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An increase in problems with unauthorized transactions.

1 March 2021

In 2020, almost 1,200 requests for intervention in a dispute regarding an unauthorized banking transaction were submitted to the Financial Ombudsman. The scale of the problem during the pandemic is growing dynamically.

The preliminary summary of the impact of requests for the intervention of the Financial Ombudsman in 2020 shows that 1163 of them concerned so-called unauthorized transactions. This means that on average, almost 5 people per working day reported to the Ombudsman for help in resolving disputes. Most often they concern situations in which the victims lost money from an online bank account or a payment or credit card as a result of fraud.

– The scale of the increase in the number of requests of this type, observed in 2020, is worrying. There were almost twice as many requests as in 2019. We have not recorded such dynamics in any of the previous years of our activity. There is no doubt that this is the result of the pandemic and greater activity of criminals. In the first half of 2020, we recorded slightly more than 400 requests for intervention in cases of a bank’s improper operation in connection with unauthorized transactions. In the second six months, there were nearly 750 such requests. Unfortunately, some banks still do not comply with EU and Polish regulations that define the rules of conduct in such cases. Hence, the number of such disputes is growing – says dr. hab. Mariusz Jerzy Golecki, professor at the University of Łódź, Financial Ombudsman.

Apart from intervention procedures, he also undertook other activities permitted by law. In one of the cases, he filed an extraordinary complaint to the Supreme Court. In the case of a farmer who lost approx. 140,000 PLN, which was stolen by criminals from his account, filed a lawsuit against the bank as it did not act in this case in accordance with the provisions.

– We are aware that only some of the victims come to us asking for help. Customers trust the banks’ explanations provided in response to their notification or complaint about this type of transaction. We can see, however, that the banks’ interpretation of the regulations is different from ours. That is why I made a decision that one of the topics of our free educational webinars should be the issue of customers’ rights in such a situation. Customers need to know their rights and know how to get our help in enforcing them against banks – says Mariusz Golecki.

When should the bank return the money stolen from your account?

The regulations define the deadline for the return of funds resulting from an unauthorized transaction based on the so-called D+1 rule. According to it, the money should be returned to the customer’s account no later than the end of the business day following the detection of the unauthorized transaction or the date of receipt of the customer’s request. The only exception to the rule of returning the amount of the unauthorized transaction within this period is a justified and duly documented suspicion of fraud attempted by the customer. At the same time, the bank is obliged to inform law enforcement authorities of such suspicion in writing. In practice, this means that the bank is first obliged to immediately return the money to the customer, and then – if it has reason to believe that the customer is fully or partially responsible for the unauthorized transaction – claim this amount from the customer, for example in court. (details in the diagram: How to proceed after detecting an unauthorized transaction?)

Important activities of the Financial Ombudsman regarding unauthorized transactions in 2020

October 2020 – extraordinary complaint for refusal to refund the amount of an unauthorized transaction

September 2020 – a lawsuit by the Financial Ombudsman on behalf of a customer who lost 140,000 PLN as a result of an unauthorized transaction

September 2020 – an analysis by the Financial Ombudsman on unauthorized transactions

June 2020 – applying to banks for information on the scale of the problem and explanations on the procedures to be followed in such situations.

How has the number of requests for the intervention of the Financial Ombudsman in disputes related to unauthorized transactions increased?

In 2016, i.e. the first full year of the Financial Ombudsman’s activity, there were 147 requests. In the next year there were 250, which means an increase of 70%. In 2018, there were 47% more requests – 367. In 2019, this number reached 612 (a 67% increase). 2020 brought a record 1,163 requests – 90% more than in the previous year.


The Financial Ombudsman’s website in Ukrainian
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An illusory insurance contract to a loan. The court agreed with the Financial Ombudsman and ruled in favour of the borrower who was ill.