Belfast Telegraph

Danske Bank payout to deaf Belfast woman over handling of call

Fiona McKendry
Fiona McKendry
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

A profoundly deaf woman who took a disability discrimination case against a bank has received a £2,000 payout.

Fiona McKendry experienced problems after contacting Danske Bank to report fraudulent activity on her account.

Ms McKendry, who is in her 30s and from Belfast, wears hearing aids in both ears and is a skilled lip reader.

When she spotted the attempted fraud, she checked the bank's website for guidance and made contact via telephone as instructed, with the help of her brother.

She said the employee who took the call refused her service as she was using her brother as an intermediary on the call.

Ms McKendry explained: "I asked my brother to explain my disability and to ask for a reasonable adjustment to enable me to act quickly on fraudulent activity on my bank account.

"I didn't want my brother to act for me, I wanted him to relay the instructions of the bank employee to me and I would respond via the speaker phone.

"Even though the bank employee said he could hear me, the account holder, he refused me service because I was lip-reading the information the employee provided to my brother via speaker phone.

"I could see attempted transactions happening on my account while this call was ongoing and was extremely worried."

The bank had blocked the card immediately after her phone call, but following what she saw as a refusal of service, Ms McKendry contacted her bank via secure messaging on its online app.

The app said it could take three to five days or more to get a response.

Ms McKendry felt the situation was more urgent.

The next morning she was invited to meet the branch manager who confirmed that her card had been blocked following her call, her account was safe and missing funds would be reinstated.

The manager suggested putting in place a mandate that would give her brother access and transaction rights to her accounts.

Ms McKendry rejected this, saying she is well capable of managing her financial affairs herself.

She made a formal complaint to Danske Bank and contacted the Equality Commission.

A disability discrimination case was taken against Northern Bank Ltd, which trades as Danske Bank, with the help of the Equality Commission.

In settling the case, Northern Bank Ltd paid Ms McKendry £2,000 without admission of liability, and has made adjustments to its services.

Ms McKendry said she found the episode "hugely frustrating" and welcomed the bank's move to put in place technology she can use to contact it in a hurry.

Danske Bank said: "Our award-winning local contact centre has since invested in market leading voice biometrics technology to help customers more easily identify themselves securely.

"We have been happy to work with Ms McKendry and the Equality Commission to help deliver better outcomes.

"We also recently became the only company in Northern Ireland to sign up to The Valuable 500, a global movement of organisations who pledge to promote disability inclusion and place it on the board agenda in 2019."

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