Failed bank transactions are not new to many Nigerians as a lot of people have had such experiences, either in form of transfers to other accounts or payment of bills and buying airtime. They come in different variations, which could be card transactions, online or internet banking, or the use of USSD codes, but the present cash drought across the country, occasioned by the redesigned naira policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has worsened the situation. Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the failed transactions across banks are massive and usually not reversed.
Sharing an experience, a bank customer, Alexis Eze, said she tried to make a cash withdrawal using an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at the domestic wing of the airport in Abuja, but she was debited, even when a dispensing error was shown.
“Since March 5, 2022, I tried to withdraw N10,000 at an Access Bank ATM to no avail, yet my account was debited,” she said.
Alexis said she had been to the bank severally, but till now, the money is yet to be reversed.
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“My account is in the United Bank for Africa (UBA), and since then, I have been following up with my complaint. I also sent countless emails to my bank and even the CBN, but till date, the money has not been reversed to my account.
“The response I got every time I visited the bank was that Access Bank, which is the owner of the ATM where I conducted the transaction, was sending a footage message to ensure that it was a failed transaction. The last time I visited the bank, one of the staff even told me to let it go,” she said.
Another victim who shared a failed transaction experience, Grace Umoren, said it had befallen her at least eight times annually in different banks, and till date, she has not received a reversal for any of them.
A Point of Sale (PoS) operator in Abuja, Joshua David, lamented how he suffered last week over declined and unreversed transactions, which especially affected customers using Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) and Unity Bank.
“It got to a point that if I saw that the ATM card was for Zenith, Unity or GTB, I won’t attempt it. This is because in one day I had over 20 declined and dispensing error transactions. As I speak, Unity Bank still has problems and we are losing transactions at a time when cash is not there. We cannot do the cashless transactions conveniently,” David said.
Narrating her experience, Grace Jude said there were occasions she attempted to recharge her lines but her money was deducted by her bank and the airtime not sent.
“Due to the nature of my job, I recharge my phone frequently, and oftentimes, when I attempted to buy credit I would be debited from my account and there would be no airtime disbursement. The interesting part is that sometimes there’s no alert or trace of this transaction, but there will be a decrease in my balance,” she said.
Grace said she had not gone to the bank to complain because the amounts were usually too small, and the error would occur on two different bank platforms.
“I usually recharge in N200 and N500 and I can’t be going to the bank all the time to make complaints for such small denominations, although in the long run it could amount to a huge sum. Besides, I sometimes have no record of the failed transactions, only the decrease of the amount in my balance,” she said.
Israel Ameh also said that in the process of making cash transfers for his taxi service, he was yet to receive reversal of over three failed transactions.
“In the process of trying to pay for my cab service, I used the USSD code for my bank and it gave me an error message, so I proceeded to use the bank app which eventually went through. Later on, I got two debit alerts showing that the USSD transaction had actually gone through.
“I called my bank but to no avail. They kept telling me to call back or follow up with my complaint via their online platform, and till date, I haven’t received a reversal. Another time, I tried to recharge my phone with N2,000; I was debited but my phone was never recharged,” he said.
On how he followed up the case for the reversal of the debit, Ameh said the banks were slow to react online. He, however, said he had not been able to go in person to make a formal complaint.
Also speaking, Sunday Okoh said he booked an Aero Contractor flight through Stanbic IBTC Bank and the transaction did not go through, but N111,000 was deducted from his account. After several bouts of complaint, the bank gave an assurance that it would be reversed, only for them to deduct the same sum again. That was over N200,000 deduction.
“I was furious and went to Aero Contractors’ office at Transcorp in Abuja, where they confirmed that they had since refunded the money to my bank and I should follow up,” he said.
He said a very professional and listening customer care officer at the Wuse Stanbic IBTC branch admitted that such incidents did occur, and promised that the money would be refunded. I got the sums back, but that was after over one month of back and forth with the bank,” Okoh narrated.
Incidents hampering cashless policy gains – Experts
Speaking on failed online transactions, a development expert at the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Joseph Momoh, said if the challenges were not addressed swiftly, it may collapse the cashless drive of the CBN
“With all the confusion going on about the scarcity of the new naira notes, PoS and online transactions of some banks are not connecting. In fact, in some online transfers, the fund is supposed to drop to the recipient’s bank account, but because of network issue the fund will neither go to the recipient nor come back to the sender’s account. On such occasion, one may need to follow up with his/her bank for fund reversal
“The enormity of the problem and how it may undermine the cashless policy, as well as the financial inclusion efforts of the banking industry are reflected in the experience of some agents of banks and mobile money,” he lamented
He urged banks to solve the problem before the situation gets out of hand.
“Our commercial banks should strengthen their digital services and make it efficient so that it can ease the stress Nigerians are passing through,” he said.
Another financial expert, Professor Uche Uwaleke, said banking transactions were failing because of huge number of traffic as customers have resorted to online channels due to the unavailability of new notes.
“Failure of transactions is taking a toll on Nigerians, especially business owners, who are now using digital banking for buying and selling,” he said.
He called on the CBN to ensure that banks address these challenges in order not to erode the gains of the cashless policy, which was introduced about a decade ago.
Uwaleke added, “More supply of new notes should be boosted by the CBN through engaging microfinance banks and more PoS agents.”
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