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Opinion & Analysis

When a transaction disappoints the customer

Transacting online. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Transacting online. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

How can our banking services be so bad, and so much worse than anyone else’s? We get international surveys reporting us as the most dissatisfied banking customers anywhere: and nothing shifts. So just why is it we don’t get, or deserve, the basic banking service regulation that everyone else enjoys?

For, in recent weeks, I have hit two more banking ‘practices’ that simply wouldn’t hack it as permissible elsewhere. But in Kenyan banking, seemingly, anything goes.

Take I&M and SWIFT transfers. I’m no global expert on SWIFT transfers, but I have sent and received hundreds over my international lifetime, and they are fast. So, when I moved to I&M, and the SWIFT transfers started taking two to three days from notice, instead of 30 minutes, I was bemused.

Until I found the answer. For I&M takes the funds from the customer’s account, and then books a postdated SWIFT transfer for two days’ later to send the funds to the recipient.

Last week, I spent hours chasing around emails and phone calls with I&M to find out ‘why’ they postdate their SWIFTS and ‘where’ customers’ money goes meantime.

I never got any answer on ‘where’ the customers’ money goes, but for why, explained an I&M manager: its ‘global practice.’ Funny, said I, it’s not BBK’s global practice, or HSBC’s.

I don’t believe it’s Standard Chartered’s global practice. No, she said, it is global practice, because there’s the issue of time difference.

So, because the countries on our planet have different time zones, I&M waits 48 hours before transmitting funds that it’s already debited? Haven’t quite grasped this one, even yet.

But happily, by then, she had also told me that if I write ‘Same Day Value’ on my international transfer form, I&M would then - and only then - remit the SWIFT transfer the same day it debited it. So I did. And I&M did. And all that automatic, globally practised, several-day time difference disappeared, just like that.

Which makes me an insider now. Because there’s no box on the form offering options on postdated delays or no postdated delays - you just have to know to write extra things to actually get a transfer made, versus your money automatically going off somewhere else, for something else, for some time. Yet, it’s a small delay compared to my other recent special, courtesy of Barclays Bank of Kenya, called ‘on hold’ funds.

BBK’s Visa cards, truth told, are a bit temperamental. Quite a lot of transactions fail. In the last two months, I’ve had three.

Twice at ATMs, the machine said the operation had been ‘aborted’, no receipt, my card pushed back, BUT the funds I was withdrawing got taken in the same instant from my account.

Some weeks later, the same happened with an online purchase, the website came back ‘payment failed’, as ‘ping ping’ the SMS arrived from BBK saying the funds were debited. Money gone, but no goods bought.

Every time, the bank tells me it’s a ‘network failure’. But how to describe the BBK consumer journey from there, as the bank staff explain they will recredit the funds 49 days later? Everywhere else in the world it takes 72 hours.

But as Mr BBK Manager told me they ‘only had my word for it’, so they allow 49 days ‘just to be sure’. Excuse me.

An ATM is generating words on the screen without a record? Like the words ‘operation aborted’ are magically generated by mystical tree spirits and no electronic code or record of that aborted transaction exists, and ATMs also don’t count which money they are shooting out of the money exit?

Ah yes, I see that now. Strangely, most of the rest of the world’s banks are bound to sort failed transactions automatically within three days, but our banks just aren’t like anywhere else’s.

Other banks have all those nuisance rules to live with about what they are allowed to do with customer’s money and when. And ours don’t.

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