News Column

ATM Hiccups - CBN Moves Against Banks Over Non-Dispensed Funds

June 17, 2014

Kingsley Ighomwenghian

Mrs Adesola (not real name), a customer at the Jibowu, Yaba, branch of First Bank was at the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) of Skye Bank Plc to withdraw N20,000 for a pressing need on February 6, 2014. To her shock, her account was debited, even when the machine did not dispense. She then began what she came to realize was a tortuous journey to recover her "un-dispensed" funds, a journey that would take months.

She told **Daily Independent*** weeks later that she immediately lodged a complaint at Skye Bank on the same day, where she was told to be patient, assured that the issue would be resolved.

"I was told they would work on it, that I should hold on because my case was fresh (meaning there were other similar cases before mine). I left the bank's premises. But after some weeks and I did not receive any notification that the account has been credited with the amount, I went to First Bank at Jibowu where I did the transaction to speak with their branch manager, and the man said it was Skye Bank I'm supposed to mount pressure on. I went back to Skye Bank, I mounted pressure on them, and till now nothing has happened."

After two weeks of daily visits to Skye Bank located inside Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos, where the transaction was done, without success, she opted to post the information on social media sight- Facebook. Like magic, she recalled, within 15 minutes of her doing so, Skye Bank contacted her to say First Bank had called them to apologise and to say they were working on it.

Unfortunately Mrs. Adesola did not receive any more communications on the matter for some more weeks, following which she chose to escalate the matter further. This reporter was contacted via telephone on March 26, 2014- one month and 20 days after. The reversal ought to have taken place within 48 hours at most.

According to her, "I have been going to Skye bank, but they have refused to give me my money... instead, they have been dribbling me since then, I don't what to do to get my money back... . Please help me, I work to get my money and I cannot afford to loss such an amount!"

When **Daily Independent** contacted Skye Bank's head office, officials of the corporate communications department offered to help resolve the matter amicably through the appropriate department.

But that meant the complainant had to wait a little longer without her money, as our correspondent later learnt that the problem was due to an ongoing systems upgrade at the time by Skye Bank.

By April 26, another month after, a distraught Mrs. Adesola told **Daily Independent**: "I don't think they want to return this money."

Assurance to the contrary did very little to assuage her fears, not even a promise to further take the matter up with the appropriate department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

However, on May 12, exactly three months and six days after, an elated Mrs. Adesola called to acknowledge that her N20,000 has been returned by Skye Bank.

This kind of experience has made many swear never to have anything to do with an ATM card or the machine, no matter attempts made to convince them to the contrary.

This reporter had a different kind of experience on Monday, when he used his Zenith Bank ATM card on an Ecobank Nigeria machine. He got an alert that the money was debited from the account, but the machine did not was dispense. But within seconds, while he was still grasping with the situation, the money was reversed through another alert.

Not everyone is that lucky. There was the case of a lady in her 20s, into whose account some money was paid by her elder sister to enable her shop for an upcoming wedding. She was at her bank branch on that Saturday morning in the company of her mother to take the cash. They were supposed to go to one of the major markets on the Lagos Island to shop for the wedding. Those present at the ATM machine in the Festac Town neighbourhood were shocked when this lady, out of shock, burst into tears, bemoaning her misfortune and the loss of time as she could have to wait until Monday to begin the process of recovering her money.

CBN action:

Worried by these and other incidences that tend to dent its bid to increase confidence in the nation's payment system, and conscious of the need to ensure the success of the ongoing cashless initiative, of which the ATM infrastructure is a key element, the CBN has expressed worry at the way banks continue to shortchange their customers through non-dispense or partial dispense errors from their ATMs that are not reversed.

On Monday, the apex bank, in a circular dated June 11, 2014, and pasted on its website, directed the banks to resolve all issues of non-dispensed or partially dispensed funds from their ATMs, on or before July 31, 2014.

Banks that fail to comply with the directed, according to the CBN circular referenced: BPS/DIR/CIR/01/008, titled "non-refund of monies to customers shortchanged by ATMs' non-dispense or partial dispense error," risk "appropriate sanctions for non-compliance."

The circular to all banks, signed by 'Dipo Fatokun, Director, Banking and Payment System Department, said the attention of the CBN has been drawn to the fact that deposit money banks have notg been refunding their customers that have been shortchanged by the ATM's partial dispense error. It noted that others with non-dispense errors have not also had their monies refunded.

According to Fatokun, "this issue was brought to the notice of the chairmen of the Committees of Heads of e-Banking and Heads of Operations (of banks), at meeting held on April 15, 2014, at which the Card Schemes and Switches were present."

A major outcome of the said meeting, the CBN recalled further, "was that banks were directed to reconcile their accounts with a view to returning such monies to their owners.

"You are by this circular directed to return all the monies in your possession as a result of the ATM non-dispense or partial dispense error, not later than July 31, 2014," the CBN stressed.

For the avoidance of doubts, the apex bank noted that going forward, and "in compliance with Section 9.1 of the Guideline for Card Issuance and usage in Nigeria, acquirers (banks that own the particular ATM) should initiate the resolution, even without the prompting of the issuing bank (the bank that issued the ATM card and where the account is domiciled)."

This is seen as yet another move by the CBN to boost customer confidence, as part of promoting cashless society, where more of transactions are done through alternative payment channels, including the ATMs.

The cashless policy is billed to go live nationwide from July 1, 2014, following which banks are making conscious efforts to tailor specific products to some identified members of the public, just as ATMs have become common place.

Today also, Nigerians are very much at home with ATMs, Point of Sales (PoS) terminals, internet banking and various card products.

Quote:

In compliance with Section 9.1 of the Guideline for Card Issuance and usage in Nigeria, acquirers (banks that own the particular ATM) should initiate the resolution, even without the prompting of the issuing bank (the bank that issued the ATM card and where the account is domiciled).


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Source: AllAfrica


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