Rant: HSBC Australia customer service

I’ve been building up to this for a while. Ever since heading overseas for an extended period I’ve encountered a number of customer service instances from Australian based businesses and government departments that were far from pleasant. This will be the first of a number of rants I will post over the next few months, as despite the allowances I have made for being overseas, and the repeated chances I have given them to rectify their failings, time and time again they continue to disappoint for tasks that should be very straightforward. Now it’s time to let the world know about their failings.

HSBC Australia customer service, or lack thereof should I say…

“Customer service” used to be a cornerstone of a bank’s offerings. We are a long way down the road from “small town USA” (or Australia) where everyone knew the local bank manager by name, but with the increasing competition from financial services companies for your money, you would expect the level of service being offered by any financial institution to be one of their most important elements. Though I guess we can weigh that up with the increasing number of customers banks take on, especially when they are a global bank such as HSBC. In the end what is more important to them: Better customer service, or better marketing to continue to attract new customers to cover those who leave them? With my present experience with HSBC I know where my money lies…

About two months ago, while travelling in Central America, I was unfortunate enough to discover that $10,000 had been fraudulently withdrawn from my HSBC savings account via my Visa debit card details. I immediately phoned HSBC in Australia to inform them of this, and to have my debit card cancelled. And thankfully I found out that Visa has a policy where my losses are covered, so long as it can be shown that it was not me who withdrew the funds. I submitted the relevant details via the required form, had a new Visa debit card issued, and within a month had both that and the fraudulently withdrawn funds back in my possession.

“So what’s the problem?”, I hear you ask. Bare with me…

During discussions with HSBC, via both phone and email, I had repeatedly asked them if my account was now safe from the person(s) who had accessed my account in the first place. As this had been done via my Visa debit card details, and as that card had been cancelled and a new one, with completely new number and details, had been issued, they assured me my account was now secure once again. I was to discover that this was in fact untrue.

Having been assured by HSBC that my account was now safe, I believed it was safe to transfer funds into my account once more. I had learned one thing from my experience though: To only keep a minimal amount in my day-to-day account, with the majority in another linked bank account from where I can transfer a limited amount to my day-to-day account as needed. So the majority of my reimbursed funds I had transferred to this account, with a little under $1,000 in my HSBC account. Luckily for me as it turned out.

A week or so after the return of the final fraud funds, and after being assured by HSBC customer service that my account was completely secure, I suddenly found that a further $2,000 had been fraudulently withdrawn yet again, to leave me around $1,000 overdrawn!

I contacted HSBC about this matter to ask them what was going on, and if I needed to cancel my new Visa debit card again. After repeated attempts to contact them I finally got a message informing me it had nothing to do with my new card, but was connected to the previous fraud issue. But they did not say why more funds had been withdrawn, and told me they would investigate further “next week”. This was Friday lunchtime in Sydney. I’m very relieved that they were able to enjoy a pleasant Friday lunch break, and a nice sunny weekend, before taking the time to look into why my account was still being fraudulently accessed. Needless to say my weekend was not spent in such a relaxed manner.

By Tuesday the following week I logged onto Internet banking to find that my funds had been returned. I had received no message informing me of this, and obviously no explanation of why further funds had been fraudulently withdrawn. And despite phone calls and numerous emails and online banking system messages, it’s now almost two weeks later and I have still not received any further information, nor any assurances that funds in my HSBC account will now be safe. What I have received is a message saying “it will be looked into”, and a couple more where the customer service person obviously did not even read the email correctly and sent a response that had nothing to do with the question I was actually asking. This has been a common failure when contacting HSBC via their online banking messaging system.

Needless to say I have transferred all funds out of the account. Though this now leaves me needing to withdraw funds from one of my credit cards, paying an additional $5 more than my debit card each time, and incurring immediate credit card cash withdrawal interest on the amount owed.

So my question to HSBC is really quite simple (you would think):
Is my HSBC bank account safe from further fraudulent withdrawals arising from this fraud incident or not?

A response from them in writing would be appreciated for my records. HSBC are actually quite sneaky with their Internet banking messaging system, with all messages being deleted after 30 days, thereby removing any evidence of whatever they may say (or not, as in this instance).

You won’t be surprised to learn that HSBC Australia do not have a Facebook presence. However if you could spread the word on this blog post to as many folk as possible it would be greatly appreciated. I really don’t know what to do to have action from them, and without being back in Australia and being able to switch to another bank I am currently in limbo with regards to my banking, and paying additional fees on all funds I withdrawal.

1 comment

  1. So five months after my initial fraud issue, five months without being able to use my day to day bank account and paying on average an additional $5-10 each time I had to make a cash withdrawal with my [other bank] credit card, HSBC finally sent a written apology. They explained that “human error” had resulted in the second fraudulent withdrawals, and along with their apology sent me a $100 shopping voucher.

    According to HSBC Australia’s own financial report, their after tax profit for 2012 was $134 million. That’s $134,000,000. After tax.

    If I added up the many hours I spent trying to sort this issue out, the stress I went through, and the extra fees paid due to having to use my credit card for this period, do I really think that a $100 voucher makes up for such a monumental stuff up AND their long delay in clearing up this miss?

    What do you think?

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