By Omodele Adigun
The Central Bank of Nigeria, in pursuit of key role to engender confidence in the Nigerian financial system and mediate disputes between banks and customers, recently demonstrated in practical manner that “justice delayed is not justice denied” when it made some banks refund N89.2 billion to customers for failed ATM transactions.
The heart-warming and laudable outcome was a fitting resolution of the petitions of 23,526 customers who lodged complaints to the apex bank in respect of failed transactions over a nine-year period, following their banks’ failure to resolve their complaints.
Eventually, 22,173 of them got their trapped N89.2 billion refunded to them. In some sense, the initiative was a special gift to the huge number of bank customers, from the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele who recently marked his birthday.
The deposit money banks refunded the amount to customers over various financial-related complaints from 2012 to June 2021.
Emefiele reportedly disclosed this during a two-day sensitisation fair entitled: “Promoting Financial Stability and Economic Development,” held in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, where he was represented by Osita Nwanisobi, the CBN’s spokesperson.
Clarifying the statement, Nwanisobi said that the fund was based on complaints from customers concerning charges and other related matters in the last nine years.
Just last year, the apex bank announced that it recovered over N60 billion excess charges imposed by banks on customers and returned the money to the owners.
The CBN said that through Consumer Protection Department (CPD) that the amount was recovered following complaints by 13,000 aggrieved customers over excess and illegal charges on their accounts by banks.
CPD Deputy Director, Chinyere Obilor, said that some of the banks were commensurately sanctioned for the observable unethical practices, urging the banking public to promptly report any unethical practice by commercial banks to the CBN, for what she called “immediate action.”
The apex bank had said that it recovered N76.75 billion and $20.90 million for customers between 2012 and November 30, 2019, adding that the refunds were from 16,263 resolved complaints.
Last year, CBN revised the timeframe for resolution of failed transactions, dispense errors or disputes and refund complaints on electronic channels.
The directives include instant reversal or within 24 hours of failed ATM transactions when customers withdraw from their own banks; not more than 48 hours reversal when customers withdraw from other bank’s ATMs.
Also, CBN directed banks to resolve all failed point of sale (POS) and online/web transactions within 72 hours. For the latest recovery, the Head CPD, Daramola Atanda, advised customers to report cases of violations to the apex bank on 07002255226 or via email to this address: [email protected]
Usually, some of the challenges that bank customers face are as follows: unfair or inexplicable charges, poor customer service by bank staff, unauthorised transactions on customer accounts through bank transfers or ATM withdrawals, among others.
Inundated with complaints from customers, the CBN has rolled out a template of fines and other sanctions against any bank engaging in illegal deductions or charges on customers’ accounts or tardy work ethics leading to customer dissatisfaction.
To address the deluge of bank customers’ complaints, the CBN created the Consumer Protection Department to deal with complaints by bank customers.
Emefiele, therefore, called on bank customers to come forward and lodge their complaints before the Consumer Protection Department for thorough investigations and punishment of any bank found culpable.
“The CBN will not take lightly to issues of overcharging of customers by banks and that is why we have issued several exposure drafts and one of them is the guide to banking charges. This is a contract between banks and their customers,” he said.
Steps to lodge complaint
A guide by the CPD on how and where an aggrieved bank customer can lodge a complaint against financial institutions regulated by the CBN such as commercial banks, microfinance banks, primary mortgage institutions and discount houses stipulates as follows:
Contact your institution first:
The CBN issued a circular in 2011 directing all banks to expand their existing ATM Help Desk to handle all types of consumer complaints. Therefore, if you have a complaint against your bank, you must first report the complaint at the bank/branch where the issue originated and then allow two weeks (it might be less in some banks) for the issue to be resolved.
What to do when the bank fails to resolve your complaint:
If after lodging your complaint your bank still fails to engage you and resolve the complaint within two weeks as provided for in the ATM Help Desk Circular, you have the right to escalate your complaint to the Consumer Protection Department (CPD) of the CBN.
Complain to Consumer Protection Department:
If the bank fails to resolve your complaint within the two weeks given by the CBN, you can direct your complaints to CPD. To contact the CPD, you are required to do so the through the following channels: by email to the address [email protected] or send a letter to this address – The Director, Consumer Protection Department, Central Business District, Abuja, which can be submitted at the CBN Head Office or at any of the branches of CBN nationwide..
It is necessary to understand that the CPD of the CBN deals with all financial-related complaints so far as such complaints are against financial institutions within its regulatory purview.
To assist members of the public in obtaining redress, it is important that complaint letters are written in an effective manner. In other words, the complaint should be clear and concise to avoid ambiguity. The complaint letter (petition) should contain the following information amongst other things: name, address, contact phone number & e-mail of the complainant; name of your financial institution; personal banking details (do not include PIN & Passwords, please;) history/date of the transaction in dispute; amount claimed (if any); attach relevant documents to support your claim and; evidence to show that you have first lodged the complaint at your bank.
You can make further inquiries and obtain additional information on the complaints handling process of the CBN from the Complaints Unit of your bank/financial institution or from CBN offices nationwide.