2016 - 2017
Mr K had a company bank account he accessed with a debit card. Over several years, he had numerous cards issued for the account. He used card A exclusively for a period of time, and when card B was issued, he used the two interchangeably. A year later, he was using neither, and card C was issued.
Mr K’s wife, Ms L, managed the company finances and had access to all the banking facilities even though she was not a signatory on the company’s account. Mr K began to suspect she was stealing money from him and they split up. He emailed the bank seeking traces on certain transactions as part of a criminal investigation into Ms L, and he filed a fraud complaint against her with Police. A year later, $4,000 was unexpectedly withdrawn from the company account at an ATM using card A. Mr K suspected Ms L was behind this and contacted Police, but the person who withdrew the money could not be identified.
Mr K asked his bank to reimburse him for the transactions because he had notified it of his concerns about Ms L, but it had failed to prevent her from accessing his accounts. The bank declined his request, saying he had not taken reasonable care of his cards and PINs, thereby breaching the bank’s terms and conditions.
In his email correspondence with the bank, Mr K had not asked for advice or help but instead sought information from the bank. Mr K told us he had a meeting with the bank soon after he and Ms L split up (a meeting bank staff had no recollection of). At that meeting, he said he asked the bank to “lock down” his accounts. He said he changed all of his company PINs and passwords at the time and thought his accounts were secure against access by Ms L. He said he thought the issuing of a new card automatically resulted in the cancellation of an existing card, and therefore card C was the only current one.
The bank’s records showed Mr K had changed the internet banking password for his personal account, but there had been no changes to his company’s internet banking password or card PINs.
We weren’t in a position to say what took place during the meeting, if indeed it had taken place. Mr K and the bank had conflicting views about that, and there wasn’t information available to confirm one way or the other. We could not therefore find that Mr K had asked the bank to block Ms L’s access to the company accounts, or that the bank had failed to follow his request. The bank’s records did not say why card C had been issued, but we thought it likely Mr K had requested card C because the cards A and B had been lost. We could not accept his claim that he reasonably assumed a new card would cancel an existing card because he had previously used two cards interchangeably. Therefore, we were unable to uphold his complaint.