Westpac sanctioned over 'serious' bank closure breach

Business

Westpac exposed its customers to a "high risk of harm" when it suddenly closed an outback branch, leaving hundreds of people to rely on a local charity to access cash, a banking watchdog has found.

The bank closed its branch in Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory, in September 2022, at first telling the community the closure was temporary.

After three weeks, Westpac issued letters, emails and text messages to advise the closure would be permanent and direct customers to alternative services.

An industry watchdog on Tuesday released its investigation into the closure, sanctioning Westpac for "serious and systemic" breaches of its obligations under the Banking Code of Practice.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

READ NOW

The investigation found Westpac did not comply with the Australian Banking Association's branch closure protocol by failing to provide customers with adequate information about the shutdown.

It also failed to properly support Tennant Creek residents in accessing other services, the Banking Code Compliance Committee report found.

The committee sanctioned Westpac by publicly releasing the details of its breaches.

"In this case, Westpac has fallen short of their promise to customers," chair Ian Govey said in a statement.

"Their actions have had a significant and detrimental impact on many people within the Tennant Creek community."

The finding comes one month after a long-running Senate inquiry recommended tougher regulation of bank closures, after nearly 800 shutdowns across country Australia in the six years to June 2023.

A Westpac spokesman said the Tennant Creek closure occurred outside its usual processes after damage to the branch and the ATM, which posed safety threats.

"We recognise more could've been done to fully support our customers during the closure," the spokesman said.

"As a result, we have reviewed and strengthened our branch closure protocols."

The watchdog said there were 3398 branch customers when it shut.

"The breaches posed a high risk of harm to customers," the report said.

"The members of the community who were most affected, or at risk of being most affected ... were those potentially experiencing vulnerability and were not equipped to handle the transition with no notice or assistance."

The closure was also a major focus of the earlier Senate inquiry.

Charity CatholicCare NT told the inquiry it was inundated by hundreds of older Indigenous people after the shutdown, as they were left without cash or having to quickly adjust to digital services.

The Senate committee recommended a banking regulator have veto power over closures.

"The committee has been struck by the depth of community concern, the feelings of disappointment and anger, and the consistency of the messages from regional Australia," its final report said.

"People feel abandoned and disrespected by the banks."

OTHER NEWS

41 minutes ago

Kaizer Chiefs: Nasreddine Nabi's side suffer huge blow over their interest in signing Europe-based Bafana star this summer

42 minutes ago

Paris 2024 schedule Day 2: Women's football, rugby sevens, archery and handball

42 minutes ago

SA’s racial tensions | Pretoria Girls High staff investigated

42 minutes ago

Olympic VAR brought Argentina and Morocco back to play 3 minutes after it overturned a tying goal hours later

42 minutes ago

Oregon fire is the largest burning in the US. Thunderstorms and high winds are exacerbating it

42 minutes ago

Wind power can be a major source of tax revenue, but officials struggle to get communities on board

42 minutes ago

Africa's demand for cooling systems is expanding. But regulating the industry is a struggle

42 minutes ago

Israeli Cyber Giant Names Ex-IDF Commander as CEO

45 minutes ago

Jennifer Aniston Rips Trump VP Pick J.D. Vance For “Childless Cat Lady” Remarks

47 minutes ago

Starmer’s first PMQs was a show of unity – but it won’t last

48 minutes ago

4 Reasons Kamala Harris Could Be Good for Your Social Security Check

48 minutes ago

'Lifelong Republican' ex-GA lieutenant gov. endorses Kamala Harris

48 minutes ago

Video: Kylie Jenner calls Nobu chefs to her $36 million mansion for reality show dinner - but one major topic is totally off-limits

48 minutes ago

Video: King's day of pomp and pageantry: Charles dons his royal regalia for state opening of Parliament filled with gold, grandeur and 500 years of tradition - with Queen Camilla by his side

48 minutes ago

Video: So what is Kim Kardashian's biological age? Reality star 'livid' by results as family share details of DNA tests… and Kris Jenner is furious too

48 minutes ago

Video: Today show host Karl Stefanovic says Brisbane needs to 'get their act together' for the 2032 Olympic Games

48 minutes ago

Video: Melbourne dad is allegedly attacked by thief after trying to get back his stolen car

48 minutes ago

Video: Shocking decline in looks of 'murderer' Law & Order star as he makes dramatic plea at his latest court appearance

48 minutes ago

Kendall Jenner reveals her hopes for the next decade and insists she 'would love' to be a mother

48 minutes ago

Poh Ling Yeow: MasterChef judge’s incredible response to ex-husband Jono Bennett moving on with best friend

48 minutes ago

3 ASX All Ordinaries shares smashing multi-year highs while the market dives

48 minutes ago

Goose Island Announces 2024 Bourbon County Brand Stout Variants

48 minutes ago

Band opened for Foo Fighters, but can't make rock pay

48 minutes ago

House votes to form task force to investigate shooting at Trump rally, recommend legislative fixes

48 minutes ago

CrowdStrike reveals what went wrong — and it's pretty much what we expected

48 minutes ago

Nestory Irankunda at Bayern Munich updates: Australia football wonderkid scores in friendly match

48 minutes ago

Uzbekistan loses the match but wins over crowd as soccer competition kicks off Paris Olympics

48 minutes ago

Kamala Harris' First Rally Fact-Checked

48 minutes ago

'A Nonsense Question!' James Cleverly Refuses To Say If He Would Vote For Trump

51 minutes ago

Amari Cooper's New Deal Creates Questions About Browns' Long-Term Strategy

51 minutes ago

‘Disappointing’: New report which cast doubt on Australia’s nuclear plan has ‘problems’

51 minutes ago

In a reversal, Georgia now says districts can use state funding to teach AP Black studies classes

54 minutes ago

India and UK launch tech initiative as new British foreign minister makes his first official visit

56 minutes ago

Jennifer Aniston calls out JD Vance with message on her IVF journey

1 hour ago

Ten Hag gunning for Man Utd to sign Bundesliga winner who can help expensive flop shine

1 hour ago

The Messi effect: MLS celebrates record All-Star Game attendance, rising engagement

1 hour ago

Olympics-Canadian coach, analyst kicked out of Games after drone incident

1 hour ago

Eluned Morgan becomes first woman to lead Welsh Labour

1 hour ago

Manchester United forward left out of tour squad ahead of League One loan switch

1 hour ago

Van der Poel sets sights on Olympic glory: "That worked very well last year too"