Picture: PRAT KITCHATORN
Picture: PRAT KITCHATORN

The banks are putting the power in your hands to dispute and stop dodgy debit orders by using your banking app. Absa - which went live with it this week - is the last of the big five banks to launch this function.

It is the most commonly used self-service function on Nedbank's app, with more than 104,000 debit orders being disputed every month.

This has been the monthly average since the third quarter of last year, when Nedbank launched this function on its Money app, says Stelios Vakis, the digital executive for Nedbank Retail and Business Banking.

There has been a consistent reduction in the number of disputed debit orders over the past two years, "since its high point of
2.3- million disputes in December 2017",
according to data from the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA).

Walter Volker, the chief executive officer of PASA, says in August there were 802,117 fewer disputed debit orders than in December 2018, and 1,044,567 fewer than in December 2017.

"In contrast, successful debits had an upward trend since its low point of only 63.5% in December 2018. Successful debits in August 2019 were at a notable 75%.

"These trends are, in part, ascribed to the successful exit of 212 users from the payment system since February 2019. The total rand value of debits collected by these users, [over the six-month period prior to their exit from the NPS], was R1.1bn."

There is no limit to the value of a debit order that can be disputed by clients via Nedbank's app. Provided it is not older than 30 days, a debit order payment can be reversed by clients via their app.


104,000

Debit orders disputed on Nedbank's app every month


Standard Bank's customers have reversed about 45,000 debit orders a month since March, when the bank launched the feature on its app and online banking platform, says Ross Linstrom, the bank's spokesman.

But these channels can only be used to dispute unauthorised debit orders of up to R200 within 40 days of them being processed on your account.

In May 2016, FNB launched the function to allow its customers to dispute debit orders on digital channels. Dr Christoph Nieuwoudt, the CEO of FNB Consumer, says 81% of customers who dispute debit orders do so via the bank's app or cellphone banking, but he declined to say how many debit orders are disputed each month.

FNB customers can stop, dispute or reverse unauthorised debit orders of less than R200 on the app. But to deal with unauthorised debit orders of more than that, you have to call the contact centre or go into a branch.

Capitec customers have been able to dispute and stop debit orders using the app for about a year, says Francois Viviers, the executive head of marketing and communications at Capitec.

Viviers was not able to say how many customers are using the function, but says the bank has "priced the app cost down", charging R5 for a debit order dispute and R6 to stop an unauthorised debit order. The cost to dispute a debit order inside a branch is R40.

George Roussos, the group executive of transactional and digital banking at African Bank, says there have been only 81 dispute requests logged by African Bank customers since the bank launched the function on its app in June.

On the app and web, debit orders of up to R1,000 can be disputed. "Should you wish to dispute an amount greater than R1,000, you are required to contact either the contact centre or visit a branch," says Roussos.

Aupa Monyatsi, the managing executive of virtual channels at Absa, says the fastest-growing function on the Absa app is the "pause card" function, which allows customers to temporarily block their bank card if misplaced, and unlock it once found. "Pause card, which was introduced in 2018, now accounts for 15% of all app transactions for 2019, excluding log-on and balance inquiries," he says.

Users of Nedbank's app are similarly empowered by the "freeze card" function, which is used by about 19,000 customers a month, while about 11,700 customers a month use the "block and replace card" function, says Vakis. Other popular self-service features of Nedbank's app include the ability to change your ATM limit, and adjust your profile limits (that apply to your online banking profile or online shopping). Vakis says 96,000 users change their ATM limits on the app every month, and about 80,000 adjust their profile limits each month.

Use of the app's self-service functions is growing at a rate of 40% a month, he says.