African News Agency (ANA)
With the focus on women and their finances during Women’s Month, the Office of the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) analysed their complaints to assess their concerns.

The office has received 3785 formal cases for the year to date, and only 31 percent of the complaints lodged in this period were from women. However, the number of men and women utilising banking services is much more even, so why the disparity?

The OBS, Reana Steyn, said this may be an indication that women are smarter than men when it comes to banking products and services, or simply that they complain less.

Of the 1173 complaints received from women, 21 percent related to internet banking, 10 percent to ATM disputes and 9 percent to personal loans. The office’s overall statistics list credit card fraud complaints as the second-highest category, although it is not on the list of the top three categories of complaints from women.

The OBS noted that “ATM- and internet-banking-related complaints are about fraud, mainly phishing and card swopping, and complaints related to personal loans are about the balances on the accounts”.

The following case studies are examples of complaints that were lodged by women and resolved by the OBS:

1. Card swopping. Mrs C went to an ATM to withdraw her employees’ wages. She was interrupted by unidentified people before she reached the ATM, but she chased them away. When Mrs C inserted the card into the ATM, the card was retained. A few moments later, cash was withdrawn from the account. She tried to contact the bank to block the card, but it was too late.

Mrs C had no idea that the point of compromise was when she was interrupted by the unidentified suspects.

Mrs C had not been able to report the retained card immediately or before the funds were withdrawn by the fraudsters.

The bank could not be held liable for the loss, because the fraudulent transactions were performed with the original card and secret PIN known only to the customer.

“Based on experience gained from investigations undertaken by this office in similar complaints, it was noted that criminals have devised ingenious and sophisticated means of distracting their victims and obtaining the card and PIN without the victim being aware of what is going on,” Steyn said.

“While we do not want to speculate on what happened at the ATM, the complainant compromised her PIN, and therefore the claim was repudiated,” she said.

2. Outstanding balance dispute. Mrs N obtained a personal loan. In terms of the agreement, her last payment was due on December 25, 2018. She experienced financial difficulty, and in April 2015 she tried to make arrangements with the bank to pay a reduced instalment for six months.

It subsequently transpired that the bank had extended the repayment term of her agreement for five years. Mrs N disputed having requested, signed or agreed to a restructuring of her account.

The bank’s view was that Mrs N agreed to the rescheduling terms and conditions, as well as the amended loan repayment term, and that it was non-reversible.

The OBS investigated the matter and noted that section 116 of the National Credit Act provides that a credit agreement may be amended only if the amendment is reduced to writing and signed by the customer.

The bank was unable to furnish the OBS with proof that the complainant requested or agreed to the restructuring of the loan account. Accordingly, it recommended that the bank adjust the loan account in order to place Mrs N in the same position she would have been if the restructure had not occurred. The bank agreed, and R64032.15 in respect of additional interest charged as a result of the restructure was written off from the outstanding balance. Mrs N remained liable to settle the adjusted outstanding balance.

Steyn advised that “it is important for bank customers to keep record of any discussions had with the bank regarding changes made to their account. Bank customers must always request that such changes must be reduced to writing to avoid misunderstandings.” 

SUPPLIED