Cape Town - The Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) Reana Steyn has said in her annual report that her office secured about R20 million for customers wronged by banks last year.
Steyn said that, through her office’s intervention, the banks involved were held 100% liable for the complainants’ claims in 15.9% of the complaints lodged last year.
She said that in 4.5% of the complaints, banks were found partially liable. This meant that in 20.4% of matters adjudicated last year, the OBS concluded that there had been some wrongdoing on the part of the banks.
“Of the matters concluded in favour of the complainants, more than R19 400 000 was awarded and offered because of the OBS’s direct intervention,” Steyn said.
She said that internet banking complaints reclaimed their pole position as the category with the majority of complaints in the year, which accounted for 19% of the total complaints opened.
“This is an alarming 6% increase from 2020 and a worrying statistic, as it goes against the progress made in 2020 – where the number of internet fraud victims had dropped significantly to a record low of 13% of the total complaints,” Steyn said.
She said last year the trend from previous years continued, with many of the complaints received and resolved by the OBS relating to fraud, maladministration by banks, closure of bank accounts, and repossessions.
Steyn said more than 10 330 complaints were referred to the banks last year, compared with 8 389 cases in 2020. Referrals were complaints received by the OBS from consumers who had not provided their banks the opportunity to resolve the complaint with them in an amicable manner.
“The OBS sends these complaints to the banks, on behalf of the consumers, for the banks to attempt to resolve the matters directly with consumers. The matter is only converted into a formal case if the problem cannot be resolved by the bank,” she said.
The OBS report said Standard Bank saw an increase of 31.6% in the number of the complaints, with a total number increasing from 1 572 complaints logged in 2020 to 2 070 last year.
Nedbank accounted for 1 273 of the cases, which the OBS said represented an increase of 4.3%, while complaints against Discovery Bank dropped by 26.7%.
“While in 2020 Absa Bank recorded a reduction in the number of complaints, down 36% year-on-year, 2021 was the opposite. Only FNB recorded a significant decrease in the number of cases opened in 2021,” Steyn said.
FNB chief executive Jacques Celliers said: “We take the feedback received from the OBS very seriously. We have regular engagements with the office of the Ombud regarding any complaints that have been escalated to the OBS, and we are pleased to see positive results from our collective efforts.”
Steyn said all consumers who have been wronged by their banks or who have suffered losses, or some serious distress and inconvenience due to a bank’s maladministration, should contact her office for the free dispute resolution service it offered.