Westpac has blocked 24,000 abusive messages in payments

Westpac's zero-tolerance tool required 19,000 customers to change the language of their transaction description before payments were processed.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Westpac said it has managed to block some 24,000 transactions that were deemed as abusive payments.

In its environment, social, and governance strategy update, the bank also noted it required 19,000 customers to change the language they used in transaction descriptions before their payments could be accepted and processed.

The bank added it issued more than 800 warning letters and account suspensions and reported more than 70 customers to authorities for abusive payments.  

The bank announced earlier in the year it would not tolerate any messages containing abuse being sent in transaction descriptions. Terms considered inappropriate by the bank range from swear words through to domestic violence threats.

"We want to create a safer digital banking experience for our customers and send a clear signal that abusive messages in payment transactions will not be tolerated," Westpac general manager of customer solutions Lisa Pogonoski previously said.

To contain such behaviour, the red and black bank rolled out a new tool enabling customers to report abuse and harassment received in the payment transaction description for inbound payments.

The bank also deployed technology to monitor outgoing payments sent through its online and mobile banking platforms, which blocks certain transactions containing inappropriate or offensive language in real-time.

In other updates, Westpac highlighted that in relation to its Customer Outcomes and Risk Excellence (CORE) program, it has completed 104 out of 327 planned activities designed to uplift the bank's management and governance of risk. These included upgrading its transaction screen software and settings, identifying data points and establishing automated reconciliations and checks, using analytics to improve detection, and improving risk reporting through a new insights platform.

For the first half the 2022 financial year, Westpac highlighted tech expenses increased AU$40 million, attributing part of the rise was relating to the CORE program. This was off the back of a profit increase, posting AU$3.4 billion.  


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