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‘Disproportionate?’ Polaris ordered to pay N500k damage over failed N61k POS transaction

An Akwa Ibom State High Court has ordered Polaris Bank to pay a customer N500,000 as damages for the bank’s failure to reverse a failed Point of Sales (POS) transaction within 72 hours as provided by law.

The plaintiff, Idongesit Nwoko, is a civil servant in Akwa Ibom and a Polaris Bank customer.

She made a withdrawal of N61,000 via POS on December 24, 2020, but was debited without payment.

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Mrs Nwoko said she made several efforts, including several visits to the bank, but the debit was not reversed until after 28 days.

Dissatisfied with the way she was treated by the bank, the woman, through her lawyer, Utibe Nwoko, sued Polaris Bank.

Mrs Nwoko asked the court to compel the bank to refund her N61,000.

She also asked the court to compel the bank to pay her N100 million as damages and N1 million as cost of her legal action.

Justice Bennett Ilaumo, in her ruling, ordered the bank to pay N500,000 as damages to Mrs Nwoko for failing to reverse the transaction within the 72 hours as provided by the law.

Anthony Ebuk, lawyer to the defendant, said that his client would appeal the ruling.

Mr Ebuk, who said the court cannot amend the pleadings of a party in a suit, argued that the plaintiff, in her prayers, asked the court to order the return of her money, pay her damages for her money that ‘was lost’ and pay her the cost of legal action.

He said the plaintiff did not ask for payment of damages for the delayed reversal which the court awarded to her.

He further said that his client returned the said money to the customer’s account within the 16 days allowed by the law for such transactions.

Mr Ebuk said the plaintiff later withdrew the money before approaching the court.

According to Mr Ebuk, the judgment was not based on the pleadings of the party, but on “a total misdirection of fact.”

“The judgment was not the true position of the law. It wasn’t the terms of agreement. There was no hearing in that matter. Everything was totally against the rule of practice and the law.

“The plaintiff tried to withdraw money with a Polaris Bank Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card, but she did not go to Polaris Bank. She went to another bank’s POS. Going to another bank’s POS, that bank debited her account from Polaris Bank but did not pay her.

“The law is if you come to Polaris Bank with its bank card it should be reversed immediately or within 24 hours, but when it has to do with a third party bank, you have to file an application before the money is reversed to the owner.

“The law allows for 16 days for the money to be reversed from the day the application was filed.

“The woman was debited on December 24, 2021 but she did not notify the bank until after the Christmas holidays about January 4, 2022. From the day she notified the bank we covered the period and returned her money within the 16 days in line with the law,” Mr Ebuk said.

The spokesperson for Polaris Bank, Rasheed Bolarinwa, described the N500,000 damage as disproportionate compared to the N60,000 that was ‘trapped.’

He said the bank was reviewing the judgment and would take ‘the necessary legal steps’ thereafter.

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