Dealing with the ATM nightmare

The ATM, which came to ease cash deposits and withdrawals by bank customers, has turned a nightmare, writes ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR

The banking industry is one of the sectors of the economy that immensely benefited from the new Internet technology, particularly by the introduction of electronic banking, which provides seamless and easy services.

For the sake of clarity, e-banking refers to services provided by banks using Information and Communication Technology. It involves using computer-based systems to perform financial transactions. It allows bank customers to pay bills and transfer funds using recognised electronic channels. It represents a variety of financial services performed through electronic devices, including withdrawals and deposits.

Automated Teller Machines, Automated Bill Payment, Electronic Fund Transfer and Personal Computer Banking are the offshoots of Internet banking. Others include telephone banking and real-time banking services.

Real-time technology gives individual banks “a one branch status,” since customers can operate their accounts from any branch of the bank, irrespective of where the account is domiciled. A number of transaction types may be performed using e-banking channels. These include withdrawal and deposit, inter-account transfer involving the transfer of funds between linked accounts belonging to the same account holder, inter-bank e-payment in which money can be paid from one bank to another.

That the advent of ATM revolutionised electronic payment in the country, and that it is generally acceptable to the banking public is a fact. However, more often than not, money deposit bank customers go through harrowing experiences through the usage of ATM.

As generally known, ATM, a self-service machine, dispenses cash and performs some human teller functions like deposits, balance enquiry, bills payment, mini statements and so on. ATM transactions are carried out through the use of a personal card, which enables the cardholder to bank without human help or supervision.

It is, however, paradoxical that this same ATM technology, which offers a world of convenience to customers and provides banking services well beyond the traditional brick and mortar service, is gradually becoming a source of worry to users.

On July 30 and 31, 2022, not few customers of a new generation bank experienced network, while using the bank’s ATMs or by patronising Point of Sale operators. On those fateful Saturday and Sunday, it might be normal to notice that customers, who suffered one form of disappointment or another, inundated the bank with unprecedented complaints, particularly as the ATMs short-changed not a few. Majority of them expressed frustration that emanated from the non-crediting of their accounts, ostensibly due to service failure.


Tales of woe

One depositor’s attempt to withdraw N20,000 from a POS at Ogba last Saturday was declined by the machine. But he was debited N20,000. Being a Saturday, it was impossible for him to visit the Customer Care Unit of the bank to register his complaint. So, he resorted to the use of the bank’s email code,, which is dedicated to resolve customer complaints.

“To Whom It May Concern, Zenith Bank, please revert the N20,000 you debited from account for no reason. The money was meant for medical bills. I did not buy anything from you guys to justify the debit. I wanted to withdraw the amount from a POS to attend to a very urgent matter,” he wrote in the mail.

A reply from the bank read, “Dear valued customer, thank you for your mail to Zenith Direct. Kindly be advised to wait 24 hours for a possible automatic reversal. However, if not reversed, contact us to log for a manual resolution.”

As assured by the bank through the email he received, the erroneous debit was reverted before 24 hours. 

On Sunday, the harrowing experience occurred again, as N8,200 he wanted to withdraw through a POS was declined by the machine, but was reverted within 24 hours.

Disappointed by the harrowing experiences, this customer rallied others of various banks to share his experience. They unanimously lamented that the situation had made banking a very unpleasant experience, and contended that the epileptic services might defeat the objective of the ATM technology.

According to them, the development is a big threat to the Central Bank of Nigeria‘s cashless policy.

Recounting his experience, Godwin Obianke, an insurance marketer, said, “Using ATMs to transact business is fast becoming a source of frustration these days. Imagine customers roaming about in search of an ATM machine that is dispensing cash, and at the end of the day, the intended amount to be withdrawn is declined but debited.

“To me, the banks should try and resolve this issue, as it is a serious challenge to customers.”  


CBN wades in

While directing bank customers on how and where to lodge complaints against financial institutions, the CBN advised that the institutions concerned should first be contacted. 

The apex bank also issued a circular in 2011 directing all banks to expand their existing ATM help desks to handle all types of consumer complaints.

It directed, “If you have a complaint against your bank, you must first report the complaint at the branch from where the issue originated and then allow two weeks (it might be less in some banks) for the issue to be resolved.

“If after lodging your complaint and your bank still fails to engage you and resolve the complaint within two weeks as provided for in the ATM Help Desk Circular, you have the right to escalate your complaint to the Consumer Protection Department of the CBN.”

The bankers’ bank specifically directed that while contacting the CPD, an aggrieved consumer can send e-mail through or letter to the Director, CPD, Central Business District, Abuja. It explained that the letter could also be submitted at the CBN Head Office or any branch nationwide.


Writing complaints

On whether the CPD deals with all types of complaints, CBN noted that “it deals with all complaints against financial institutions” within its regulatory purview, while explaining how to write an effective complaints letter.

According to the apex bank, the complaint should be clear and concise to avoid ambiguity. It should contain name, address, contact phone number and e-mail of the complainant, as well as the name of the financial institution involved. 

“Personal banking details (excluding Personal Identification Number and passwords), history/date of the transaction in dispute, amount claimed (if any), documents to support your claim and evidence that you have first lodged the complaint at your bank are needed.

“You can make your further inquiries and obtain additional information on the Complaints Handling Process of CBN from the complaints unit of your financial institution or any CBN office nationwide,” it added.

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