Thursday, 2 June 2016

ATM NON-DISPENSE ERROR: CUSTOMER SUES GTB & UBA, CLAIMS N10M DAMAGES


A typical ATM dispense error is a situation where the machine debits a customer’s account without actually physically dispensing cash. In KUME BRIDGET ASHIEMAR vs. GUARANTY TRUST BANK PLC (GTB) & UNITED BANK FOR AFRICA (UBA) PLC, Suit No: MHC/198/14 being tried at the Benue State High Court, sitting in Makurdi, the plaintiff, Kume Bridget Ashiemar, in October 2013, attempted a total of five times(N20,000.00 thrice on 3/10/2013, N20,000.00 and N10,000.00 once on 4/10/2013) to withdraw money over two days totalling N90,000.00 at the ATM of UBA Plc. in North Bank, Makurdi. However, the ATM did not dispense cash on each attempt and displayed a message of insufficient funds yet her account was debited. She laid a complaint at her bank, GTB and requested for camera and video recordings of the transactions but none was provided and neither was she refunded the N90,000.00 In January 2014, three months later, she contacted a lawyer who wrote GTB but nothing came of the lawyer’s later.

Eventually she sued the banks and the banks in their defence are claiming that the ATM dispensed cash which was taken by her on each occasion she attempted to withdraw money on the dates mentioned above. UBA has provided ATM journal prints and transaction logs of the disputed transactions without providing visual evidence of cash dispense and pick up by Kume Bridget, to prove that the transactions were successful. The case is being tried at High Court No. 7 in the High Court of Justice of Benue State, Makurdi. The next adjourned date for the case is 27th June, 2016.

It would be interesting to see how the court will decide the case as the same High Court No. 7 had in the case of VICTOR EJE V. UBA PLC Suit No. MHC/323/2010, awarded N500,000.00 general damages against UBA Plc in favour of the plaintiff, Victor Eje and also ordered the bank to refund the sum of N80,000.00 withdrawn from his account without his authority or mandate. The brief facts of the case are that Mr. Eje went to the bank on 30/10/2009 to withdraw N20,000.00 and he discovered he had only N1,639.00 in his account. He inquired as to why he had only N1,639.00 and he was informed that N80,000.00 was withdrawn from his account via ATM card on the ATM of Spring Bank, Ogiri Road, Enugu. Mr. Eje contended that he did not make the withdrawal neither did he authorize any person to do so with his ATM card. The bank on the other hand contended that the withdrawal was done by Mr. Eje or he was negligent and/or divulged his PIN to a third party which allowed such a third party to use the ATM card to make withdrawals. However the bank failed to prove its assertions or contentions and the court therefore held it liable for the withdrawal of the N80,000.00 since it could not prove that the withdrawal was authorized by Mr. Eje.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in trying to check the hardship meted on bank customers due to non-dispense or partial dispense errors in 2014 issued a circular with ref no. BPS/DIR/CIR/01/008 dated 11/6/2014 entitled: Non-Refund of Monies to Customers Short-changed by ATMs’ Non-Dispense or Partial Dispense Error; directing all deposit money banks to refund to customers all monies trapped in ATMs due to non-dispense or partial dispense error. It was also reported in 2014 that several billions of Naira remained caught up in failed ATM transactions across the branches of Nigeria’s 25 deposit money banks nationwide, thus causing pain and frustration to many of the country’s 25 million bank customers.

The apex bank also in a circular dated 7th February, 2011 with ref. no. BPS/DIR/CIR/GEN/02/003 decried the continued non-compliance by banks with CBN circulars and guidelines on ATM operations in Nigeria and also stipulated some penalties for non-compliance. Some of the penalties stipulated by the CBN include:
  •  An ATM without a camera installed will attract a fine of N50,000 and deactivation of the ATM until the camera is installed.
  • An ATM deployer will be made to refund the full amount Involved in any fraud perpetrated on its ATM for failure to provide footages on the disputed transactions when required.
  • Failure to resolve any ATM dispute with evidence of resolution within 14 days, the deployer will refund the total amount involved in the fraud.
Furthermore, the CBN through its Banking and Payment System Department in May, 2014, released the Guidelines for Card Issuance and Usage in Nigeria; which provides that: 

“All debit entries arising from failed transactions attributable to system-related issues must be auto-reversed. Where auto reversal is not feasible, manual reversal must be carried out within 24 hours.”

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