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Banking services ombudsman Reana Steyn says that her office received and investigated a record number of complaints in 2021 — with Internet banking fraud topping the list.
The number of complaints the Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) adjudicated increased by 7% compared to 2020.
“Over 10,330 complaints were referred to the banks in 2021 compared to the 8,389 cases in 2020,” Steyn said.
“Referrals are complaints received by the OBS from consumers who have not provided their banks the opportunity to resolve the complaint with them in an amicable manner.”
Steyn said the OBS sends these complaints to banks on behalf of consumers for the institutions to try and resolve matters directly.
“The matter is only converted into a formal case if the problem cannot be resolved by the bank,” said Steyn.
Steyn said Internet banking complaints accounted for 19% of all cases opened in 2021.
“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,” she said.
Steyn said in 73% of the matters resolved by her office in 2021, the findings were in favour of the banks.
In 5,846 cases, her office found no legal or fair grounds to uphold the complaint against the bank.
However, Steyn said she was pleased to have been able to help consumers who had legitimate and substantiable claims.
Banks were held fully liable in 15.9% (1,276) of cases lodged in 2021.
In 4.5% (363) of these complaints, the banks were partially liable.
Therefore, in 1,639 (20.4%) matters adjudicated in 2021, the OBS concluded there was some wrongdoing on the banks’ part.
“Of the matters concluded in favour of the complainants, over R19,400,000 was awarded and offered because of the OBS’s direct intervention,” said Steyn.
Complainants received no award in 6.6% (530) of cases. However, the OBS provided them with information on why this was the case.
Steyn provided the following summary of formal cases opened against South Africa’s “big five” banks.
She said individual increases should be seen in light of the overall increase in the number of complaints received by the OBS between 2020 and 2021:
- FNB — drop from 2,197 to 1,452 complaints (a 34% decrease)
- Standard Bank — increase from 1,572 to 2,070 complaints (a 31.6% increase)
- Capitec — increase from 1,259 to 1,651 complaints (a 31.1% increase)
- ABSA — increase from 943 to 1,068 complaints (a 13.3% increase)
- Nedbank — 1,273 of the cases opened. An increase of 4.3%.
The ombud also noted that TymeBank saw a major increase in complaints between 2020 and 2021 — 870.8%.
However, the public must remember that these complaints came off a very low base of only 24 cases in 2020 compared to 233 in 2021.
Discovery Bank decreased by 26.7%.
Steyn said that in most of these complaints, the losses suffered and inconveniences experienced could have been avoided had consumers been more sceptical of fraudsters posing as bank personnel.
“It is important that consumers protect their confidential banking information,” Steyn said.
You should also never accept help from strangers at the ATM.
She also said that consumers should become more involved in managing their accounts by constantly going through their account statements.
At the first sign of financial stress, customers can then engage with their bank for help.
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