Double charging double talk on dubious ATM fees from Banking Ombudsman
Further to the ATM inter-bank rip-off fees scam from July, I have received a reply from the Banking Ombudsman by post - not by email - so it has taken a while. My email was headed "Non-disclosure of ATM fees" and was nothing like the expletive-saturated intemperance of my blog post, but I did refer her to it for reference - and she has read it. The issue is that when someone uses an ATM from a bank that is not their own they ought to be told (preferably on screen) what they are going to be charged.
She says that because the fees are listed on the bank websites and fees brochures:
In these circumstances I consider that such fees are adequately disclosed.
I reject that conclusion and the reasoning. The test is what information about ATM fees a reasonable person should expect at the point of transaction and what is reasonable for the bank to provide (quite apart from the actual level of the fee - and a reasonable person would not expect to be stung $1 just to look at their balance - in that situation a reasonable person may be expected to launch into an expletive-saturated tirade upon such a discovery). She continues:
I have however considered your proposal that ATMs should display the amount of any fee on screen before the fee is charged. This would shift the obligation for disclosing the fee from the cardholder's bank (which charges the fee) to the bank that provides the ATM.
Ah, so what? The obligation would be shifted - yeah, just like the obligation is shifted in other transactions to the point of sale and to the party or agent taking your money - that is not unusual (the bank still has to tell you that you are paying stamp duty on your cheque book before you order it don't they?); but far more troubling is that the premise she relies on is wrong too: the cardholder's own bank charges the fee? Whatcha talkin' about Willis!? Surely it is the other bank - the one that owns the ATM - that is charging the fee. Surely? They ain't doing it for free, love. Isn't this banking 101? The fees would be agreed upon amongst themselves to some degree of course - it is a cartel situation - but that debit is going to be ... I'm just re-checking my ASB statement that caused this complaint in the first place, of which there are two instances...
It lists the "other party" to the transaction as being the other bank - in both cases Westpac - as having been only for the withdrawal itself. The "other party" column for the account balance transaction (listed as "Other bank ATM Usage Enq")... I have just noticed now... is blank. In other words Westpac is getting the fee for the withdrawal and the ASB is getting the fee for the balance enquiry. FFS. Ripped off by your own bank. Is that how the cartel have conspired to cut the cake? - the cardholder's bank gets to charge a fee for asking for a balance and the other bank gets to charge for the withdrawal. Oh that's cute. That's really cute. That's Shirley Temple with a lolly-pop and tap-fucking-shoes cute that is.
The Banking Ombudsman is wrong. Or lying to cause deception. Maybe both, probably incompetence. In my case - and I can see it with my own eyes in black and white on the statement - it is the cardholder's bank that is having the temerity to charge for a balance... FFS... and also the other bank that charges - but only for the withdrawal. I expect some form of fee for the withdrawal function of course, but not to be stiffed by my own bank! Just for a fucking balance. Wankers.
I do not consider that it is not the responsibility of the bank that provides an ATM to disclose fees charged by other banks.
What is it that you are talking about young Master Willis? That isn't an answer - it is a double negative attempt at a smart-arse answer. It is the sort of cunty... where's that quote from the original blog post...... wanky, cunty, shitty banking fucking scam deception tactic we have come to expect from this cartel. Lies and obfuscation for the purpose of deceiving their own customers. Let's try that again shall we - by taking off the first bit:
Well, every major bank - bar the ASB - sets it at a dollar, so the fees are rather standard - and the information is hidden in all the fine print online and in brochures but will be readily available to the ATMs, obviously. The ATM recognises what bank the card is from when it goes in and therefore can display information relating to that, inter alia: how much the fees are for that card.
But that is with her initial negation struck out, so she is saying the opposite: that it is the responsibility of the other bank to disclose the fees charged by the cardholder's bank. So she agrees with me. But I think it is becoming rather clear at this stage however that she is just plainly - painfully - incompetent and can barely string a sentence together without it either being untrue or contradictory.
But let's take the Banking Ombudsman at her double negative word and that the banks should be disclosing the fees at the ATM. They can too and could so easily. It could be either in the form of a warning on screen beside the option that incurs the fee eg. "Balance (a $1.00 fee will be debited from your account for this service)" or it could be in the form of a yes/no confirmation question after they have pushed the button to make the transaction (or balance enquiry, or whatever is about to incur a fee) as a separate screen eg. "You have selected 'Balance' - a $1.00 fee will be debited from your account for this service. Press Yes to continue. Press No to cancel."
