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Ecuador News

Banks are warned of unauthorized charges to customers but whistleblower loses his job

The government is warning banks about adding unauthorized charges to customer accounts following a report by a television announcer about the practice, which he claims is widespread. For his efforts, announcer Mauricio Ayora, better known as ‘Caterva’, may have lost his job at publicly owned TC Television.

TV announcer Mauricio Ayora

According to social media accounts, banks have been besieged by thousands of account holders demanding that unauthorized third-party charges that appear on their monthly statements be removed and that they be reimbursed for past charges. The banks have, so far, refused to comment on controversy.

Some social media commenters claim that Ayora was fired when banks complained to the government. The government says that Ayora was not fired but was suspended for 15 days because he “violated protocols of journalism.”

On his October 5 TC Televisión program, Ayora said that banks are adding charges from private companies to tens-of-thousands private bank account holders. Most charges followed telephone conversations account holders had with the companies, often selling insurance and vacation packages. “These bank customers simply talked to call center representatives and didn’t agree to anything and didn’t sign any documents,” he said. “Then the charges show up on their accounts. Because the amounts are small, sometimes just a few dollars, the customers often don’t notice them.”

Later, Ayora added that he had learned of other unauthorized charges to bank accounts that did not involve phone calls between bank customers and private companies.

Before he was taken off the air, Ayora reported his findings to the federal prosecutor’s office and the National Assembly, asking that the charges be investigated and that the guilty be prosecuted.

In addition to an outpouring of support for Ayora, many demanding his immediate reinstatement at TC Televisión, several members of the assembly say they plan to follow up on his claims. Assemblywoman María Mercedes Cuesta has requested a report from the Superintendency of Banks regarding the claims. “If there are facts that should be investigated there is no time to lose,” she said. “We cannot tolerate this kind of fraud from private interests or government officials.”

Cuesta is also asking director of public media, Martha Moncayo, to provide more information about the employment status of Ayora.

Meanwhile, Ayora has Twitted that all Ecuadorians should check their bank statements for unauthorized charges.

In its warning to banks, the government’s superintendent of banks, Juan Carlos Novoa, said that the law “prohibits charges for financial and non-financial services that have not been expressly and previously accepted by customers or financial users,” adding that sanctions will be applied if illegal activity is discovered.