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Exchange Control Rates

The complainant transferred R120 000 from his account in Italy to his bank account in South Africa. He arrived in the country two months later and realised that the funds had been returned.

He stated that he suffered a loss of R7 500 due to conversion of funds from Rands to Euros, the bank's charges as well as the difference of the exchange rate between the funds' transfer and their return. He increased this claim to R20 000 to compensate for loss of interest and legal costs.
The bank indicated that the funds were returned because it was unable to get hold of the customer via phone or email. It further submitted that the complainant was the remitter and the beneficiary of the funds, and, therefore, he did not suffer a loss as his account was credited with the funds by his bank in Italy after they were returned. The bank offered to waive the charges only should the complainant request another transfer.
The bank also stated that, in terms of the Reserve Bank Exchange Control Regulations, all incoming funds need to be declared within 30 days of being credited to the beneficiary account. Being unable to contact the client, the bank was obliged to return the funds. However, no copy of the alleged email was provided as the staff member concerned had left the bank.
Responding to an OBS enquiry, the bank provided proof that prior to the transfer in question, the complainant had transferred funds from abroad on three other occasions and had declared them within 30 days, indicating his knowledge of the rules.
However, the bank could have done more to reach the complainant. Thus both parties shared the responsibility to ensure the funds were declared.
The bank agreed to comply with the OBS's suggestion that it reimburse R3 750 of the loss. The claim for interest and legal costs was deemed more suited to a court of law as parties may require oral evidence from witnesses or need to call expert witnesses.
Lesson to be learnt:
The bank should at all times endeavour to help the customer, but the customer should also help himself.

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