We need to be careful to avoid any misunderstandings between the complainant and ourselves, or between the bank and the complainant. We also need to show the bank that we have your permission to see private details of your bank accounts.

Most complaints are resolved within 2 months; however, the process can take up to 4 months if a full investigation is required. We will try to finalise your complaint as soon as possible, but factors such as the complexity of the complaint may delay the process beyond our target of 4 months. We rely on written communication and try to use the quickest way of sending and receiving letters, but in some cases, we must wait for the postal system. We encourage both the banks and the complainants to respond to our letters as soon as possible.

As a complainant, we request you to co-operate with your bank if it contacts you to try and resolve your complaint. We also request that you give us as much information as possible from the outset so that we can investigate your complaint properly.

We can accept any complaints about a bank’s products or service when the bank has not acted properly in accordance with either the law or the Code of Banking Practice, and you have suffered a loss or distress and inconvenience. Examples include maladministration, transaction errors, negligence, breach of contract and fraud.

We cannot adjudicate on matters where the claim amount exceeds R2 million unless the bank concerned has agreed in writing to this limit being exceeded

The OBS may not consider a complaint or dispute that relates to an act or omission which occurred more than 3 years prior to the date when the complaint was lodged with the Ombudsman; in other words, a claim that has become prescribed by law.

Furthermore, we are not a court of law and cannot hear evidence under oath. We therefore cannot investigate matters where there are major disputes of fact that would be more suited to being resolved in a court.

In respect of matters not falling within the National Credit Act (“NCA”), we may not consider a complaint or dispute that relates to a bank’s general interest rate policy or fees and charges policy, unless it relates to a fee or charge being incorrectly applied by the bank having regard to any scale of charges prescribed by law.

Only bank customers who are individuals or small businesses, trusts or associations which have a turnover of R10 million or less may use our services.

The Ombudsman can make an assessment, which is a suggestion as to how the matter is to be settled without the need to undertake an investigation. Should the matter not be settled, a written recommendation explaining the reasons for the recommendation may be compiled. Should both parties not accept the recommendation, the Ombudsman may make a binding determination, subject to certain requirements being met.

  • All the material facts must have been agreed upon, or the facts must have been established on a balance of probabilities.
  • The total amount involved in the dispute must be at least R10 000.
  • If a complainant seeks the determination, they must agree to be bound by it subject to the right to a review in accordance with the Terms of Reference.
  • The Ombudsman must be satisfied that the party seeking the determination has advanced valid grounds.

A recommendation or determination made by the Ombudsman is not binding on the complainant. A complainant is free to exercise his or her right to seek justice elsewhere, for example in the small claims court, consumer court or the civil courts. The complainant may, however, request of the Ombudsman to issue a determination should he or she not accept a recommendation, provided that the requirements as set out above are met. The complainant has the right to apply for a review to a panel of retired judges selected by the Board against an adverse determination, provided certain conditions are met.

Once a complainant accepts any form of compensation, this is in full and final settlement of the claim and no further claim on the same issue may be instituted again.

Only a determination or review may be made an order of court.

The panel shall only agree to review a determination if it believes there is a reasonable prospect that the panel could come to a different finding.

If the panel agrees to review a determination, the costs of the review, as determined by the Board from time to time, shall be borne by the parties as decided by the review panel. The following conditions must also be met:

  • No party to the proceedings of a review shall produce new evidence.
  • No party shall have the right to appear in person or be represented before the review panel.
  • The complainant will be bound by the review panel’s finding and must give such an undertaking before the leave to review shall be considered.
  • The Ombudsman may assist the complainant if a bank brings a review.

No. The investigation department conducts its enquiries into the complaint by way of asking questions of each party to the complaint in writing and by gathering information in this way to make a finding. Some complaints are more complex, and you may be requested to attend a voluntary mediation or to assist the investigator in understanding all the facts of your complaint.

You may receive assistance in lodging your complaint. However, we do not allow professional bodies to claim on your behalf if they are receiving a fee for doing so. We prefer to deal directly with complainants to avoid misunderstandings.

No. We discourage the use of lawyers and other bodies who charge for their services. We employ qualified lawyers who can assist in obtaining the relevant facts from both the complainant and the bank. We act on a strictly impartial basis so there should be no need for a lawyer. If you wish to retain the services of a lawyer, you are free to do so on the understanding that you will be unlikely to recover any legal fees from the bank.

Our services are also available to small businesses whose annual turnover is less than R10 million. A small business may be a company, close corporation, partnership or a trust.

Neither. The Ombudsman impartially evaluates the complaint and makes an assessment, recommendation or determination to the bank based on the merits of the complaint. The amount contained in the assessment, recommendation or determination is payable to the complainant and is not a fine.

The budget of the Office is approved by the Board of Directors and the funds are provided by all the member banks. The complainant does not have to pay any fee or charge, even if we make a finding in favour of the bank.

The Ombudsman operates independently of the banks and is not influenced by them. The Ombudsman is appointed by a Board of Directors headed by a former Judge and made up mostly of non-banking representatives The staff members at the Office follow a very strict code of ethics to ensure that neither the banks nor the complainants can influence them in any way. The Ombudsman takes strong exception to any person who tries to influence any decision in any manner or form.

Should the bank not accept a recommendation that has been accepted by the complainant, and the complaint fulfils the requirements as set out above for a determination, the Ombudsman may issue a determination on the complaint. The bank has the right to apply for a review to a panel of retired judges selected by the Board against an adverse determination, should certain conditions be met. The bank is bound by the outcome of a review.

It would be impossible for her to do so. The Ombudsman employs a call centre, a professional help desk and legal professionals to handle all the investigative work. The determinations are however delivered by the Ombudsman in person.