By Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenian authorities officially unveiled on Friday a new, supposedly independent arbitration body that will settle disputes between local banks and other financial institutions and their clients.
The Office of the Financial Arbiter has been set up and will formally begin its work on Saturday in accordance with an Armenian law adopted late last year. Its supervisory board comprises representatives of the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA), the government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. The board appointed Piruz Sargsian, head of the CBA’s legal department, as financial arbiter earlier this month.
Under that law, Sargsian’s office is to receive and adjudicate complaints from ordinary citizens against commercial banks, credit agencies, insurance firms and other finance companies which they believe have defrauded them. Such complaints can be lodged no later than six months after an instance of alleged fraud.
Plaintiffs will not need money and lawyers to appeal to the body. But their financial claims can not exceed 10 million drams ($32,700) per case. Also, the arbiter is not allowed to accept complaints that are being considered by courts.
Unlike the plaintiffs, financial companies can not challenger the arbiter’s decisions in court, despite the fact that the Office of the Financial Arbiter will be financed by them. Artur Javadian, the CBA chairman, assured journalists that the funding will not compromise the body’s independence.
According to the CBA, between 30 and 40 citizens have appealed to it each year for assistance in their disputes with various financial institutions.