She goes on:
Your complaint does raise the possibility, however, that some customers may not be aware that they have to pay a fee each time they use another bank's ATM.
And now Shirley Temple is tap dancing with a lolly-pop and she's holding a little puppy and she's boring her finger into her big dimple... oh that's cute alright... and that response to my complaint does raise the possibility, however, that she is being a patronising bitch. Every cardholder knows they have to pay some sort of fee to the bank that owns the ATM if it is not their bank (something she doesn't even seem to understand from her statement above) - that is not the issue here. Not The Issue. What most customers will not be largely aware of - based on the fact it is totally unreasonable and a complete and unconscionable rip-off - is that the fees are so high and that they will be charged for merely looking at their bloody balance - that's the scam, that is what I am objecting to. We want to know how much and what for. Real simple.
We very rarely receive similar complaints, but I will bring this matter to the attention of the banks.
She may not have had many complaints - perhaps because the banks' customers know that the Office of the Banking Ombudsman is a joke and that they will get no satisfactory action. She has been hired for her clueless ineptitude by the looks of it - she doesn't know what she's talking about, she's demonstrated her incompetence several times in just a few short paragraphs. The Banking Ombudsman is designed to stymy satisfactory action and the entire issue of the level of bank fees are specifically excluded from the Ombudsman's mandate anyway. A pitch hasn't been this queered since San Francisco Actors played Sydney Airline Stewards in a friendly at the Liberace Bowl at the opening of the Gay Olympics.["Writemark Plain English Awards Winner 2009" Yip. That's what it says. Judging by her letter to me the award must have been for the previous Ombudsman; or as she might say: 'I do not judge her letter to me as having not been an award for the previous Ombudsman.' Yeah, wouldn't bother putting in for 2010, eh.]
I'm delighted she says she will bring it to the attention of the banks and I'm sure she gets all the respect from them that she merits.
She was employed to be laughed out of the room, not to be taken seriously, and to dick around the complainants. That's the job description isn't it? So it will receive all of the nano-second of deliberation they will give it because this ATM inter-bank fee rort is a model based on customer ignorance - and why would they change that? Why would they actually give their own customers that information at the point where they can make a rational decision? They won't. Giving them that information might mean they will not make the transaction and will change their behaviour because they will be confronted with the blatant gouging scam that it is. And that's why this self-policing bullshit never works in the financial sector and why the politicians and the commerce commission and the real authorities are going to have to get off their arses and do something about it - they are the only ones who can......unless the industry recruits the watchdogs and the gamekeeper becomes poacher:
I wonder at which stage in her career she underwent the full frontal lobotomy?
I've been speaking the truth a smidge more starkly as of late, perhaps because that is what not smoking or drinking for a month or so will do. In this state of sustained sobriety I have become more acutely aware of the banal mechanics that determine the grinding reality of everyday life - my own and everyone else's. I find myself less able to forgive the structural injustices and unfairness upon which NZ is founded and operated and the layers of mythology employed to oppress and the fuckwits it takes to run it all. Cursed with the ability to think and doomed never to forget; I haven't got a stake in the system so much as the system has a stake through me.
There is no escape from the unflattering observations of immediate reality in those circumstances, no stoner moments of curious optimism and wonderment to break the psychic grip of knowing one's place in this country's social entropy, no drunken release of mindless enjoyment to escape the pitifully limited free choices available to us. This is no place to grow up for those youth who harbour aspirations beyond being an All Black or fucking one and it is no place to dwell for those with expectations beyond a suburban existence where social success is defined as having been an All Black or having fucked one. The stone cold sober reality is: NZ sux.
Speaking the truth for me this last month or so has become little more the spewing of negativity: using the blog as a microscope to analyse systemic failure and the futility of institutional remedy, which as an exercise itself continues to be a pointless routine of failure and futility where once I fancied to think it was at most an obscure form of public service and at the least a form of personal therapy. Mostly unsuccessful, time-consuming, ineffectual therapy and usually unremarkable, marginalised and mediocre public discourse. In that post I postulated that the NZ population was composed of two classes - morons and cunts - and that if you were not of the former category you must be the latter and those who were neither had already left "this depressing, tedious fucking shit hole."
After some reflection on the matter, in light of this letter from the Banking Ombudsman, I am prepared to concede I may have been mistaken. This may have been a false dichotomy. The Banking Ombudsman may not have been completely useless - if she has proven anything it is that you can be both a moron and a cunt simultaneously. For that revelation at least, I thank her.