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It's 2018 and Westpac is struggling with online basics

Westpac is struggling to cope with online basics in 2018. Westpac is struggling to cope with online basics in 2018. Pixabay

In 2018, one would think that banks in Australia, especially one of the so-called big four, would have their online operations sorted. In the case of Westpac, that does not appear to be the case.

On Sunday morning, I changed the contact details on my Westpac credit card account online. For this, I had to contact the bank and provide a mobile number for SMS contact; one was then able to make the changes after confirming one's identity through a SMS code. This, I had to guess, since there was no clear indication on the site that one had to do this.

After making the change, I received an email the next day telling me that my daily payment limit had been updated, something akin to going to a shop and asking for bananas and being given a tin of shoe polish instead.

But this worried me; in this age when data leaks are more common than politicians indulging in spin, one always fears that one will be the next person to get that notice about a data breach.

Additionally, I found it curious that the email was sent not to the new address I had nominated, but the old one. So one had to go the old 1300 routine which I hate.

The support person who answered my call appeared to be greatly distracted; it took a while before she understood that I was calling about an email and not an SMS sent to me by the bank.

It took an equal amount of effort for this individual to remember my eight-digit code that I told her when she asked for it; after three tries, she finally got it. I had to verify my identity twice.

Then I was then told that what had occurred was not a problem!

The central question of why I should be notified that my daily payment limit had been updated when I had done no such thing and only changed my email contact did not appear to register with this individual.

I was put through to another, technical, person when I asked about the email being sent to the old contact address. This gentleman gave me a reply that was the equivalent of what former prime minister Tony Abbott once said – "sometimes, shit happens". The techie said such things happened on occasion.

I asked him what would have happened if after changing the email contact, I had deleted the old address. He had no reply.

When one has to spend a quarter of an hour in 2018 checking that the most basic of functions in an online banking system have been implemented, then something is wrong somewhere.

In order to try and understand what that is, I contacted Westpac and asked them for their comment. I await their response with bated breath.

When the response finally came, it was a bit of a letdown. A Westpac spokesperson said, “We can confirm this is an isolated incident due to a human error. We apologise for the error and the service provided to the customer. We’re taking this matter very seriously and a full investigation is underway regarding the quality of service provided.”

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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