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Mexican Senate Leader Wants Bank Fee Overhaul This Year

Eric Martin and Nacha Cattan

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s Senate majority leader Ricardo Monreal said that he’s working with banks and regulators on a plan to lower fees for users and that the chamber plans to pass it by December.

Monreal said in the next two to three weeks he’ll meet with financial consumer-protection agency Condusef, lenders and the finance ministry with the aim to approve the bill before the Senate’s current session ends Dec. 15. The bill, which has been watered down from a controversial version last year, will be built through consensus, Monreal said, adding that he will convince President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on the merits of ratifying it after he first opposed the change.

“It’s undeniable that the costs for users of financial services should be reduced,” Monreal said in an interview at his Senate office in Mexico City on Monday. “We can convince the president that it’s important in this regime change that the burden for citizens be lowered.”

Jesus Ramirez, a spokesman for AMLO, as the president is known, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

International banks operating in Mexico typically rely on fees and commissions for a bigger chunk of profit than in their home markets, where they do more lending and earn more interest income, recently prompting policy makers to push for lower charges as a way of expanding financial services and generate household savings. In November, Monreal presented a bill to ban over a dozen fees, causing bank stocks to swoon as investors anticipated lower revenues.

After the initial shock, senators reached an agreement with banks in March to remove across-the-board prohibitions from the original legislation, but still requiring banks to offer zero-fee accounts to low-income clients that wouldn’t rise above a specific balance, Juan Garay, an aide for Monreal, said at the time.

Read More: Morena Plan to Scrap Certain Bank Fees & Commissions

The deal, where banks would also stop charging customers for the first three ATM transactions each month among other things, was expected to be voted on in the spring session ending in April, but that target ended up being delayed as the focus turned to passing Mexico’s labor reform promised in a trade deal with the U.S. and Canada.

Monreal on Monday confirmed that while the outlines of the bill remain the same, there may be other aspects of it that could end up being modified. Lawmakers will work with banks and authorities to reach a consensus over any adjustment, he said.

Read More: High Confidence, Slowing Inflation Shift Mexican Consumer Field

Asked about possible changes to the central bank’s rules, Monreal said that he doesn’t see any interest among his Morena peers to consider modifications including adding growth as part of a dual mandate.

“Morena as a parliamentary group is going to respect the central bank’s autonomy,” he said. “There’s nothing on Morena’s agenda to change the faculties of the central bank, nothing even close to that.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Martin in Mexico City at emartin21@bloomberg.net;Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

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