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Westpac have been publicly sanctioned for the sudden closure of its Tennant Creek branch in a remote part of the Northern Territory leaving vulnerable customers without access to their money or banking services.

Westpac have been publicly sanctioned for the sudden closure of a branch in a remote part of the Northern Territory, leaving vulnerable customers without access to their money or banking services.

The Banking Code Compliance Committee (BCCC) found the bank failed to provide customers adequate support when it suddenly closed the Tennant Creek branch, almost 1000km south of Darwin, in September 2022.

The industry watchdog founf Westpac had seriously and systematically breached the Banking Code of Practice.

Supplied Editorial Westpac Branch, Tennant Creek, NT. Westpac has been publicly\n sanctioned for closing a branch in a remote area leaving vulnerable customers\n without access to their money. Picture: Google
About 3400 customers in the remote area of Tennant Creek were affected by the closure. Picture: Google

About 3400 customers in the remote area of the NT were affected by the closure which saw up to 30 customers a day seek help from community group CatholicCare NT for assistance to access their banking services after the branch closed.

Some of the customers did not speak English as their first language and had difficulty accessing banking services online.

BCCC chair Ian Govey said Westpac fell short of their promise to customers.

“Their actions have had a significant and detrimental impact on many people within the Tennant Creek community,” he said.

Supplied Editorial Westpac Branch, Tennant Creek, NT. Westpac has been publicly\n sanctioned for closing a branch in a remote area leaving vulnerable customers\n without access to their money. Picture: Google
BCCC chair Ian Govey said the actions of the bank had a significant and detrimental impact on many people within the Tennant Creek community. Picture: Google

“Particularly for vulnerable customers, such as the elderly or those for whom English is not a first language.

“Westpac’s failure to respond promptly to community concerns and provide adequate support was troubling and appears to have disproportionately impacted on vulnerable customers.”

The BCCC found that the bank did not provide information about the transition and support arrangements with customers.

A letter was issued to customer 21 days after the branch closed and a remote services team was deployed to the area five weeks after the closure.

Supplied Editorial Westpac Branch, Tennant Creek, NT. Westpac has been publicly\n sanctioned for closing a branch in a remote area leaving vulnerable customers\n without access to their money. Picture: Google
Customers received a letter 21 days after the branch had closed, and a remote services team was sent to the area five weeks after the closure. Picture: Google

“This delay was unacceptable given the branch was closed with no notice, leaving customers unprepared to transition to other ways of banking,” the report stated.

“The breaches posed a high risk of harm to customers – the members of the community who were most affected, or at risk of being most affected.

“Westpac’s response was inadequate and slow, despite concerns being raised by the community and the BCCC.”

Supplied Editorial Westpac Branch, Tennant Creek, NT. Westpac has been publicly\n sanctioned for closing a branch in a remote area leaving vulnerable customers\n without access to their money. Picture: Google
A Westpac spokesperson said ongoing safety and security threats in Tennant Creek meant they had to close the branch outside of the standard process in order to protect their staff. Picture: Google

A Westpac spokesperson said ongoing safety and security threats in Tennant Creek meant they had to close the branch outside of the standard process in order to protect their staff.

“These circumstances were specific to the Tennant Creek branch and included damage to our branch and ATM.

“Customers were notified of the closure and alternative banking options via SMS ahead of closure, as well as posters in the branch.”

The spokesperson said they recognised more could have been done to support their customers during the closure, and have now reviewed and strengthened their branch closure protocols.