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Privacy matters for banking customers too

Privacy matters for banking customers too – Banking Ombudsman

Privacy Week highlights everybody is entitled to privacy but the public may be surprised to learn the Banking Ombudsman Scheme also deals with privacy complaints, says Banking Ombudsman Deborah Battell.

“Some cases show failings in bank procedures and the banks typically compensate for these. But others indicate people generally have a low level of knowledge about what privacy means in a banking context.

“We recently had a complaint from a person whose bank sent her statement to an old address in error. A friend of the complainant lived at the address and opened it.

“This caused friction between the two friends because the complainant had said she had no money to lend her friend. The statement, however, indicated otherwise. The complainant thought the bank had breached her privacy by sending her statement to the wrong address. In fact, it was the friend who breached her privacy by her opening the mail, not the bank.

“We found the bank had not breached the complainant’s privacy but as the bank had already offered compensation on a goodwill basis for its mistake we recommended she accept the bank’s offer,” Ms Battell said.

Breaches of privacy are sometimes alleged as part of a larger complaint to the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, but may also be the sole reason to complain.

“Banks do compensate when they have mucked up, and customers sometimes want our independent view on how their bank has dealt with them. We seek the Privacy Commission’s view or refer matters to the Commission when necessary,” Ms Battell said.

The Banking Ombudsman Scheme has so far received 26 cases related to privacy and confidentiality in the current financial year and 44 for the same period last year.

Two of its website quick guides cover privacy issues: A bank’s duty of confidence and Dealing with a deceased customer’s bank accounts.


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