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Thursday, 31 March 2011


A kiwi is not meant to be mistaken for a weasel. And the kiwi guilty of this bit of corruption usually isn't. In most things it is a very good kiwi. But in one thing someone has genetically modified some weasel into it.

The culprit is Kiwibank. It goes against the grain to criticise it, because it is a good bank, but the problem with weasels is that they grow into voracious monsters unless you shoot them early.

There are three or four ways of doing transactions with a bank. Bricks, clicks, calls and walls. You can go to the bricks-and-mortar branch, you can use the Internet, you can use phonebanking, and for some things you can use an ATM.

With Kiwibank you pay nothing for using bricks, clicks and walls, but if you do the exactly the same thing using calls you are charged for the call. That is inconsistent, and unfair. It is also not the habit of other banks--those Aussie ones that Kiwibank likes to sling off at.

Why penalise people for using the quickest, most convenient way of doing simple things like checking on their balance or paying a bill or moving their money about? Doesn't Kiwibank like customers?

But if you have the temerity to complain to Kiwibank about its phonebanking charges you get an eyeful or an earful of weasel water. When it's all boiled down to the concentrated yellow stuff what you are getting is this:

1) 'We are upfront about our charges.' So--unfairness is unfairness, wrongdoing is wrongdoing, even if you tell people in advance that you are going to do it. If you don't believe that, Kiwibank Complaints Manager (Bruce Thompson), write a letter to the police telling them that you are now going to do 120kph on the motorway all the time, or that you intend driving with too much alcohol in you ditto. Do you think that that will stop them from arresting you?

2) 'We want to work something out.' What Mr Thompson offered was to refund the last five months' of phonebanking charges ($27) and hand out twenty post-paid envelopes--but without any admission of wrondoing or liability--as 'full and final settlement. In short, take a bribe to shut up and go away and stay shut up for ever and ever.

3) 'You can use the Internet or the mail to pay your bills.' Ah, now we have the guts of it. They are control-freaks. They want to tell us how to live our lives. That is the hallmark of bureaucrats; they always want to push people round. The fact that phonebanking is the fastest, the most convenient and the easiest way of doing almost everything is irrelevant to that mindset. It just wants you push you round. Live the way we want, not the way you want, is their mentality.

4) 'We don't charge for the first five calls each month.' More control-freakery. Live how we want you to, not how you want. So if, for example, you have to check five times in a single day to see when a cash-deposit has come in--well, tough. Five times in month. How many bills come in in a month? How many times do you have to check your balance in a month? How many times do you want to move money about in a month. Five! How generous
can a control-frealk be!? Think of all the money Kiwibank is making out of a system run entirely by computers. It's money for old rope.

5) 'We are not going to change.' So at last we got to the bottom line, which translates: 'We intend being stupid and bureaucratically pigheaded, no matter what. So there! We'll keep making lotsa money for old rope.'

The problem, for Kiwibank, is that it is owned by the government, and therefore must toe the line drawn by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which every one, including its customers, 'the right to the observance of the principles of natural justice.' As a judge has observed that means 'fairness writ large.'

Which means that Kiwibank's attempts to be small, small-minded, weasel-brained and weasel-mouthed are against that pesky thing called the law. Even worse, against the paramount piece of legislation, the Bill of Rights. Which is the law put there to protect Kiwis. From weasels. From unfairness.

It also means that Kiwibank, via its Complaints Manager, was attempting to bribe me into a breach of the Bill of Rights Act with his weasel-piddling $27 and his twenty freeby envelopes.

Please, Kiwibank, stop being Weaselbank in your phonebanking charges. Be 24-carat Kiwibank.