Certain amendments to Finland's Act on Credit Institutions (the ACI) and the Act on Investment Firms (the AIF) became effective on February 15 2003. The amendments mainly relate to improving banking and payment services as well as their availability. Although most amendments are mainly structural, they also include regulation on for example the use of agents in providing banking services, the right to receive repayable funds from customers and the right to basic banking services.
According to section 25 of the ACI and section 16b of the AIF, credit institutions and investment firms can conduct their business through agents provided that the use of an agent does not endanger risk management, internal supervision or otherwise the proper running of the business. In addition, credit institutions and investment firms must have at least one fixed place of business. The purpose of this amendment is to improve the availability of banking services in less densely populated areas.
The amendments also allow an investment firm to receive repayable funds from clients into accounts to be used for payment of goods and services produced by companies belonging to the same group as the investment firm. While credit institutions obviously may also receive repayable funds, only deposits to deposits banks are covered by the deposit insurance fund.
A new provision regarding customers' rights to basic banking services was added to the ACI. According to the new provision a deposit bank cannot refuse to open a bank account or to provide necessary means for its use without a significant reason. This provision reflects the thinking according to which basic banking services are essential in the modern society and the availability of these services for all citizen groups needs to be ensured.