Monday, April 18, 2011

Condomise, but don't Bank on it.


Dear South African Bank Clients,
          The Government keeps telling us not to have sex without a condom. Protect, protect they’re always saying but it thinks nothing of allowing us to put our hard earned cash for safe keeping in places that give us the minimum protection.
          Banking is Royal game in South Africa. So don't think you can rely on the newly implemented Consumer Protection Act if you have a complaint against these guardians of your money.
          It’s hard to believe that while a host of other industries are having to put up with the onerous provisions of the Act its net has been so poorly made that some of the very big fish like the banks have been allowed to swim away unhindered. They can now go on running their own banking protection society as they have been doing for years.
          The reason why they got this deplorable exemption is that they have their own Ombudsman in the form of Advocate Clive Pillay and what's more he is employed by the banks themselves.
           I appreciate that he can only operated within the confines of the rules set by his employers so he can’t in any way be blamed for the tremendous shortcomings of this system.
          Not surprisingly the banks that belong to his employer, the Banking Council have compiled a rule book that is extremely bank friendly. It has hogtied him well and truly.
          Banks don’t have to belong to the Council but all the major ones do.
          As I understand it the Ombudsman operates according to the Code of Banking Practise which stipulates how the Banking Council relates to you.  But how confusing is this?
          One minute the Code states that the member banks 'accept 
the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman to making binding
determinations which may be made an order of court.'
Elsewhere it says, 'None of the provisions of the Code will be legally binding in any court of law.'
          Then there are these other gems like:
'the Ombudsman doesn't have the authority to deal 
with a matter that would more appropriately be dealt 
with by a court or other dispute resolution process; 
a recommendation is not binding on the bank and
simply indicates how the matter should
be resolved' and so on.
          And the best one of all is if you don't like the Ombudsman's decision and the Panel, whoever they are, decides that your case warrants a review you can't produce new evidence and nor can you appear in person before the Panel.
          What kind of justice is that? Can anybody tell me?
          My complaint to Advocate Pillay didn’t even get off the ground. I asked him to do something about a long standing practice that particularly affects the poor(See Bank sanctioned robbery ) Anybody who has somebody’s bank account number can raise a debit order against it without the bank concerned requiring the client’s permission.
         Brian Joss News Editor of Cape Community Newspapers has also written about this in his consumer column column,Off My Trolley and so have many other journalists but the high and mighty banks take absolutely no notice. It only affects their clients so why should they worry.
          All I got back from the Ombudsman’s office was a curt reply from receptionist Cylvia Rapodile. She said that according to the agreement they had with the banks I first had to give the bank the opportunity to resolve
the complaint before raising it with the Ombudsman.
          I protested that as this concerned all banks it would be ridiculous for me to have to contact all of them to which she replied, 'The Ombudsman can't deal with general
queries or offer advice.'
          That’s Great; it’s what you call brush off service with little interest. I was given this answer in spite of the fact that the Code the banks are so proud of says they are there 'to provide reliable banking and payment systems and take care to make these safe and secure.'
          HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE DOING THIS WHEN THEY HAVE A DEBIT ORDER SYSTEM THAT IS SO FAR FROM BEING SAFE AND SECURE?
          How does the rejection of my complaint comply with another section of the Code that says, 'You can submit complaints and suggestions concerning the general operation of the code in writing to the Banking Council.'
       Perhaps it was rejected by the Splitting Hairs Department because the Code doesn’t mention debit orders and I sent my complaint to the Ombudsman and not to the Banking Council.

         
          Disappointedly yours,
          Jon, the Consumer Watchdog for the Voiceless.


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