Fair play


The complainant contacted her Bank telephonically, firstly to obtain a copy of her credit card statement, and secondly to ascertain why she was not receiving SMS notifications. The Bank consultant that assisted her advised that there had been a technical issue, but that her SMS notification facility was active again. It was clear from the call recording that when the complainant ended the call with the Bank she was of the understanding that her SMS notifications had been reactivated and that going forward, this meant that she would be able to mitigate the risk of fraud on her account.  


Subsequently, unauthorised transactions occurred on the complainant’s account. The Bank advised that as her account had been accessed via the Bank’s App, no SMS notifications were sent to her, as she would have needed to be registered on another notification platform in order to receive notifications of transactions initiated via the Bank’s App.


It was our finding that standard banking practice in the industry when “notification alerts” are activated is for an SMS/email to be sent to a customer in respect of all transactions that occur on a customer’s account. It was our view that a reasonable customer would assume that the reactivation of the SMS notification facility would ensure that she would be notified of all transactions that occurred on her account, even if the transactions occurred via the Bank’s App.


The issue revolved once again around “an awareness of risk”. We found that it is unreasonable, given the prevalence of crime in the online banking space, for a Bank to expect its customer to explicitly request the notification service to be enabled for transactions made using the Bank’s App (especially when the Bank promoted this facility as a value-add). A reasonable customer would assume that if the SMS notification service had been activated, they would receive notifications of all the transactions that occurred on that account, no matter what platform was used to perform the transaction.


The Bank eventually accepted our position and agreed to write off an amount of R 200 000.00.


PRINCIPLE  Banks have a responsibility to ensure that they make their customers aware of how banking products work. Considering the prevalence of fraud, customers must always be placed in a position to make an informed decision. 

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