Pensioner revolt over bank’s ‘cashless’ bid

A pensioners' rights group in central Sweden has accused a Swedish bank of discrimination over plans to end cash handling services at local branch offices.

Pensioner revolt over bank's 'cashless' bid

“Scrapping the handling of cash within the banking world can, generally speaking, be considered as discriminating against the age group we represent,” a local chapter of the National Pensioners’ Organisation (Pensionärernas Riksorganisation – PRO) wrote in its complaint, according to the local Nya Wermlands-Tidning.

The complaint, to be sent to Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen – DO) by the local PRO chapter in Frykerud in central Sweden, comes in response to plans by Swedbank Värmland to remove cash-handling services from all of its branches in Värmland County, save for one branch office in Karlstad.

Swedbank’s plans to go cashless, slated to go into effect on May 1st, will make it impossible for people outside Karlstad to withdraw from or deposit cash in their bank accounts, the group alleges.

“Those of us who live outside of Karlstad – a majority of the population in Värmland, consider Swedbank’s plans to be incredibly discriminatory,” the complaint continues.

According to PRO, the move will hit pensioners especially hard, as many cannot or do not want to use bank cards or internet banking services, making them more dependent on carrying out transactions using cash.

Forcing pensioners in need of cash to make the journey to Karlstad is an unfair demand for the bank to place on its customers.

Ahead of the filing of the discrimination complaint, local newspapers were flooded with angry letters from pensioners protesting Swedbank’s decision.

“After having polio as a child, I’m wheelchair bound. I, and many like me, can’t manage using a cash machine,” Inger Vestergård wrote in a letter to the local Värmlands Folkblad newspaper.

“Waiting in line at a money machine is a problem for us. And now it’s also fashionable to rob pensioners and handicapped.”

Swedbank spokesperson Anna Sundblad told The Local that the bank “takes the complaint seriously”.

“We consider all complaints like this to be a failure on our part,” she said.

Sundblad explained that the rationale behind the decision is Swedbank’s belief that the use of cash is on the decline.

“There are many alternatives to cash,” said Sundblad.

“We believe that using a bank card is a safer and more secure method of payment.”

She emphasised that the decision to remove cash services in Värmland was taken regionally and added that the bank is open to exploring ways to help pensioners make the transition to a cashless society.

“We expect to have discussions about the various problems that may affect individual customers,” she said.

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Swedish bank’s IT fault puts customer accounts in the red

A technical problem at Sweden's Swedbank on Thursday night gave customers a nasty surprise, with their account balances inexplicably going negative, payments impossible, and Swish payments no longer working.

Swedish bank's IT fault puts customer accounts in the red

By 11.30pm, more than 2,000 Swedbank customers had reported the fault to the site Downdetector, and the problem was still not solved by 17.00pm on Friday. 

“We have an ongoing IT disruption where certain customers see an incorrect balance on their accounts,” a message on the bank’s app read. “The reason is a planned update to our internal systems which went wrong. We apologise, of course, for that and are working as quickly as possible to fix the problem.” 

The Swish payment service has also been affected, with the service, which is owned collectively by Swedish banks, reporting on its site that there was a “technical disruption at Swedbank and Sparbank which might affect Swish payments from these banks”. 

Some Swedbank customers posted their negative account balances on Twitter, expressing shock at the incorrect figures. 

The disruption comes at the worst possible time for many Swedes. Many people are paid on the 25th of the month, meaning this Friday marks the start of the payday weekend. Many will have also scheduled their bill payments for this Friday. 

Marko Saric from Malmö saw his account balance drop by 1.2 million kronor, going half a million kronor into the red. 

“It’s just totally crazy,” he told SVT. “We were going to go out and shop for the weekend. It’s lovely weather and the kids want to go out, but we can’t use our card. We’ve got no cash. Everything is in the bank.” 

“You’re just completely blocked. Colleagues need to make emergency food parcels for you. It’s just crazy that something like this should happen.” 

In its statement, the bank assured customers that their money was “secure”, and that the bank still had the correct information on what their account balance should be. 

“Customers who feel that they have suffered economic damage as a result of the disruption should contact the bank,” the message said.