Banks wrig­gle out

The Timaru Herald - - COMMENT&OPINION -

was is­sued in June, and an ap­par­ently fi­nal code is to be re­leased some time soon.

This looks as though the banks want to keep peo­ple in the dark till they can present the world with a done deal.

This is no way to take such a con­tro­ver­sial move, which could af­fect the rights of many thou­sands of cus­tomers for whom in­ter­net bank­ing is a rou­tine part of their day.

Un­for­tu­nately, this is not the first time that the banks have tried to weaken their com­mit­ments to their in­ter­net bank­ing cus­tomers. They did the same thing in 2007, when they were re­vis­ing an ear­lier code.

That re­vi­sion in­cluded a clause that made cus­tomers li­able for fraud losses if they opened at­tach­ments or ran soft­ware from un­trusted or un­known sources.

An­other clause pe­nalised the cus­tomers in the same way if they failed to keep ‘‘pro­tec­tive soft­ware’’ of their op­er­at­ing sys­tem up to date.

This led, quite rightly, to a pub­lic back­lash.

And now the banks seem to be do­ing it all again.

This is cu­ri­ous if only be­cause the banks spend enor­mous sums try­ing to con­vince their cus­tomers that the banks are on their side, that they are hu­man, wellmean­ing in­sti­tu­tions and ‘‘peo­ple like us.’’

You would think that these or­gan­i­sa­tions, which make enor­mous prof­its and spend enor­mous sums on ad­ver­tis­ing and PR, would un­der­stand the PR risks they were un­der­tak­ing. But ap­par­ently not. Con­sumer NZ, which led the charge in 2007 against the banks, is crit­i­cis­ing them this time as well. Its CEO, Sue Chetwin, is con­cerned by the pro­posal to re­move the guid­ing prin­ci­ple over fraud li­a­bil­ity.

And she rightly says the de­ci­sion to keep sub­mis­sions se­cret is not ‘‘a very wise idea’’.

Chetwin has made pub­lic her or­gan­i­sa­tion’s sub­mis­sion and sug­gests that other sub­mit­ters would be happy to do like­wise.

The banks are now faced with the prob­lem of dig­ging them­selves out of a hole.

They en­joy a large mea­sure of free­dom and self-reg­u­la­tion un­der the law. If they want the pub­lic to ac­cept this, they must show that they will not use it to pro­tect their own in­ter­ests at the ex­pense of their cus­tomers.

But that is what it looks as though they’re do­ing with their code of prac­tice.

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