18 Jun 2014
Banks hold a lot of information about their customers. This guide covers how long banks are required to keep different types of information, and your rights when requesting information from your bank.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989 requires banks to keep certain transaction documents such as cheques and deposit or withdrawal slips for at least seven years. Some banks will keep information for longer than this and allow customers to access many more years of transaction records through online banking.
Banks are not required to keep physical copies of this information. It is sufficient for a bank to keep electronic copies.
Banks hold a range of information about customers as well as their transaction records. Examples include loan agreements and records of contacts and correspondence with customers. Some types of information such as notes from discussions with customers are not required to be kept for a minimum period, which means it is up to your bank to decide how long to keep them.
As with transaction records, other information banks hold can be stored electronically rather than in hard copy files. For example, a bank can scan loan agreements and keep copies electronically. A loan can still be enforceable even if a bank does not still have an original copy of a loan agreement signed by a customer.
Under the Privacy Act 1993 you have the right to request copies of personal information that your bank holds about you. The Privacy Commissioner’s website contains information about your right to access personal information.
If you are entitled to the information you have requested it should be provided to you within a reasonable timeframe. Your bank is required to tell you within 20 working days whether it will provide the information you have requested, and explain why if it declines.
You should be aware your bank is allowed to charge you a reasonable fee for providing information you request.
We expect banks to conduct a proper search to see if it has information you have requested. It is not sufficient for a bank to say it is unable to provide information simply because it is no longer required by law to hold it.
If your bank refuses to provide you with information it holds we may be able to review whether it has good grounds for withholding it.
If your bank says it no longer holds information you are requesting and you wish to have a third party verify that, we can liaise with your bank to ensure it has properly checked its records. If we are satisfied that your bank has, we will be unable to assist you further if it is no longer legally required to hold the information.
Under our Terms of Reference we are unable to investigate a complaint if more than six years has passed since a complainant knew or should reasonably have known about the issue they are complaining about. This means we might not be able to assist if you have a complaint relating to old records.
Mr S lived in New Zealand in the late 1990s. While here, he had a savings account and a term deposit of $60,000 with a bank. Mr S left his funds on term deposit in New Zealand until 2003 when it was broken and the funds sent overseas by telegraphic transfer. A week later, Mr S deposited $100,000 for a new term deposit, via an inward telegraphic transfer.
The bank contacted Mr S before each expiry date, told him what the new interest rate was, asked him to make contact if he wished to change anything, and sent him a letter confirming each change.
In 2012, Mr S asked his bank for information about the 2003 term deposit break and the overseas funds transfer. He said he had not done this, and had not received the funds.
The bank explained it no longer held 2003 transaction information, apart from bank statements and letters. These revealed the term deposit had been broken, and funds transferred to his savings account with the bank before being sent overseas. It had no information about where the funds went.
Mr S was not satisfied with the bank’s explanation.
We were satisfied the bank was not required to hold transactional information longer than seven years and had carried out appropriate checks to see what information it still held.
We also considered Mr S should reasonably have been aware of what happened in 2003 because he had received a bank statement showing funds from the broken term deposit had gone into the savings account, and details of the subsequent telegraphic transfer. Further, statements and letters had been sent to the correct address, and Mr S still held these documents.
We therefore considered Mr S could reasonably have been aware of the matter at the time, some nine years earlier. We therefore declined to investigate further.