Bank too slow in acting on customer's request

Powers of attorney,
After suffering a stroke that confined her to a wheelchair, Sophie completed a legal document called an enduring power of attorney giving her grandfather Michael control of her financial affairs. The same document appointed her partner Luke as successor attorney.
December 2018

When Michael presented the enduring power of attorney document to the bank, it made him an authorised signatory and for a while he paid Sophie’s bills via a weekly automatic payment from her account to his. Four years later, Sophie’s health improved and she wanted more control over her money. She also suspected other family members were taking advantage of Michael. She and Luke visited a bank branch and asked the bank to remove Michael as an authorised signatory and add Luke in his place. 

The bank cancelled the automatic payment to Michael, but said Sophie would have to sign a new account operating authority before it would replace Michael as a signatory. Sophie’s stroke meant she was unable to sign the required documentation consistently, so the bank said it would need a new enduring power of attorney document giving Luke control of her affairs before it would make the change. 

Shortly afterwards, Michael set up a new automatic payment from Sophie’s account to a third party. Sophie and Luke visited the bank several times over the next 18 months to try to replace Michael as authorised signatory. Sophie found these interactions very stressful because her wheelchair would not fit through the door of the private meeting room. This meant that all of the discussions took place in front of other customers.

Sophie and Luke eventually provided a copy of the original enduring power of attorney document. The bank accepted Sophie’s verbal confirmation to revoke Michael and appoint Luke in his place. It then accepted Sophie’s signature on a replacement account operating authority. However, Sophie was unhappy with the way the bank had handled matters and sought compensation.


Our investigation 

We noted the importance of a bank acting on a customer’s instructions.  We understood the bank would have preferred a written instruction for record-keeping purposes but the Code of Banking Practice requires banks to make reasonable efforts to help disabled customers.  We considered the bank should have acted on Sophie’s first request to change the signatories.  There were other ways it could have recorded her intention without the need for a signature of new enduring power of attorney document.



The bank agreed to reimburse Sophie for automatic payments totalling $780 that Michael had made to the third party, because it should have removed him as a signatory before these payments began. It also offered $7,500 in recognition of the stress and inconvenience caused by its failure to act on her instructions in a timely manner. Sophie accepted the bank’s offer.

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