Bank ordered to refund customer whose money disappeared from account

The Competition and Fair-Trading Commission (CFTC) has ordered First Capital Bank (FCB) to refund a sum of MK1,476,990 to a customer whose money was stolen from a bank account.

According to a statement dated today and signed by CFTC Acting Executive Director Apoche Itimu, this follows investigations which commenced in March 2021 against First Capital Bank for alleged unconscionable conduct in the supply of banking services.

It was alleged that on 4th April 2019, a customer opened a savings account at FCB in favour of a son with an initial deposit of MK100,000.00. It was further alleged that they made several deposits to the account thereafter.

It was also alleged that the account balance was MK1,477,166.90 as of 20th October 2020. Thereafter, two more deposits of MK100,000.00 each on separate occasions were made.

However, on 1st March, 2021, the complainant was shocked to learn that the account balance was only MK206,659 against an expected balance of about MK1,677,166.90—over MK1.4 million had mysteriously disappeared.

When an inquiry was made about the anomaly, the bank claimed that there had been several transactions through Airtel Money to several phone numbers, amounting to MK1,476,990. However, the customer denied making these transactions.

CFTC’s investigation established that a One Time Password for the account was generated on 24th October, 2020 for mobile application registration to the registered number in the system. Immediately after registration, money transfers were made.

The bank told CFTC that this could have only happened if the complainant shared the OTP generated by the system.

However, the customer argued that on 24th October 2020, they received suspicious messages on their phone purporting that they applied for an online registration of a Mobile App.

The customer promptly reported to the Branch Manager of Limbe for action and the Manager, allegedly promised to investigate the matter and get back to the customer. This did not happen and the Complainant assumed all was well until 1st March 2021 when they discovered that money had been disappeared the account.

“The conduct by the Respondent in handling the subject complaint was thus unconscionable. Despite lodging an official complaint with the Bank in October 2020 and despite the bank making an undertaking to investigate the matter and provide them with feedback, no communication was made.

“The Commission resolved as follows: The Respondent should refund the Complainants a sum of MK1,476,990.00 which was transferred from their bank account due to the weak and unreliable mobile banking application with interest that would have been earned on the amount had it been in the bank,” CFTC said.

The commission also ordered the bank to pay a fine of MK500,000 for violation of the Competition and Fair-Trading Act (CFTA) and another MK500,000 for refusing to furnish information requested by the Commission.

Itimu said in the statement that the Commission has considered, adjudicated and noted a total of 61 cases, which included 56 cases of unfair trading practices and five cases of anti-competitive business practices.

Other companies which have been fined include Castel Malawi, Be Forward, Agora, Capital Foods and Blantyre Dairy.

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