News Column

CBN Orders Banks to Return Undispensed ATM Funds

June 17, 2014

Kingsley Ighomwenghian and Oladele Ogunsola

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expressed worry that deposit money banks (DMBs) in the country continue to short change their customers through non-dispense or partial dispense errors from their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

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

Banks that failed to comply with the directive, according to the CBN circular referenced: BPS/DIR/CIR/01/008, and 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 not been refunding their customers that have been short changed by the ATMs' 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, 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.

According to Austin Okere, Chief Executive of Computer Warehouse Group Plc, which deployed an estimated 70 per cent of the ATMs in the country, Nigeria currently has about 11,000 installed, "resulting in an average of 11.39 ATMs per 100,000 adult population (adult population in Nigeria being about 56 per cent or 95.2 million according to a World Bank report on population)".

The figure, he argued, is "less than the 11,800 achieved at the highpoint, because many banks had to abandon the long term rents secured for their offsite".

Okere, in a recent paper, blamed this on CBN's "misadventure with the Independent ATM Deployers (IAD) experiment of 2008 that barred banks from deploying ATMs outside their branches (which) resulted in the abrupt halt in the momentum of ATM deployment by banks".

Another report said within the last four years, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disbursed N14.6 billion as intervention refund on behalf of some banks to their customers over complaints about the banks' services.

CBN Deputy Director, Consumer Protection, Khadijat Kazeem, disclosed this at the flag-off of a weeklong Consumer Awareness Campaign in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, on Monday.

She noted that since CBN created the Consumer Protection Office in 2010 which was later upgraded to a full fledged department in 2012, the bank had on several occasions intervened in frictions between several banks and their teeming customers.

Kazeem, who represented the director of her department, Umma Dutse, at the event, disclosed that as at last month the apex bank had intervened and treated no fewer than 3,000 complaints from banks' customers across the country.

The weeklong awareness campaign in Oyo State, according to her, "is to ensure that customers are better served by their various banks while customers are kept abreast of current developments in the banking sector.

"The sensitisation campaign includes stakeholders forum, road show and discussions on radio and television stations based in the state while the exercise will be replicated in other remaining states across the country and Abuja.

"We all would recall the events that occurred few years ago in the financial industry when the Nigerian financial system was virtually on the brinks of collapse.

"There was crisis in the financial and capital markets which had been triggered by the global financial crisis.

"Following an extensive and indepth study of the financial system, it was revealed that lack of consumer sophistication among many other factors was responsible for the near collapse of the financial system.

"The CBN introduced reforms to sanitise and stabilise the system. Consumer protection was included as a cardinal component of the reform programme and this led to the creation of a Consumer Protection office in 2010 and its subsequent upgrade into a full-fledged Department in 2012," she added.

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Source: AllAfrica

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