Advocates Welcome Sanctioning of Westpac for Branch Closure

bronze justice statue
Bronze Justice statue

Financial Counselling Australia welcomes the sanctioning of Westpac for breaching the Banking Code of Practice when it closed its branch in Tennant Creek.

The branch was suddenly shut in September 2022 leaving some customers with no access to money.

“It was a complete mess and done with no consultation. Some people were unable to buy food because they relied on face-to-face banking,” said Kelly Gulliver, manager of CatholicCare NT’s financial wellbeing and housing support programs.

“It was disastrous for those customers, many of whom are First Nations people and speak English as a second language,” Ms Gulliver said.

The closure also led to an influx of requests for help from community groups, like CatholicCare NT. A number of financial counsellors had to travel to the remote town, from Darwin, to assist those struggling to cope.

Ms Gulliver made a complaint about the closure to the Banking Code Compliance Committee (BCCC).

The Committee has sanctioned Westpac Bank for serious and systemic breaches of the Banking Code of Practice after it failed to provide adequate support to customers following the closure.

The BCCC sanction is to name Westpac and publish details of the breaches on its website, which is the most severe action it can take under the code.

“This sends a clear message to Westpac, and other banks, that there are clear procedures to follow when closing branches, especially in isolated places like Tennant Creek,” said co-CEO of FCA, Peter Gartlan.

“Westpac’s decision calls into question to whose benefit are bank closures really for”, Mr Gartlan said.

“Financial counsellors see the harm and stress bank closures cause in communities like this. People need proper notice, they need support and they need access to money so they can continue to buy essential goods and services.”

Above is a media release by Financial Counselling Australia. For a summary of the decision, the BCCC’s media release, the FCA media contact and the original article (released 25/06/2024) click here.