The South African banks that are best at dealing with complaints

The Ombudsman for Banking Services has released a new report focusing on the South African banks which are best at resolving bank customer disputes.

“In as much as the OBS functions as an independent non-profit organisation (NPO), and the banks recognise the authority of the Bank Ombudsman, the work that this office does cannot be fully accomplished without the co-operation of all the banks involved,” says Reana Steyn, the Ombudsman for Banking Services.

“We set measurable standards for the banks which reflect our values to enable us to honour our promise to deliver free, impartial and speedy dispute resolutions,” said Steyn.

Steyn said that the criteria considered for the banks include:

  • Quality of the written response of the bank to the office in response to a specific complainant;
  • The response time;
  • The overall fairness of the response.

Standard Bank was named as the overall winner according to these criteria for ‘category A’ banks, while African Bank was named as the overall winner for ‘category B’ banks.

Standard Bank also received an award for innovation in dispute resolution resulting in a noticeable decrease in consumer disputes and an engagement award for its dealing with the Ombudsman.

Employees from Absa Bank and Bidvest Bank were also recognised for consistently excellent service.

Most complained about banks 

In its 2019 annual report published earlier this year, the Ombudsman found that Absa 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 Capitec (third in 2017 down to fifth in 2018).

Standard Bank ranked fourth – a significant improvement from first 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.

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.

How to complain?

The ombudsman said that the customers should use the following procedure when laying a complaint:

  • Lodge a formal, written complaint directly with your bank’s dispute resolution department;
  • Ask for a complaint reference number from your bank;
  • Allow the bank 20 working days in which to respond to your complaint;
  • Obtain a written response from your bank.

Consumers can also contact the office of the Ombuds for Banking Services for free assistance if they experience any banking problems or would like to lodge a complaint against their bank, it said.

Read: What South Africans really think about Absa, Nedbank, FNB, Standard Bank and Capitec

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The South African banks that are best at dealing with complaints