The Mercury

SA banking ombudsman recovered/refunded R16 million to consumers during 2020


THE SOUTH African Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) said yesterday that it had recovered and refunded R16 million to consumers over the past year.

The OBS published a summary of its annual report yesterday. Last year saw the OBS record a 19% higher rate of consumer complaints, with 7 717 formal cases being lodged as compared with 6 472 cases the year prior.

The OBS closed 7 230 cases during 2020, signifying an 18 percent increase as compared with 2019, which saw 6 133 cases being closed.

The Ombudsman for Banking Services, Reana Steyn, said that they had noticed an increase in the number of referrals received in 2020.

“Referrals are complaints received by the OBS from complainan­ts who have not afforded the bank an opportunit­y to first resolve the issue with them. The OBS sends these matters to the banks on behalf of the consumers for the bank to attempt to try to come to a resolution. If the problem is not resolved directly with the bank, then the matter is converted to a formal case which forms part of the reported statistics," Steyn said in a statement.

A total of 8 389 case referrals were sent to the banks, compared with the 4 709 that were sent during 2019, which according to Steyn could be owed to a snowball effect caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Due to the lockdown and subsequent ripple effects, some bank customers were desperate and came straight to our office before contacting the bank.”

All of the big South African banks, apart from Absa, saw an increase in the number of consumer complaints received against them. However, Steyn added that it was not an indication of their overall performanc­e.

First National Bank had 2 197 complaints opened against it, an increase of 22% from 2019.

Standard Bank had 1 572 complaints opened against it, an increase of 28%.

Capitec Bank had 1 259 cases opened against it, an increase of 39%.

Nedbank had 1 217 cases opened against it, an increase of 10%.

Absa saw the number of complaints opened against it with the OBS decrease from 1 483 in 2019 to 943 cases during 2020.

Internet banking, which previously held the bulk share of complaints during 2018 (22%) and 2019 (18%), saw a decrease during the recorded period, accounting for 13 percent of complaints received.

The OBS closed 981 internet banking fraud cases in 2020 as opposed to the 1 292 in 2019. Seventy-three percent of these complaints were resolved in favour of the banks, and 197 (27%) were in favour of the consumer.

According to the OBS report, 50% of the complaints were from Gauteng, 17% from the Western Cape and 12% from KwaZulu-Natal.

The majority of the complaints received were from people over the age of 40 and related to current accounts, credit cards and internet banking fraud.

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