Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Cheque Book Fraud
I should equally, I’m sure, be angry that the bank dishonoured a post dated cheque I had previously given to my landlord, doing so, as usual, without attempting to contact and inform me. But I’m not. I’m just resigned to the lack of communication or basic care for the customer.
The UAE’s central bank has made changes to the way it handles cheques and has therefore made it a requirement that cheques should have an additional level of security, including a tamper-evident watermark. These have been added to new cheque books and banks are no longer accepting cheques made out using old style cheque books.
What amazes me is that a bank could actually contemplate making such a move without any attempt to communicate this effectively to its customers. I consider myself to be unusually contactable – I am quite an online person and you can get in touch with me by telephone, mobile, SMS, fax, email, Twitter or Facebook. You could even leave a comment on the blog. In fact, HSBC has frequently contacted me using SMS, typically to let me know about a discount I can avail at Joy Alukkas Jewellery when I use my HSBC card. Strange they didn’t think of using the same medium, or in fact any medium of communication, to let me know they were about to dishonour my cheque.
But I’m not angry about that. Just resigned.
They could even have bothered to write to me. To enclose a new cheque book, for instance, or at least a letter explaining what was happening and how it would affect me. They could have put a mandatory screen up on the Internet banking system that would have made me click on ‘NO I don’t want the new cheque book’ or ‘YES please send me a new cheque book now in plenty of time before the changes take place.’ That wouldn’t have cost them a penny but would have avoided my landlord getting a bounced cheque. They could even have sent an email using their woeful little Internet banking messaging system, but records show no such communication since November which is as far as records go back.
Given that I am a busy little bee with plenty more important things to do than muck about with this stuff, they could have used several routes to get through to me and let me know I had to act and that there would be consequences attendant on my inaction. They could have written to me, put a screen on Internet Banking AND sent me a letter, SMSed me and emailed me/messaged me via their Internet Banking service. All of them. Just to make sure I knew what was happening. They did none of them. Not one.
It’s not a time thing, either. HSBC has had plenty of time to inform customers of the changes and prepare them for the new system. The first phase of testing ICCS, which appears to have been a thoroughly well managed rollout by the Central Bank, took place in July 2006. HSBC has known for over two years that the new system was to be implemented and therefore has had two years to prepare its customers for the new security requirements. As the global local bank, it would have had experience from other markets of earlier implementations of Image based clearing, surely?
In fact, the whole thing has been a world class shambles, managed with the usual complete disregard for the customer and leveraging the communication skills of a deep frozen wombat.
But what makes me angry, because yes, I am angry, is that my landlord is a decent man but a very sick one and he didn’t need to have to deal with a bounced cheque. That cheque was written and issued in good faith, drawn on the bank account that I am paying the bank to manage on my behalf and returned without any reference whatsoever to the account holder. What’s more, the cheque was written on the cheque book issued to me for that very purpose by the bank – the very same bank that had previously taken to bouncing my cheques because it claimed my signature had changed (it hasn’t). The very same bank that I visited personally in August last year to sort out that whole sorry mess and who did not even think to let me know then and there that I would need a new cheque book. Although they must, at that time, have known that these changes were taking place as they'd been working on them for fully two years since full trials of the new system had taken place.
The bank has at no time communicated to me the requirement for a new cheque book or that it was going to start unilaterally dishonouring my issued cheques for reasons that were completely unknown to me.
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