In this day and age, every single person has at least one bank account, some people even have multiple accounts. Banks are great institutions, they help you keep your money, and they facilitate financial transactions. They provide this and many other services and charge fees.
Bank transactions generally happen smoothly and with no issues, however there are times when the bank fails in its service to you, or there is some kind of issue which you need sorted. Due to the nature of the service the bank provides to you – dealing with your money, when things go wrong, it can indeed be an extremely frustrating and stressful time.
Most banks have in place robust customer complaint/handling systems in place, and there is a structure in place for customers to channel any grievances, however most bank customers are not aware of this. That is why we have written this post, to briefly lay out the steps customers should follow when they want to make complaints about banks (or indeed any other financial institution).
Some of the issues bank customers face are unfair or unexplained charges, poor customer service by bank staff, unauthorised transactions on customer accounts through bank transfers or ATM withdrawals etc.
Once the problem arises, the first step is to contact the bank through the quickest channels available. In this case, you can either call them on the customer care numbers available, or even contact them on social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.). This should always be step one, because most times the information you need clarified can be done quickly and relatively painlessly. However, whatever communication channel you choose, please make note of the details of the communication e.g. if a phone call, take down details of when you called, who you spoke to (the adviser’s name), what you said, and the response you received. All phone calls are recorded so this can easily be reviewed if there are issues later.
If the issue remains unresolved, then you need to commence the official customer complaint process. All banks (and other financial institutions) are regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the CBN set out the process to be followed in its Circular – FPR/DIR/CIR/GEN/01/020 in 2011.
The customer is to send a complaint letter to the Bank. The CBN states that the banks must provide email addresses for complaints, so you may initially send the complaint by email, and then take a copy of the complaint to the bank branch. To ensure that the bank receives the complaint letter.
The detail of the complaint is where you must capture all the relevant information about your complaint. It is the most important part of the process, and therefore you need to ensure you capture the right information. We created a free template to help you with the text that you put it into the detail. Download the template here – Bank Complaint Details Template
The CBN guidelines say that the bank must resolve your complaint within 14 days of receipt of the complaint. If for some reason, the Bank has not satisfactorily resolved the complaint, you may take the issue to the Consumer Protection Department of the CBN. They will then attempt to resolve the complaint. Please note that you can only take the issue to the CBN after you have made a complaint to the bank and given them 14 days after receipt of the complaint, to resolve it. Apart from resolving the complaint, the CBN also has the powers to impose financial penalties on the Bank for failure to resolve your complaint.
The CBN does not provide any timelines for dealing with the complaints, but this should be done within a reasonable time. Hopefully, the CBN resolves the complaint between you and the bank. However, if the CBN fails to resolve the complaint, you have the right to take the case to court. In any situation, you always have the right to take any complaint to court, but you have to exhaust all pre-court resolution options first. This final step should only be taken as a last resort, because taking a case to court is a fairly involved process and also potentially expensive. You should only take this step if the amount involved is considerable, and the decision to not resolve your complaint by the bank and the CBN is manifestly unjust.
You should also note, as an aside that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is an available outlet for you to air your grievances. They may be able to assist you in putting pressure on the bank to resolve the complaint. However, please note that as banks and other financial institutions are regulated by the CBN, the CBN is the only body with the responsibility for reviewing complaints from those institutions, and so any complaints should be channelled there.
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. This answer is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.