New measures to combat financial abuse
26 July 2023
Westpac is implementing new measures to stamp out financial abuse and make banking even safer for customers.
The new protections include embedding safety into the design of all the bank’s products as well as mandatory customer safety training for more than 800 employees involved in product development.
The measures are designed to embed Safety by Design principles across the organisation, informed in part by the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety ‘Designed to Disrupt’ report which was backed by Westpac last year.
Westpac Head of Customer Excellence, Tiffiny Lewin, says the bank won’t tolerate abuse and will take action if customers choose to use the bank’s products or platforms to harm others.
“Safety is not a word, it’s an action,” Lewin said. “We’ve undergone extensive research to understand the needs of vulnerable customers and how products might be used to cause harm.
“We’ve also developed a learning program on customer safety for key decision makers involved in product development who don’t talk to vulnerable customers each day to ensure their needs are being met.
“This is as part of an ongoing commitment to strengthen product reviews so that going forward, there will be greater consideration of vulnerable customer needs in line with the eSafety Commission’s Safety by Design principles.
“It’s important that Safety by Design principles are understood across the organisation, allowing more robust discussions about safeguarding our customers’ interests and taking action to prevent harm or misuse.”
As part of the new measures Westpac is also updating its terms and conditions, starting with transaction and savings products, with a zero-tolerance policy for customers who use the bank’s products and services to engage in financial abuse or account conduct we deem to be unacceptable.
“These updates complement Westpac’s existing features introduced in 2021 to protect customers from financial abuse, including the ability to self-report abusive messages via online and mobile banking and proactively blocking inappropriate language from outgoing payments,” Lewin added.
“Since these changes, perpetrators are contacted directly by our specialist teams and in some instances, exited as customers or reported to law enforcement. Over 92 per cent of perpetrators discontinued abusive behaviour after receiving a warning letter from Westpac.”
Westpac protection measures include:
- Stopping abuse in transactions. Customers are prevented from sending inappropriate language in payment descriptions. Customers can report if they receive abuse via online and mobile banking.
- Gambling Block. Customers can apply an instant block in certain gambling-related transactions through Westpac’s mobile or online banking.
- Parental controls and child safety. To help young people learn how to manage their money safely - while giving parents the opportunity to act as banking ‘safety nets’ - we’ve added push notifications, restrictions on online payments and daily payment limits of $50 for under 14 years olds to our Choice Youth everyday account and Bump Savings account.
- Updated Terms & Conditions for savings and transaction products by October, highlighting a zero-tolerance for financial abuse perpetrators.
- Mandatory training for any employees involved in product design. More than 800 will have completed training by October.
- Safety by Design is a key principle within our Human Rights Position Statement and is considered when the bank conducts a review of its products.