MONTREAL -- Quebec solidaire is accusing banks of taking advantage of people’s misery amid the COVID-19 pandemic by collecting interest charges on credit cards that they say are being used to pay for groceries and bills during a difficult time.

Co-spokesperson Vincent Marissal is asking for financial institutions to be forced to cancel interest charged on credit cards, overdrafts and other loans for as long as the crisis lasts. He’s also asking for service charge fees to be waived – since many stores have halted cash payments for the moment, people are using their cards for transactions and may have to subscribe to more expensive plans as a result. 

Marissal said Desjardins Group’s drop in interest rates is insufficient, and he noted that major Canadian banks are continuing to accumulate interest rates of up to 30 per cent on unpaid balances. 

The deferral of mortgage payments – the only measure announced by the banks – allows the institutions to accumulate more interest, Marissal said. He added that banks make record profits because of their clients, but as soon as they need help, banks are absent. If they can’t show compassion, the government should turn a blind eye to them, Marissal said. 

In 2019, the six major Canadian banks pocketed a profit of $45 billion, according to Marissal’s calculations. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 3, 2020.