The effects of the 2009 global financial crisis are still being felt, judging by the number of complaints being laid about banks, banking ombudsman Deborah Battell says.
Battell said complaints and inquiries made under the banking ombudsman scheme are running at historically high levels, but the number of disputes requiring investigation is down.
The main issues during the year were related to hardship, mortgage and loan defaults and investment, she said in a statement to coincide with the release of the scheme's 2010/11 annual report.
There was a big jump in complaints about current accounts - half of which were related to claims of negligence, bad administration or errors.
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The workload in the previous year was dominated by complaints about the freezing of funds by ING NZ and ANZ National Bank.
"While the number of disputes was 18 per cent below the previous year, when the ING issue dominated workloads, the number of new inquiries and complaints to the scheme increased," she said.
"Encouragingly, the drop in disputes - those issues that have already been through a participant's complaints process but need our help - indicates that there has been an improvement in our participants' customer service and complaints-handling processes.
"Given the global financial crisis, it also signals more active management of customers who have defaulted on their loans," Battell said.
Publicity about new requirements for financial service providers to belong to a dispute resolution scheme appeared to be one of the reasons for the continuing high level of inquiries and complaints, she said.
"Now that the investment-related issues that dominated our workloads for the past three years have been resolved, we have no need for a waiting list and are resolving matters much more quickly," Battell said.
The ombudsman scheme was putting more focus on being the "fence at the top of the cliff", providing quick guides and information for customers and banks so they can avoid making mistakes, she said.