Bank call centres have seen a massive spike in people ringing to ask for financial assistance in the wake of the Government's announcement of a six-month mortgage relief package with some customers complaining of a two-hour wait.

Finance minister Grant Robertson announced the mortgage and small and medium-sized business relief package yesterday afternoon.

READ MORE:
Mortgage holiday and business finance support schemes to cushion pandemic impacts

But banks are still working through the criteria for eligibility and most have yet to announce any details.

Advertisement

That hasn't stopped Kiwis from trying to call their bank to get access to the package.

ANZ, the country's largest bank, yesterday asked customers via its Facebook to not call its contact centre asking about the mortgage relief package as its wait times were very high.

"We're working to provide home loan repayment relief for up to six months for customers who have been financially impacted by Covid-19. We'll keep you posted on how and when you can access this option and what terms may apply.

"Please don't call our contact centre to ask about this option now, as wait times are very high. Instead, you can find the latest Covid-19 information at www.anz.co.nz/heretohelp and we'll update this site with details as soon as we can."

Westpac New Zealand said on its Facebook page that those who needed urgent help should call its line but asked others wanting to know about the mortgage relief deal to wait a few days.

"We're working with government to provide special Covid-19-related home loan relief for up to six months. We hope to share details of this in the next few days.

"Customers who need assistance should call us on 0800 606 606 but we currently have very high call volumes so if you can wait a few days it would really help."

One Westpac customer said she had been on the phone line for two hours and 10 minutes only to have it disconnected.

Advertisement

"So frustrated and upset."

Another said she had hung up after waiting two hours as she "just couldn't hold on any longer."

A Westpac spokesman said it was experiencing extremely high call volumes and wait times were long.

"Our people are doing their best to answer calls and we thank customers for their patience.

"We know many of our customers are finding themselves in circumstances they would not have anticipated a month ago, and we're working through how we can help each person."

The spokesman said anyone who coud wait a day or two should delay their call so it could talk to those with immediate needs.

"Banking is an essential service and our customer service team in our contact centre will be working through the lockdown period."

He said the bank was working hard to increase the number of people taking calls, modifying its phone system to better direct calls, and extending an option that enabled customers to request a call back from it.

ASB Bank was also asking customers on its Facebook page to keep checking its website to "ease the load on our contact centre during these unprecedented times."

Paul Carter, Bank of New Zealand chief customer officer, said on a normal day it had around 5000 calls a day.

"We are now running in excess of 10,000. It's very high."

Carter said the wait time for customers varied and noted its SME customer line only had a 1- minute wait at the moment while its retail line had a more than one-hour wait.

The six-month mortgage relief package was the top query but it was hoping to reduce the number of calls now it had an online form for customers to apply for it.

"If you are calling about home loan relief please go to our website and apply online," he urged.

He said banks were deciding on the eligibility criteria on a bank by bank basis.

BNZ customers are being asked if they want to go interest only or have a mortgage payment holiday or another option, when their next repayment date is and whether they have suffered a loss of income or will do due to Covid-19.

Carter said it would use the repayment date to work out which borrowers to prioritise and then hoped to get its retail branch staff to call people to find out which option was best for them.

"We are really serious about getting help to customers who really need it," he said.

"For those people who have experienced reduced income because of Covid-19, this is what this home loan relief is for".

A spokeswoman for Kiwibank said it was offering all existing home loan customers up to six months' home loan repayment holiday provided they met the following criteria; be an existing Kiwibank customer, have lost or had their regular income reduced due to Covid-19 or is about to experience reduced income.

She said the standard offering was six months but customers could also ask for three months or could stop the loan holiday at any time.

"Customers that are already in payment arrears for their home loan maybe subject to additional criteria."

She urged home loan customers needing help to apply via its customer contact form on its website.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website