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Discontent ... you can bank on it

BANK customers are increasingly unhappy with the service provided by their institution.

A report by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission evaluating the performance of financial institutions reflects the grow-ing discontentment with the service. ASIC found many banks, credit unions and building societies were falling short of their Code of Practice and the Electronic Funds Transfer Code.

Complaints under the EFT Code of Conduct rose to 121,434 (81 per million transactions) for the period from April 2000 to March 2001, compared with 106,719 complaints (64 per million transactions) the previous year.

Almost two thirds of the complaints were due to the malfunction of auto-teller machines.

Banks were the worst off-enders. While the major banks accounted for 68 per cent of transactions, almost 80 per cent of all complaints were levelled at them.

However, the report revealed a 16 per cent fall in com-plaints about unauthorised transactions, commonly caused by cardholder negligence with their personal identification number.

The increase has prompted ASIC to release a checklist for customers to ensure they are well protected from card fraud.

ASIC deputy chairman Jillian Segal said the finding provided a strong reminder for people of the importance of secrecy regarding their PINs.

“You should also avoid using your birth date or a recognisable part of you name as your PIN or code,” Ms Segal said.

“If you choose a PIN like this after April 1 2002, after your financial institution has warned you not to, then you may have increased liability.

“Consumers will receive far broader protection for all their electronic banking under the revised EFT Code, and it’s vital that people understand what their new rights and responsibilities are.”

Australians have become heavily reliant on ATM and EFTPOS transactions, how-ever Internet and telephone banking were becoming more popular with customers.

Aware of this trend, from April 1, ASIC moved to expand its coverage to cover Internet and telephone trans-actions by expanding the scope of the EFT Code.

“ASIC has been aware of this trend and worked hard to increase protection for consumers who choose to do their banking via electronic means,” Ms Segal said.

The changes to the code also became necessary to take account of the Financial Services Reform process embodied in the Corporations Act 2001.

“The code also sets out new rules for controversial situations, such as how liability should be allocated if there has been an unauthorised transaction on your account,” Ms Segal said.

Disputes under the Banking Code also increased, rising to 12,668 (3.28 per million transactions), up from 10,357 disputes during the previous year.

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