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Unauthorised debit orders a rising menace

Reana Steyn, the first female ombudsman for banking services.
Reana Steyn, the first female ombudsman for banking services.

A debit order that is not authorised is fraud.

Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) Reana Steyn said that she had been flooded with complaints related to unauthorised debit orders.

“We have started reporting it as its own line item in our complaints statistics,” Steyn said.

Steyn said four years ago these complaints would be part of current accounts, but now it is a stand-alone item with its own metrics.

“What is really disturbing is the loss of income to banking customers and the emotional turmoil that it causes.”

Steyn advised that should you suspect any unlawful transactions, you should contact your bank immediately.

She said as March is Consumer Awareness Month, it was a great time to turn information into knowledge and that consumers must start by checking their bank statements and understanding all the transactions on it.

“Make sure you authorised all the debit transactions that reflect as minus numbers, as unauthorised debit orders can cost you a lot of money and are usually very hard to reverse.”

When a dispute is raised, and it is determined that the debit order was unauthorised, it is reversed.

“Ideally, the dispute must be logged with the bank within 40 days of the transaction,” said Steyn.

“Banks in SA process millions of disputes per month. However, you cannot put a stop to debit orders because your budget is suddenly under pressure.”

Steyn said consumers must give the bank reasonable warning to change debit orders. If the bank objects, you may have recourse with the OBS. She said all legal entities must comply with the rules set out by the Payments Association of SA, the organisation that determines the guidelines for service providers to collect monies via debit order.

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