95 per cent satisfied
DESPITE numerous complaints on social media from consumers about the availability of working automated banking machines (ABMs) and point-of-sale (POS) machines, J.E.T.S. Limited, operator of the MultiLink system, said the vast majority of those using the network do not have an issue. The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) also indicates that it has fielded very little complaints from the public about the matter.
“By and large, 95 per cent of the people are being satisfied when they go to the ABM so there are some people who have the unfortunate experience of going at a time when the machine is out of cash,” Edmundo Jenez, chief executive officer of J.E.T.S. Limited, told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview, citing the results of a survey about the matter.
Jenez made the claim despite acknowledging that the machines are running out of cash faster than usual as high prices resulting from inflationary pressures are forcing consumers to draw larger sums at ABMs to conduct cash transactions.
“It’s not that they are down in that they are not functioning. What happens in some instances, the machines are heavily utilised, customers are drawing money from them quite rapidly, sometimes as many as 5o or more transactions per hour….as a result, the machines are running out of cash faster than they used to,” he continued. He said the problem affects some machines more than others because “they are more popular” than others, while there are lesser-used machines within the vicinity which may have cash.
“Ultimately, when the machines run out of cash they have to be reloaded, and that reloading is a very carefully scheduled activity. It can’t just be done on a whim — because the people who do the reloading have a schedule — so when one machine runs out of cash, because there is an unusually high demand at that machine it takes them some time to swing back to that machine out of their normal schedule to go and reload it,” he continued as he pointed out that on a payday weekend people tend to withdraw more cash than at any other time during the month.
He also pointed out that there is a build-up of people taking cash more and more from the machines than in the last several years, and this has contributed to the machines runnnig out of cash faster, adding that machines which kept cash for up to a week are now running out of cash in a few hours.
“We have regular discussions with the JBA [Jamaica Bankers Association] on ABM availability. Recently, the matter of crime at the ABMs has been discussed, the matter of supply of cash to the machines has been discussed,” he pointed out, noting that it is an ongoing series of discussions taking place to ensure the MultiLink system operates as smoothly as possible. The MultiLink system, which commenced operations in June 1997, is owned and operated by commercial banks and selected deposit -aking institutions. This is a shared electronic network allowing customers to transact payments at ABMs or point-of-sale machines against their own bank account.
Jenez pointed out to the Business Observer that as many as 250,000 transactions can take place on a peak day, with about 800,000 people using the MultiLink system each month. He said the network accommodates more than $30 billion in transactions in a typical month — $19 billion across ABMs and $17 billion in transactions at point-of-sale machines — with the peak period for disbursement being the Christmas shopping period in December and the Black Friday to Cyber Monday shopping period in late November each year. Last year Christmas some $2.56 billion was disbursed on the network on December 23, the highest on record for a single day last year. Jenez said he expects spending this year to eclipse that figure and reach $2.7 billion on December 23. Traditionally, Christmas Eve is the biggest spending day of the year but the J.E.T.S. Limited boss said that could be interrupted with Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year. He pointed out that Fridays and Saturdays tend to be bigger shopping days in Jamaica, hence his forecast that the day before Christmas Eve may turn out to be the biggest shopping day this year over a Christmas weekend which spawned five days.
Still, like J.E.T.S. Limited, BOJ said its Office of Consumer Complaints (OCC) has received very few reports from the consuming public about availability issues with ABMs and point-of-sale machines.
“The Bank of Jamaica has received only one complaint in 2022 in relation to an out-of-service POS device that was subsequently replaced,” the central bank said in e-mailed responses to the Business Observer on the matter. “However, we have received complaints in relation to machines malfunctioning during the process of conducting transactions,” it continued but didn’t specify how many.
Overall though, the BOJ said that “in addition to the one complaint received in relation to the out-of-service POS we also received a total of 30 complaints relating to malfunctioning ABMs and/or POS devices over the five-year period (2018 to 2022).”
The central bank noted that the 30 complaints about malfunctioning ABMs and POS over the last five years were as follows:-
• In 2022, five were about malfunctioning ABMs and only one about a malfunctioning POS.
• In 2021, six were about malfunctioning ABMs and two about POS machines.
• In 2020, six were about malfunctioning ABMs and three about POS machines.
• In 2019, four were about malfunctioning ABMs while there were no complaints about POS machines.
• In 2018, three were about malfunctioning ABMs and none about POS machines.
The central bank said when it comes to dealing with consumer complaints about service in the banking sector there is little it can do to help bring about a resolution for the consumer, instead saying the matter is one between the consumer and the banks to solve.
It noted in its responses to the Business Observer that when it comes to consumer issues with the the institutions it supervises, its “actions are guided by The Banking Services (Deposit Taking Institutions) (Customer Related Matters) Code of Conduct, 2016 (‘the Code’)”.
“While ‘the Code’ requires that complaints be resolved within a specific time frame it does not, however, mandate the action to be taken by DTIs in an effort to resolve the complaint. More specifically, we must advise that the Code does not confer on the (BOJ) powers of supervisory intervention into contractual matters between a DTI and its customer, investigative powers in disputes, or intervention for grievance redress in disputes between a DTI and its customers.”
By way of background it explained that “the Code establishes minimum standards of good banking practice for deposit-taking institutions (DTIs) when dealing with customers. It outlines, among others, requirements for certain disclosures and related notice periods, notifications, access to information, and complaints-handling and -resolution mechanisms”.
Turning specifically to the issue of complaints handling and resolution about the availability of ABMs and POS machines, the BOJ said “the Code requires all DTIs to investigate complaints submitted to its offices and communicate the outcome of same within a prescribed time frame. For matters brought to the attention of the central bank we will either request an investigation or an update on the status of the investigation or that a matter be relooked post-resolution based on the nature of the complaint submitted. The bank may also, if new evidence is presented for its attention, request that the matter be relooked/reinvestigated by the DTI, taking due consideration of the new information. Nonetheless, irrespective of how the reopening of the matter is initiated, the final decision resides with the DTI”.
It, however, said that from time to time it has reached out to DTIs in relation to matters of concern to the public, and has issued surveys requesting information on the specific concern.
“The Bank of Jamaica also engages with the Jamaica Bankers Association in relation to matters which relate to the broad banking system, including the matter of availability of banking services,” it said.