News Column

Furore Over CBN's Directive On Trapped ATM Cards

May 26, 2014

Tina A. Hassan

A directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on trapped Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards has been drawing the ire of bank customers who use the cards.

The apex bank's Banking and Payment System Department had recently released a 14-page guideline on card issuance to banks across the country, directing that any trapped card in the ATM should be rendered unusable or ineffective by perforating it. With the directive compelling affected bank customers to obtain new ATM cards and paying a charge, the customers on the receiving end of it are not finding it funny at all.

The ATM, jocularly referred to by some Nigerians as All-Time Money, is one banking innovation that has gained wide embrace by Nigerians due to its convenient use in withdrawing cash. Its significance is particularly underlined at weekends and public holidays when banking halls are not opened to public patronage and the machine becomes the readily easy resort for cash dispensation.

However, many users of the machine have been grappling with worrisome challenges that include trapping of the card in the machine, experiencing a damaged card and illegal withdrawals by fraudsters.

With the particular issue of trapped cards becoming commonplace and retrieval problematic, the CBN explained it had to come up with its new policy to protect the interest of card users. The bank's Director, Banking and Payment System Department, Mr. Dipo Fatokun was reported in some media as describing the policy as one meant to promote global best practices.

Fatokun explained how cards can be trapped in an ATM for various reasons. For example, he said, when a customer inputs his PIN three times and didn't get it right, the card can be trapped. It could also be due to the fault of the ATM or due to the nature of the card.

"When I mean nature," he added, "I mean maybe you sat on the card and it became bent and if you attempt to use it, it could be seized by the machine."

The policy has been eliciting reactions from the public and many card users are querying why they have to apply and pay for a new card for a problem that they say clearly didn't emanate from them. Though the CBN has explained its new policy was issued to protect the public from fraudulent activities that may occur in the process of returning the card to the user, many Nigerians still feel that rather than rendering every trapped ATM card unusable, the apex bank should favourably consider certain cases that could have arisen due to unavoidable cases like poor internet connection which could lead to the trapping of a card.

Ibrahim Sa'id, a young man using an ATM not far from where this reporter stood, told Sunday Trust that he was a frequent user of the ATM card and has experienced card failure many times through no fault of his.

"My card had been trapped in the machine a number of times and each time it was returned to me in good condition, but this new policy is not a very brilliant idea in my opinion.

"It is enough inconvenience that the card is stuck in the machine because one cannot get money immediately one needs it, especially when you have nothing on you. God help you if the card is trapped on a weekend or public day(s) and you have to endure till the working days come.

It is very possible that in every 10 usages of the machine, your card will be trapped once. Does this mean that you have to keep going to the bank all the time to keep renewing your ATM card?" Sa'id wondered.

Ngozi Okike, a lady in her early 20s, maintained it was not right to perforate her ATM card trapped in the vending machine through no fault of hers. Okike expressed displeasure that she would be compelled to spend time and money to start processing a new.

Oyekanmi Afolayan was bitter speaking with Sunday Trust on the CBN directive, "My card had been held by the ATM about four times. I remember one of such times I tried using an ATM machine in Mararaba in Nasarawa State). The machine just swallowed my card and it wasn't as if I put in a wrong password.

"I went into the bank to tell them about it and they said it was a network problem and I should return the next day to collect it. Last week, one of my friends using Access Bank told me he cannot use his card again after it was trapped in an ATM machine.

"This policy is not good because it is as if they are using it as another avenue to get money from us since they will deduct N1,000 from our account for a new card," Afolayan complained.

Not all voices were dissenting though. A businessman, who gave his name simply as Felix, said, "This policy is for security purposes and I feel that it is good. The issue, in my view, is that whenever you want to start using the ATM, you need to be well educated about it. Some people don't know how to use it; they are even not well-lettered about its operation. So you need to learn it well and get help first before using it."|

With the ATM becoming an indispensable banking instrument, Nigerians may just have to get used to changes on policies governing its operation.

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Source: AllAfrica

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