The Banking Supervision Department’s handling of public enquiries and complaints in 2016
The year being reviewed, 2016, is the first year in which the entire banking system in Israel operated according to the new principles instituted by the Banking Supervision Department governing public enquiries. These principles state that the banks and credit card companies must examine the public’s complaints and respond to them within 45 days through public ombudsmen. The Public Enquiries Unit in the Banking Supervision Department acted as an appeals, control, and supervisory panel for the answers given by the banks’ ombudsmen. Our impression is that this change has improved the service to the public and made it more efficient—it is given more quickly, and many enquiries were handled by the banks and credit card companies to the satisfaction of their customers.
In view of the above-mentioned change in the work format, the banking corporations were not rated this year for public enquiries. The Banking Supervision Department will publish a new rating of the banking corporations after a new rating methodology has been assimilated.
In 2016, the Public Enquiries Unit in the Banking Supervision Department handled 5,360 complaints, requests for information, and various other requests for help beyond the letter of the law, and answered approximately 18,000 telephone calls through its call center. Of the 926 public complaints decided on by the Public Enquiries Unit, about 11 percent of them, 100 complaints, were found to be justified, and the bank or credit card company were instructed how to redress the fault. Most of the justified enquiries concerned the banking corporations’ refusal to open a bank account without a credit facility, for customers facing economic difficulties. Many other complaints were resolved, thanks to the banks and credit card companies’ willingness to conclude their handling of the case by granting their customers’ requests to their satisfaction. In the past three years, approximately NIS 10 million was returned to the public following the Banking Supervision Department’s intervention in the examination of the public’s complaints.
The main issues dealt with by the Public Enquiries Unit in 2016 reflect the main bank-consumer issues that arose based on data received from the public, and are essentially a “mirror” for processes occurring in the banking and public environment and that impact on customers in their dealings with this system. Four issues received particular attention in the Unit’s activity in 2016:
· Protection and a solution for customers in the closing down of branches and the reduction in the number of teller positions – Many customers are benefiting from the switch in the Israeli banking system to digital banking and to advanced banking services, which is a result of the digital revolution in the banking sector and in other sectors. At the same time, there are also customers for whom the change, at least at first, is not easy. The Public Enquiries Unit is assisting in the process, and helping customers for whom this transition causes difficulties or problems. In this report, we describe how the Banking Supervision Department helps customers in the process, with an emphasis on help for elderly customers.
· Opening a current account for customers facing economic difficulties, and providing basic means of payment for customers – The Banking Supervision Department’s approach is that a bank account is essential for managing the customer’s household and financial affairs, and that opening an account is also important for customers facing economic difficulties. The Banking Supervision Department’s directives in this matter are being strictly enforced, and covert supervision is conducted by the Unit in order to verify that the banks are opening a current account without a credit facility for every customer, even for a customer experiencing economic difficulties.
· Customers’ enquiries for locating accounts in the banking system – In view of the many requests to locate bank accounts in the name of one or more deceased relatives, the Banking Supervision Department has launched the “Money Mountain 2” website, and the Public Enquiries Unit is helping the public locate funds forgotten in the banking corporations. Every customer can conduct a rapid search at no cost to check whether deposits exist for which he or she is the heir. It is recommended that banks’ customers make sure that the search for lost deposits is conducted solely through the “Money Mountain 2” website, not through external parties, such as private companies, which charge money for services provided easily and at no cost on the website.
· A solution for the needs of disadvantaged groups – The Banking Supervision Department is promoting a social policy for handling and defending disadvantaged groups or groups with special needs in using the banking system. For this reason, we assign a high priority and a specially adapted solution for the customer’s special needs. In this report, you can read about the help provided this year to those with vision problems and customers with physical disabilities.
The enquiries to the Banking Supervision Department were very diverse, dealing with all spheres of banking. This indicates the wish of those making enquiries to utilize their consumer rights in managing their banking affairs. The Banking Supervision Department also received many suggestions for improving the banking instructions and banking processes, indicating social involvement and a desire to improve the banking system for the benefit of the entire public.
I regard the service provided to the public and providing an optimal solution for the customer as being of great importance for the existence of a fair, stable, and efficient banking system. Customers with questions or complaints are invited to contact the ombudsman at their bank or credit card company, and if they do not receive a response within 45 days, they are invited to contact the Public Enquiries Unit in the Banking Supervision Department—we are willing to help, and have the tools and the authority to do so.
Dr. Hedva Ber
Supervisor of Banks
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