Actualidad Nicaragua

Transparency in Microfinance Transactions

Act adopted on 26th May 2014

In order to promote transparency in microfinance transactions, on 26th May 2014 the National Assembly of Nicaragua approved a new regulation, “Norma sobre Transparencia en las operaciones de Microfinanzas” which repealed the regulation on information transparency from the previous year, “Norma sobre Transparencia de la Información”, 2nd August 2013.

The new legislation firstly regulates the content, scope, dissemination and delivery of contracts signed with Intermediary Financial Institutions, to guarantee their transparency and clarity and avoid any clauses that could be damaging to users’ interests. Secondly, it establishes the means for calculating and disseminating the information on rates, fees and expenses charged to borrowers.

Although it does not bring about any substantial modifications with respect to the regulation it repeals, it considerably broadens the range of protection given to people using microfinance services.

Specifically, it imposes more stringent rules on minimum conditions and content that must be stipulated in contracts, adding nominal interest rates and the requirement that the contract be written in the customer’s native language or tongue when financial institutions are located in autonomous regions. It also forbids changes in the current interest rate if not expressly agreed beforehand as a variable.

The range of infractions classified as sanctionable have also been expanded. Some examples of what are now minor infractions: not handing over proof that the policy includes the customer under collective insurance cover and not providing the public with a credit simulation. And any action that may prevent customers from repaying their loan with the intention of pushing them into arrears is now typified as a serious infraction.

Finally, it introduces an obligation for microcredit intermediaries to organise financial education campaigns to inform users about the concept and aim of the effective annual cost rate, known as the TCEA (tasa de costo efectivo anual) and establish means to disseminate these.

The new regulation takes a decisive step forward in establishing a specific regulation for the microfinance sector, which had been badly hit by the economic recession as well as the political instability besetting the country between 2008 and 2011 (the “no pago” movement encouraging non-payment).

Over the last three years a comprehensive package of regulations has been enacted specifically for microcredit, and a specific regulator set up to supervise the sector. This demonstrates the existence of an environment that is propitious for further development of the microfinance industry.