Consumer Protection

Responsible financial inclusion encompasses core Client Protection Principles to help financial service providers practice good ethics and smart business.


Consumer protection is integral to building customer trust and is increasingly acknowledged as a cornerstone of a stable financial system. CFI works to ensure that the most vulnerable consumers are protected as they access financial services, by identifying and building knowledge on emerging risks and working with stakeholders—financial service providers, investors, policymakers—to ensure their practices promote the well-being of customers.

Guided by the Client Protection Principles, which have been widely adopted by the inclusive finance sector, consumer protection is woven into all of CFI’s work. It was the driving force of the Smart Campaign, and the dozens of organizations that achieved Smart certification demonstrated that consumer protection is woven into their work, too. Our current agenda tackles some of the most pressing barriers to building a protective and inclusive financial system for low-income clients, including urgent consumer protection challenges presented by COVID-19, adoption of tech-enabled market monitoring innovations relevant to consumer protection, and mapping inclusive finance stakeholders and incentives in a dynamic sector of new players.

The Principles of Client Protection

Responsible financial inclusion is being fully transparent in the pricing, terms and conditions of all financial products. Responsible financial inclusion is working with clients so they do not borrow more money than they can repay or use products that they do not need. Responsible financial inclusion employs respectful collection practices and adopts high ethical standards in the treatment of clients. Responsible financial inclusion gives clients a way to address their complaints so they can be served more effectively. Responsible financial inclusion ensures client data remains private. Responsible financial inclusion protects clients, businesses, and the industry as a whole.

The Client Protection Principles are the minimum standards that clients should expect to receive when doing business with a financial service provider. These principles were distilled from the path-breaking work by providers, international networks, and national microfinance associations to develop pro-client codes of conduct and practices. There is consensus within the financial inclusion industry that providers of financial services should adhere to these core principles:

Appropriate product design and delivery

Providers will take adequate care to design products and delivery channels in such a way that they do not cause clients harm. Products and delivery channels will be designed with client characteristics taken into account.

Prevention of over-indebtedness

Providers will take adequate care in all phases of their credit process to determine that clients have the capacity to repay without becoming over-indebted. In addition, providers will implement and monitor internal systems that support prevention of overindebtedness and will foster efforts to improve market level credit risk management (such as credit information sharing).


Providers will communicate clear, sufficient and timely information in a manner and language clients can understand so that clients can make informed decisions. The need for transparent information on pricing, terms and conditions of products is highlighted.

Responsible pricing

Pricing, terms and conditions will be set in a way that is affordable to clients while allowing for financial institutions to be sustainable. Providers will strive to provide positive real returns on deposits.

Fair and respectful treatment of clients

Financial service providers and their agents will treat their clients fairly and respectfully. They will not discriminate. Providers will ensure adequate safeguards to detect and correct corruption as well as aggressive or abusive treatment by their staff and agents, particularly during the loan sales and debt collection processes.

Privacy, security, and integrity of client data

The privacy of individual client data will be respected. Providers will only use client data for authorized purposes and with client consent. They will maintain systems to keep client data from being released improperly or misused and to protect clients from fraud, whether by internal staff, partner companies, or bad actors.

Mechanisms for complaint resolution

Providers will have in place timely and responsive mechanisms for complaints and problem resolution for their clients and will use these mechanisms both to resolve individual problems and to improve their products and services.

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