Section 20.1 of the Customer Owned Banking Code of Practice (the Code) gives customers the right to ask their institution to cancel a direct debit and requires the institution to action such a request promptly. This is an important safeguard that helps customers – especially those in financial difficulty – to maintain control of their finances.
Non-compliance with this important obligation has been a long-standing concern of the Committee. The Committee first highlighted the issue in 2010, while follow-up research in 2012 and 2017 revealed that compliance had improved only slightly. Non-compliance remains an ongoing issue.
In light of these trends, the Committee has conducted additional follow-up research. This research included shadow shopping, a review of institutions’ websites and a compliance questionnaire. The questionnaire was included with the 2018 Annual Compliance Statement (ACS) and assessed the impact and implementation of the Committee’s previous recommendations.
A copy of the report can be downloaded here.
Non-compliance remains unacceptably high
The results of the Committee’s 2018 follow-up show that although there has been some further improvement, non-compliance is still unacceptably high. Customer service representatives gave a compliant response to an enquiry in only 57% of calls. At the same time, institutions’ online information needs improvement and was found to be readily accessible on just 38% of websites.
Previous Committee recommendations have only been partially implemented by institutions, and the changes that have been made do not seem to have led to significant or lasting compliance improvements. Staff training appears to have been implemented and processes put in place, yet this is not reflected in daily practice.
Fixing institutions’ direct debit practices
The Committee now wants to see a sustainable and permanent fix to this long-standing issue. Should problems persist, the Committee will consider using its powers to apply sanctions and name the institutions involved in its Annual Report. In the meantime, the Committee has made fresh recommendations to support compliance and good practice.