The Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) has urged South Africans to check their banking statements, after receiving a number of complaints from customers.
The OBS’ latest statistics show that its office has closed a total of 5,996 cases so far in 2019.
As many as 2,356 of these cases were related to allegations of maladministration by banks, making up a significant 39% of total complaints.
The ombudsman said these types of complaints included issues such as allegations of accounts settled and disputes around fees and charges.
In many of these cases, the OBS found that there was indeed maladministration on the part of the banks involved.
The ombudsman is often in the best position to identify and investigate maladministration by banks as and when it occurs, but it said that customers can assist by being vigilant and querying their statements and balances.
“Bank customers must take the time to go through their account statements. It is not impossible that the balance, repayment or outstanding loan period could be incorrect,” said Reana Steyn, ombudsman for Banking Services.
“It is natural to trust that bank statements are always correct and that errors are unlikely. However, the OBS receives complaints relating to maladministration on a daily basis,” Steyn said.
The term ‘maladministration’ refers to a range of issues that could go wrong, the OBS said.
“For example, the unilateral changing of the agreed contractual repayment term, a decreased or increase in the agreed monthly instalment or the failure to appropriately adjust the instalment and/or interest rate.
“Such actions could result in the term of the agreement being extended or an incorrect balance, resulting in customers having to pay more than what was agreed on.”
The OBS said it will investigate all matters and consider the facts of each dispute as well as what is ‘fair’ under the circumstances.
“Maladministration by the banks may be due to human error or a system error. If banking maladministration is established, the OBS has the power to direct the bank to rectify the situation for the customer. In addition, the OBS may direct that the bank offers a nominal award for distress and inconvenience. As mentioned above, each case is decided on its merits,” it said.
Steyn said that bank customers who suspect maladministration on their accounts or who feel that their debts owed to the bank are not decreasing as they should be, need to raise their concerns directly with their banks.
If they are still not satisfied, they are urged to lodge a complaint with the OBS for an independent investigation into the complaint.
“We encourage bank customers to be vigilant, and it is very important to keep signed records of agreements and to report any incorrect entries or balances on their accounts immediately to their banks,” she said.