Bringing client perspectives into the consumer protection discussion
The Client Voices Project aimed to test the assumptions behind the client protection principles. The project, conducted over two years across four continents, asked clients themselves which aspects of their relationship with MFIs were most worrisome. The questions were posed in an open-ended way, not even presuming that the answer would be found among the seven client protection principles.
Overall, the project discovered that across the four markets in the study (Pakistan, Benin, Peru, and Georgia), clients are generally satisfied with MFIs. Yet it also found troubling themes. Many microfinance clients enter into relationships with financial institutions where they are not adequately informed or prepared for when things go wrong. Whether it is currency fluctuations that change interest payments in Georgia, an unknown fee in Peru, or unreturned compulsory savings in Benin—clients are often surprised during transactions with MFIs.
Regardless of whether these surprises are due to client misunderstanding or staff malfeasance—they damage client trust. Moreover, most clients do not feel empowered to voice their confusions or complaints. Both knowledge of and faith in grievance redressal mechanisms are limited.