By Peter Stevenson
THE BANK of Cyprus (BoC) is urging people to be vigilant when it comes to checking bank statements after it was discovered that due to a systems error, a number of customers, including a babies and toddlers group, had been wrongly subjected to a haircut on their deposits.
According to a BoC spokesman, the bank is aware that mistakes have been made and are attempting to fix them.
“Certain companies were listed wrongly within our system and when the order was given to cut deposits they were unfortunately included,” he said. “We are aware of the problem and we are working to rectify it,” he added.
The spokesman said that if a customer notices their account has been erroneously debited then they should contact their local branch manager who should be able to fix the problem.
“Our customers should feel at ease that mistakes can be rectified, as long as they are actual mistakes,” he concluded.
Currently, 60 per cent of the uninsured part of BoC deposits – the 37.5 per cent already subjected to a haircut, plus another 22.5 per cent – is susceptible to a conversion into equity. The remaining 40 per cent of uninsured BoC deposits is for the time being not subject to such conversion but 30 per cent of it remains frozen.
Mother of two, 36-year-old, Angie Eliades who runs St. Paul’s Babies and Toddlers playgroup was shocked when she was informed that the group’s account, which contained a grand total of €960 had been given a haircut.
“I handed over a cheque of €252 at the end of April to pay for rent and was told on Monday that it had bounced,” she said. Eliades visited her BoC branch to find out why the cheque had bounced even though there should have been sufficient funds in the account.
“The assistant manger, whose English wasn’t great, told me that we were liable to receive a haircut and that there was nothing we could do about it as it was happening across the island,” she said.
Eliades explained that the group charges €4 per every two-hour session so they can cover rent, food and drinks for the children, new toys and a cleaner. “The group is run by volunteer mums who dedicate their time to keep the playgroup running,” she added. The group which has been running for more than 20 years is open to everyone but would have been forced to close its doors if the bank’s mistake had not been rectified.
“I decided that I would send my Cypriot husband to the bank to try and clarify the situation or at least receive the details in writing to find out why and how much they had taken as we were under the impression that only accounts over €100,000 were going to be cut,” Eliades said.
“He went down and was told they had discovered the mistake and the money was thankfully going be returned,” she added.
The event served as a lesson to Eliades who told the Mail that she hoped people would be more aware in the future and demand their rights.
“I hope people take note and realise they need to be more aware to put up a fight because if I had walked away we could have lost our money,” she concluded.
Eliades’ BoC branch manager confirmed to the Sunday Mail that the babies and toddlers group had wrongly been given a haircut and that the money was due to be returned.
“They were wrongly listed as a pension fund in our system, instead of a charity and that is why they were given a haircut but we are fully aware of the case and the money which was taken will be returned,” he said.
He explained that under the current regulations certain provident, insurance, investment and pension funds are not protected under the insured deposits guarantee of €100,000 and under.
“The bank is aware that a problem exists within the system and is working to fix it and return any money which was taken erroneously,” the manager said.
“The public can rest assured that we are continuing to run checks on where money was taken from and if it is discovered that a cut was performed mistakenly on any account then the mistake will be rectified,” he concluded.