Senior wins fight with bank about tech services

If you bank with FNB and are at a loss when it comes to digital banking, using WhatsApp or own a cellphone that came out of Noah’s Ark then you have Yvonne Robins, 80, of Sea Point to thank for the bank’s change of heart.

Ms Robins has been with FNB for 50 years and asked me to intervene when she received an email from them, that said, “We are dedicated to offering you services that make the way you bank more convenient, saving you time and money… From July 1 2020, your statements will no longer be sent via email,” with an explanation on how to access the various services including how to install the FNB App.

“I do not use a cellphone. Why must I buy one to access my credit card statements? I am perfectly happy with my landline. When I went to the bank to query this, I was told that this is their new policy and if I was unhappy I could visit the bank each month and they would print it out for me. Again, why must I make a special trip to the bank just to get a statement?

“A friend who will be 80 soon, is also affected. He has an old cellphone that does not have the capacity to use apps, nor would he know how to use them. He does not wish to purchase a new cellphone either. At no stage was I told that one needed a cellphone to have a credit card.

“I see no reason why FNB which is dedicated to offering me services that will make the way I bank more convenient, cannot let me continue using email. It saves me time and money. Cellphones aren’t free nor would regular visits to the bank be more convenient,” said an angry Ms Robins.

“Furthermore, they told me that if I went to the bank, I would get a printout – but when I did, they told me they would only give me a printout if I had a cellphone and ‘that I must move with the times’. It got worse. My FNB card is paid automatically each month through Absa and there is never any debt.

“I went to Pick * Pay, bought my shopping and then wanted to pay R500 to Telkom but it was declined. When I phoned FNB to enquire – they told me there was not enough money in my account, even though they get paid every month. ‘Yes, but your account was paid on the 15th, it is now the 17th, and we have not processed it yet’. So I had the humiliation of having the sale declined for insufficient cash when they had the full amount of the previous month in their coffers but had not credited it to me and I was R200 short of the R500 I had asked for. And of course I get no invoices,

“So I have now applied to Absa for a credit card and am waiting for it,” she said. “Please help.”

No sooner had I asked FNB to comment on their new banking rules, Ms Robins told me: “You have done wonders. A call from you, and they decide to make a special list for senior citizens and others who do not have access to smart phones. I also got a polite call from the person responsible for calming down angry customers.

“Thanks to you, they have now changed their policy. They have agreed to make exceptions for senior citizens and are going to open a special list to provide emailed statements when required.

“The ‘customer relations agent’ also noted that FNB charged me twice for the declined payment and she is going to remove that amount.

“She had also checked up and discovered how long ago I got the credit card,” Ms Robins said.

“Now I have a credit card from Absa and I told the agent I would keep FNB only for the regular debit orders. I also told her that in future when clients write to complain, their letters should be answered and she will be reporting back,” Ms Robins said.

FNB didn’t answer my questions, however, spokesperson, Raj Makanjee, CEO of Retail and Private Banking, FNB, confirmed that customers over the age of 60 will continue to receive their statements via email, should they elect to do so.

“We are dedicating a significant amount of resources to educate our senior customers on how to use our safer and efficient platform to manage their money and to communicate with us. In line with our commitment to protect our customers, we have been decreasing communication via channels that are vulnerable to fraud, while providing a safer alternative. Seniors are unfortunately susceptible to fraud when using email communication.

“Beyond protecting seniors against fraud, we have expanded the value that these customers receive from banking with us.

“We are also protecting nearly 30 000 seniors against the impact of low interest rates by maintaining higher interest rates on fixed deposits.

“In addition, we have been facilitating donations from our customers and staff to raise funds for Covid-19 protective personal equipment for seniors in old age homes,” Mr Makanjee said.