Bank erred in not seeking clarification before releasing information

Privacy & confidentiality,
Jia was executor of her late mother Suyin’s estate. Before Suyin died, Jia’s brother obtained statements for Suyin’s bank accounts despite not being a signatory to the accounts, that is, not being entitled to use the accounts. Jia said the bank had breached her mother’s privacy in providing the statements and asked the bank to investigate. It reviewed CCTV footage but couldn’t establish whether Jia’s brother had obtained the information. It advised Jia, who dropped the matter.
February 2020

Several years later, Jia asked the bank to reopen the complaint because her brother was using information obtained from the bank statements to take legal action against her in relation to Suyin’s estate. Jia said the bank’s actions in handing over the statements had resulted in stress and legal fees.

The bank replied that it had acted correctly in providing the statements to Jia’s brother, as it had received a signed letter from Suyin, authorising the request. The bank acknowledged that during the initial investigation it had failed to advise Jia of the letter and offered Jia $1,000 as a goodwill gesture.

Jia considered the signature on the letter to be a forgery and that the bank had intentionally omitted providing this during the initial investigation. As such, she declined the bank’s offer and asked us to investigate.

Our investigation

We found that the bank had accessed Suyin’s profile on the same day the statements were requested, however we could not determine if this was to check the signature matched, as the purpose was not recorded. In any event, we considered that the bank should have contacted Suyin to confirm the instructions within the letter upon its receipt and we could find no evidence that contact had been attempted. We also found that that the contents of the letter asked the bank to provide Suyin’s son the most recent statement, however statements for the past year were provided by the bank.

We also identified that the bank had failed to investigate Jia’s complaint properly when it was initially raised. As the bank had not discussed the signed letter with Jia, Jia had lost the opportunity to confirm its authenticity with Suyin before she died.

We discussed our findings with the bank.


The bank increased its compensation offer to $4,000, and Jia accepted this.

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