The Ombudsman for Banking Services has published its annual report, showing an increase in the number of complaints received.
In 2018 the ombudsman opened 7,115 cases across the industry – up from 7,056 the year before.
Reflecting market numbers, it’s unsurprising that the majority of complaints came from the so-called ‘big five’ banks – Standard Bank, Capitec, FNB, Absa and Nedbank – though there has been a shift in which banks were the most complained about.
Standard Bank, which was the most complained-about bank last year, has dropped to fourth position this year – while Absa, which was fourth, drew the most complaints out of all the banks in 2018.
FNB remained the second most complained-about bank, with complaints increasing from 1,422 in 2017 to 1,560 in 2018, followed by Nedbank (fifth in 2017 to third in 2018) and Captiec (third in 2017 down to fifth in 2018).
Notably, complaints do not automatically prove fault on the part of the banks.
According to the number of cases closed by the ombudsman over the period, three quarters were not upheld (ie, ruled in favour of the banks) and only 18% were fully upheld in favour of clients.
“The 75% closure rate in favour of banks shows the fairness with which the banks and their internal resolution departments treat complainants and their complaints,” the ombud said.
The table below outlines the most complained-about banks.
Banking service complaints
Across all banking services, internet banking drew the most complaints, followed by ATMs, credit cards and personal loans.
However, in each of these cases, a small percentage of complaints were actually upheld in favour of clients.
When it comes to debit order complaints, more than half were upheld in favour of clients.
The report shows that fraud is still a major issue for the South African banks, with ATM and credit card fraud accounting for 48% of complaints.
Customers fall victim to various scams and fraudulent activities that target unsuspecting individuals, said Reana Steyn, ombudsman for banking services.
“The fraudsters and hackers seem to be working around the clock to create fake copies of bank websites and impersonate the bank staff,”she said.
“They send bank customers emails and contact them via telephone.”
Steyn said that the emails and calls are so convincing that many customers get taken in by the scam.
“This happens despite all the warnings issued by banks and even our office,” she said.
“Thousands of customers are fooled by the scammers and in the process they lose millions of rands.
“Often, victims disclose their personal banking details, passwords and PIN numbers which are the direct cause of the loss, and in those instances the banks are not in a position to issue a refund,” Steyn said.