Banks must pay up if hacked

Tuesday, 14 October 2003, 1:38 PM EST

Customers who lose money to Internet bank crackers have a legal right to be refunded by the bank, a leading lawyer said this week.

Reinhard Buys, who runs a law firm that specialises in Internet security, said South Africa's Electronic Communications and Transactions Act - which came into effect last year - forces banks and other businesses offering online payment systems to refund customers if it can be proved they did not provide a safe service.

His comments follow a series of scandals involving Internet banking security. Several Absa customers lost tens of thousands from their accounts, allegedly to a cracker.

Last week, the Sunday Times demonstrated through a computer expert how easily the latest online security measures could be foiled. Buys said, in terms of the law, businesses would be liable for all damages resulting from unsafe online payment systems. "Banks, for instance, won't be able to get out of it by having customers sign a non-liability document as Section 48 of the Act makes it very clear that the refund clause is cast in stone."

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