Banks Supervisor Thanks You for Your Complaints

Figures for 2010 show the customer was right 25% of the time; Leumi dealt best with the beefs

A quarter of all consumer complaints last year against the banks and credit card companies were found to be justified, according to the annual report from the Bank of Israel's supervisor of banks, David Zaken.

As to individual banks, Zaken rated Bank Leumi as the best of the big banks in dealing with customer complaints and questions, with a "Good" rating; followed by Bank Hapoalim and Israel Discount Bank with a rating of "Adequate"; Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank and the First International Bank of Israel were rated as "Needs Improvement."

The banks refunded a total of about NIS 6.2 million in 2010 as a result of the intervention by the banking supervision department. In 2009, the central bank found 26.6% of such complaints justified, compared to the 25% figure for 2010. Of the five big banking groups, the Leumi and Hapoalim groups received the highest ratings according to four criteria that are based the processing of public inquiries and complaints.

In 2010, the banking supervision department dealt with 7,165 written inquiries and complaints from customers of the banks and credit card companies. This number does not include telephone inquires, which are estimated at about 20,000 a year. Of the written inquiries, 2,757 were complaints, and the rest were questions and requests for information. The central bank took a stand on only 2,028 complaints, declaring them either justified or unjustified, while it took no position on the rest, primarily due to their being no way to decide between two conflicting versions, or legal action was being taken or because the bank had in any case decided to accept the customer's request.

The complaints were a mix of specific beefs and systemic problems found at the banks and credit card companies. There has been a drop in the proportion of justified complaints during the first half of the decade, followed by a leveling off in the second.

Complaints and inquiries are also used by the supervisor of banks to identify and correct systemic problems in the banking system. In 2010, his department was able to deal with about 30 such problems. As a result, the banks and the credit card companies were required to take various actions, including new work procedures or amending existing ones, improvement of how service is given and refunds to groups of customers. Total refunds to groups of customers as a result of information from complaints stood at NIS 3.8 million in 2010.