banking services on the role played by the Ombudsman for the banking system of the Republic of Srpska in the territory of the Republic of Srpska. The aim of the research is aimed at determining the respondents’ knowledge about the existence of the Ombudsman for the banking system of the Republic of Srpska on the territory of the Republic of Srpska and the way in which it can help them. During 2021, the Ombudsman for the banking system of the Republic of Srpska received 113 complaints regarding disputed relationships arising in connection with the actions of financial organizations or with other requests to discuss certain issues in individual relationships between users and providers of financial services. Of the mentioned number of complaints, 51 proved to be well-founded and were resolved positively for the users. There were also 8 unfounded objections and 39 objections – for which reasoned answers were made to users and other persons with opinions and instructions regarding the application of valid substantive and procedural regulations and the necessary further action. As the main method of data collection, the survey method was used, which was carried out by filling out an online survey questionnaire, during December 2020. The survey was anonymous and was conducted on 200 respondents in the territory of the Republic of Srpska. The results of the research show that the largest percentage of respondents are not aware of the existence of the Ombudsman for the banking system. The majority of respondents are also not familiar with the provisions of the Law on Banks of the Republic of Srpska, which regulates the protection of users of financial services, or believe that corruption is very pronounced in the institutions that deal with the aforementioned issue. For this reason, only 16% of respondents filed a complaint, although many felt that they were harmed by the bank of which they are a client, and successfully resolved their problem. Accordingly, the majority of respondents believe that the application of mechanisms and instruments for the protection of users of financial services is still not effective in practice. From the results of the survey, it can be concluded that the respondents have reservations about the role that the Ombudsman for the banking system of the Republic of Srpska has in resolving disputes, and that a part of the respondents view the position only as a figure necessary for the process of harmonising the Law on Banks of the Republic of Srpska with the legal acquis of the European Union.