“We want our money back”

Ivan Soh and his wife just want their money back from Westpac.

A young couple are distraught that they cannot get back $37,777.50 they paid to the wrong bank account.

Shirley Li thought she had transferred the amount owed to construction contractors’ and their bank account at Westpac Botany Junction a month ago.

She made an error and the money went to someone else. That was on June 7 and now Li and her husband Ivan Soh are anxious that their money has still not been returned. In the meantime their painting and decorating company has had to pay the contractors so they are desperate have their funds returned.

However they’ve hit a brick wall. While their bank – ASB – has been trying hard to have the funds returned, Westpac doesn’t seem to want to know, she said. A Westpac spokesman told the Times that Westpac NZ does not comment on its customers for privacy reasons.

“However, in terms of general advice, in the event of a mistaken funds transfer, a bank does not have the right to withdraw money from a customer’s account without the consent of the customer,” the bank said.

“It is a standard industry process that a person wanting to reverse an electronic funds transfer should talk to their own bank in the first instance.”

Li said she did that as soon as she discovered her error. She made the transfer at around 10.30am. At 7pm her client called saying they hadn’t received the payment. “I immediately called ASB to make a direct debit recovery,” she said.

“ASB asked me to call Westpac to get them to hold onto the money but customer services said they couldn’t hold onto the funds.

“When money goes into someone’s account, it’s their money.”

She was told to “just leave it for the recovery team to sort out” and was calling Westpac every day.

Meanwhile after eight days ASB declared it could not recover the money.

“Westpac said it’s not their problem. Westpac is not showing any responsibility. They are not doing their job. It’s horrible,” said Li.

In frustration she has also been to the police to assist with recovery of the funds. While police were sympathetic, the investigation appears unlikely to speed up the return of the money. Police could not confirm they were looking into the matter. “In general, police do not respond to requests which seek to confirm whether a specific individual or a specific organisation is under police investigation, or whether specific individuals have made complaints to police,” a spokesperson said.

  • The Times also contacted the Banking Ombudsman’s office. Tina Mitchell, the Deputy Banking Ombudsman – Prevention – said it cannot comment on individual cases. “Usually it’s about sorting out between the banks but that can be a bit tricky,” she said.

“Anyone can come to us – we’ll do whatever we can to help.”

She pointed to their website guide. “As a general rule, banks can reverse a payment made in error only with the consent of the person who received it,” the site said.

“Your bank and the recipient’s bank will need to co-operate to try to recover the payment. This usually involves the recipient’s bank contacting the account holder to ask his or her permission to reverse the transaction.

If the recipient refuses, your only option is to take up the matter directly yourself. However, the bank’s responsibility to protect the privacy of the recipient’s contact details may prove an initial stumbling block. “You may wish to take court action if the recipient won’t return the money.”

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