On the 3rd of September, 2020, I needed to cash 500 cedis to pay Eric, a graphic designer I hired to design my Experience In Ghana logo.
Since I have a visa card, it was easier for me going to a nearby visa supported ATM (walking distance) to cash the money, instead of riding or driving to the nearby Absa ATM.
There are 4 banks, all lined up in a single area, just on the same premise as the Shell fuel station at Adjiringanor. On the morning of this day, none of the 3 banks ATM I tried worked. All their ATMs were dud.
Stanbic bank, the ATM likely didn’t have money, as I wasn’t presented with any option to withdraw money. Ghana Commercial Bank, ATMs had the notice, “Service in progress”. Next, Access Bank, for whatever reasons, I couldn’t even slot in my ATM card, as the entrance of the card wouldn’t open to allow the card in.
My last stop was Republic Bank, which is the trigger behind putting these thoughts of mine together in this article.
Long story short, my attempt to withdraw the above amount failed. On top of that, the ATM wouldn’t bring out my visa card. Now, wait for it…
Since I do not bank with Republic bank, I was told they can’t, won’t, give me my card, “because they don’t know me”, in other words, I do not bank with them. Therefore, the protocol, “according to Bank of Ghana regulation”, is for them to send my debit card to my parent Bank HQ, in this case Absa Bank Ghana.
Absa Bank Ghana will thus forward the card to the respective branch of the account holder – in this case, Koforidua, since that’s where I opened my account. Let’s recap.
The faulty, broken ATM owned and operated by Republic Bank, swallowed my visa ATM card. It didn’t dispense my money, neither did it give back my card for me to use elsewhere if I wanted to (which I wasn’t gonna be able to, because all the other banks ATM at the premise at the time were all duds)
The swallowing of the card was of no fault on my part. I didn’t enter wrong PIN, nor did any fraudulent transaction. I just wanted 500 Cedis out of my account to pay a creative I’ve hired.
An HR manager(?) at Republic Bank Adjiringanor Branch, who the security personnel had gone to call, explained to me that, I’m not gonna get my card. She explained that, the ATM had an issue, and that very morning, a Technician had come to service it, and all was good.
Well, sadly, my ATM card had a different experience, as it was held hostage now in a third party bank.
Another person who was about to use his card, but came to meet my scenario and stopped, asked the HR Manager(?), ‘What if I used my international credit (yes, Credit) card?’
The HR Manager explained, yep, the ATM would have swallowed it for breakfast. The person went on to ask how he’ll get his card, since it wasn’t issued by any bank with a branch in Ghana (I think he had a US bank issued card.)
The HR Manager basically said, if the card gets to the respective department responsive for sending the card to the origin bank, and they for whatever reasons aren’t able to follow up and send the card, the card will be destroyed. Yep, DESTROYED!
In summary, at the time of writing this article, September 10, 2020, here’s what has happened
- As at 3rd September, the Manageress of the Adjiringanor Republic Bank Branch assured me that, at the time I was talking to her, somewhere after midday, my card had been sent to the respective department responsible for returning cards in such scenarios. [As to how true that is, I had no means whatsoever to verify. Did she sweet talk me to get me outta their hair? I don’t know]
- As at 4th September end of day, since I had not heard anything from my bank Absa, I assumed the card is missing/stolen and requested my card to be blocked.
- As at writing this, 10th September, 2020, I’ve heard nothing from no one. I went in hoping to create a new card. Went to Absa Legon Main branch. The ATM card “creating” machine wasn’t available/working to use. I thus went to Absa Legon Campus branch. After seeing the queue, I just turned around. Went to the Absa Adjiringanor Branch too (close to American House, East Legon). Also, relatively long queue, considering about half a dozen people were seated outside waiting their turn.
What’s the problem?
Here’s how I see it. There are two issues here.
- Why the bank was operating a faulty ATM
- Why BoG regulation says I cannot get my card right and there.
Banks are free to operate faulty, buggy ATMs, without any repercussions. And there aren’t any repurcussions because the BoG regulation actually ensures, the Banks can operate faulty, buggy ATMs.
Do you see how both ties in well with each other? When a buggy faulty ATM swallows an ATM of a customer, the problematic bank feels no paint. The is actually free, and doesn’t bear any consequence, because all they have to do, is treat your card like it was seen on the ground somewhere – ‘If card is found, please return to bla bla bla’
Only thing is, the card wasn’t “found”, the card was hijacked by their broken ATM.
This is where I can pretend to be an expert of the banking sector than those who are in charge. I don’t and won’t.
However, here are two ways I see a fix to this nonsense
- If a user/customer’s ATM, gets stuck in your ATM, and it’s because of a buggy/broken operated ATM of a bank, the bank should pay
- the user in context, up to 1,000 Ghc for the inconvenience and as compensation, and
- Pay up to 1,000 Ghc to the Bank of Ghana as a fine
So, If Republic Bank knows there’s up to 2,000 Ghc fine per each person who gets an issue with their ATM (i.e, their buggy/faulty ATM swallows somebody’s card), here are 2 things they’ll take seriously:
- They’ll ensure if their ATM is broken and fixed, it is TRULY fixed, otherwise
- They’ll ensure they explicitly indicate and prevent unsuspecting users from using their broken ATM, by putting a notice or displaying a message accordingly
Because the Bank has no motivation to fix their broken ATM and the user ends up paying for the price of inconvenience and stress, instances like these will keep happening.
- If a buggy/faulty ATM swallows my card, a provision to be available for user to claim their card right and there (at the bank operating the ATM which is on location too. If the ATM is a standalone somewhere in a remote place, obviously user will have to wait. But in my case, the bank could ‘simply walk into their own ATM’ to bring me my card)
In this case, a means to verify a card belongs to a user might be:
- Proof of ID, which matches name on card
- And as second step, user is made to initiate a transaction, say 2-5 Cedis (which will be refunded later), which will require entering their PIN to validate they truly own the card.
- And last step, they fill a form with their details + a photocopy of their ID is made to attach to the form to be kept by the third party bank on their records.
The steps above, in my humble opinion, is enough to validate a card belongs to the owner.
When the BoG makes regulations that penalizes individuals and customers for the inefficiency and lack of customer care and highest service possible, my above dilemma is what happens
- I can’t withdraw money via ATM
- I can’t pay for items/subscriptions online
Thanks to BoG, and that broken ATM “maintained” by Republic Bank Ghana