The Ombudsman for Banking Services has launched a ‘referee’ campaign to publicise its services to more consumers.
Most bank customers who are literate and relatively affluent are aware of the Ombudsman’s free dispute resolution service. However, many poorer people – who are only now starting to use banks through the Mzansi account – do not know that the Ombudsman exists.
One of the eight consumer rights is the right to redress – to complain if you’re not happy with a supplier. The Ombudsman offers a redress mechanism to banks and their disgruntled customers. The referee campaign aims at consumers and banking staff, said Bruce Manuel, community marketing officer for the Omudsman, and explains the ombudsman’s role as similar to an impartial sports referee.
Recent statistics shows that the number of consumer complaints is rising; the Ombudsman received a record 306 complaints in January 2005. “It is aimed not only at educating consumers on the function of the Ombudsman but also at reminding bank staff members of the importance of providing quality service, especially to unhappy customers,” said Manuel. “The Ombudsman has attended a few bank workshops so far this year and the concept has been well received. The more banks really focus their efforts on providing exceptional service, the fewer complaints the Ombudsman will ultimately receive.”
As part of the Ombudsman’s awareness drive, it will target banks that cater mostly for the lower end of the market for the roll out of the referee awareness campaign. These banks include Teba Bank, Ithala Bank, Capitec Bank and African Bank.