CBA, NAB move against financial abuse lauded

The banks changed their T&Cs

CBA, NAB move against financial abuse lauded

By committing to new banking terms and conditions (T&Cs), Commonwealth Bank and NAB have made it abundantly clear that they will not tolerate financial abuse – a move the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety (CWES) hailed as a significant step forward.

The new T&Cs will enable the two big banks to suspend, cancel, or deny people access to their accounts if they are misusing them to cause harm.

In a statement, NAB said the new reference to “unacceptable account conduct” on its savings and transaction account will allow bankers to cut off customers engaging in financial abuse.

We’re taking a firm stand against financial abuse, and we aren’t resting there,” said Michael Chambers, NAB’s head of customer vulnerability. “We’re working with other banks to help develop a consistent approach across the industry.”

CBA said financial abuse will be identified as an unacceptable customer behaviour in new T&Cs on its range of products.

CWES CEO Rebecca Glenn (pictured above left) said the major banks’ latest move puts perpetrators “on notice” that institutions are going to make it harder for them to use financial abuse to control others. And, importantly, that they’ll take action.

“Few other businesses are better placed to protect women against financial abuse and its devastating health and economic impacts for them and their children,” Glenn said. “I’m delighted to see the Commonwealth Bank and NAB build on a range of other initiatives they’ve put in place to support people experiencing financial abuse and domestic and family violence.”

Late last year, CWES published its Designed to Disrupt report, where it called on all 97 Australian banks to redesign products to improve financial safety, starting from their T&Cs to make clear their stand that a bank account is no place for abuse and that they will act against customers who misuse their products to cause harm.

A desktop review by CWES of the T&Cs of the 20 Australian Banking Association (ABA) member banks revealed that none of the banks referenced financial abuse in T&Cs, nine banks described the misuse of payment descriptions to send abuse as unacceptable behaviour, and six banks described the consequences for the misuse of payment descriptions to send abuse, with four citing it as a reason to close an account.

“The new T&Cs send a clear signal to millions of bank customers that they have a choice: abuse and potentially lose access to their bank account, or behave with respect,” said Catherine Fitzpatrick (pictured above right), report author and founder and director of Flequity Ventures.

“We know gender inequality is the driver of violence against women. If every bank in Australia made it clear that there is a minimum expectation of respect for women to be a customer, it would be a game-changer.”

Findings showed that more than 90% of customers who send abuse payment descriptions cease their actions when warned by their bank.

“We hope the widespread adoption of financial abuse T&Cs and broad public communication will send a strong message to everyone with a bank account that gendered violence is unacceptable and has consequences,” Fitzpatrick said.

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