Bank’s poor communication left customer without access to funds in the US

Mobile banking,
Rick spent several months a year in the United States and the rest of his time in New Zealand. He had previously had trouble accessing his mobile banking from US cellphones, so contacted the bank and double-checked the authentication process for a new device before he left for the US in 2023. The bank said it could call his new US cellphone and authenticate it over the phone.
October 2023

However, when Rick arrived in the US and contacted the bank about setting up the new device, it told him he would have to courier certified copies of his ID to the bank. Rick needed immediate access to his bank account to pay his living expenses and other bills. He asked the bank for urgent assistance. Several days passed and Rick’s online banking was still not working. He contacted his lawyer in New Zealand and asked him to take up the case with the bank. By the next day, Rick’s online banking was up and running on his US phone.


Rick asked the bank to reimburse his legal costs of $1,000 and also compensate him for the stress and inconvenience its communication failings had caused him. The bank declined his request, saying he could have raised his concerns with the bank's complaints department without having to incur any legal costs. The bank said it did not consider itself liable for his legal fees, although it did offer him $750 in compensation for the inconvenience caused by its inadequate communication about the authentication process.

Our investigation

We reviewed the correspondence between Rick and the bank and found Rick made several attempts to resolve his complaint before turning to his lawyer for help. He spoke to several staff members, tried contacting the manager of his local branch, and clearly expressed his complaint and the urgency of resolving it to the bank. At no point did the bank tell Rick about its internal complaints process or provide contact details for its complaints team.



The bank agreed it could have referred Rick’s concerns to its complaints team earlier. It increased its settlement offer to $2,000 – enough to cover Rick’s legal fees and recognise the inconvenience and stress he had suffered. Rick accepted the bank's offer.

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