Monies in dormant mobile money accounts and accounts of deceased customers will remain accessible to their owners and families without any restrictions, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, has said.
Mr Ashigbey explained that electronic money issuance was backed by cash which were kept at universal banks to provide some form of guarantee for deposited funds and help ensure that monies kept in electronic wallets were safe.
“This makes it impossible for anybody’s money to be abused at all’, he said.
Mr Ashigbey was reacting to rumors suggesting that mobile money service providers were withholding monies in dormant accounts and monies belonging to deceased customers, according to a statement issued by the Chamber on Tuesday.
He said the Payment Systems and Services Act clearly stated how dormant accounts should be treated and that made it unlawful for service providers to go contrary to it.
“According to Article 33 (4) of the Act, electronic money issuers are required to treat MoMo accounts which have not registered a transaction for 12 consecutive months as dormant accounts and the operators would remind customer on the 11th month through an SMS so if there is no transaction in the 12th month, the account would be suspended and the account blocked but the balance of the dormant account is transferred along with identifying information to a separate account with any bank designated by the Bank of Ghana for a period not exceeding three years,” Mr Ashigbey said.
He explained that after the three years period, if the holder of the account or the executors of the deceased person did not make a claim, the service provider shall transfer all the funds to the Bank of Ghana or an institution designated by the Bank of Ghana and retain all identifying information.
Next of kin entitlement
In that same breath, Mr Ashigbey explained that at the registration stage of opening a mobile money account, a provision was made for customers to identify their next of kin for future purposes.
“At the registration of mobile money, one of the know your customer (KYC) that our providers ask for is your next of kin. This is required by all of our members and even so, allow those who have not provided their next of kin to update their detail. During the on-board system, you are required to provide the name and contact number of your next of kin. And that is constantly being taken.
“Additionally, next of kin is not static and clients can update them as often as they desire to change who their next of kin is,” he said.
He further explained that when a customer died and the family sought to make claims, they were required to provide proof of death which is a death certificate, and that the family member must prove to be the rightful executor of the estate of the deceased.
“So, you would have to provide a copy of the will of the deceased. However, if the person died without a will, that is, died intestate, you have to provide letters of administration from the court and provide an ID of the executors of the estate of the deceased.
“It is based on this that the MoMo operators, after they have established the death of the clients, and the fact that you are the rightful executor of the estate, will make available the balance on the account for distribution to the rightful beneficiaries of the estate,” he said.
He explained that the process was no different from that of other financial institutions who also required by law similar processes to make claims on the funds of deceased family members.
“It is not a different process from what pertains for any financial services. In as much as we want to ensure that genuine beneficiaries of estates have access to the funds of their benefactors when the unfortunate incident of a death occurs, we also as law abiding organisations will want to prevent fraudulent access to our customers funds.” Mr Ashigbey said.