Bank customers go online to complain

Complaints by consumers to the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman jumped up 22 per cent in 2007-08 to 7,911 new cases, apparently largely driven by the availability of the online complaints channel. Almost 4,000 complaints were lodged online during the year, up 21.7 per cent on the number from the previous year, which was 45 per cent up on the year before.

While the chief ombudsman Colin Neave blamed “global financial turmoil” for the significant increase, the numbers don't seem to unequivocally back that theory up. The ombudsman said in his statement that “there has been a considerable increase of 152 per cent in disputes about managed investments and a 55 per cent rise in financial planning disputes”. However those big increases came off very low bases. There were only 257 complaints about financial planners and just 126 complaints about managed investments during the year.

The product group collecting the most complaints was consumer finance, dominated by unauthorised credit card transaction disputes, with 1,842 cases, up 7.7 per cent. Housing finance came second with 767 cases relating to variable rate home loans, up 26.7 per cent and 169 cases related to fixed rate loans, up 62.7 per cent. There were 795 complaints relating to payment systems, mostly ATMs, up 2.3 per cent and 687 complaints related to deposit accounts, down 3.6 per cent. Of the 7,497 cases closed or finalised during the year, 1,578 were discontinued by the consumer, mostly prior to the BFSO referring the matter to the financial institution.

Ninety-three per cent of the 4,332 cases where an outcome was determined were resolved by the member institution without involvement by BFSO. That such a high percentage of cases can be resolved early by institutions after a complaint has been registered highlights the easy online route consumers can take to working out problems with their bank.

Source: The Sheet