April 9th, 2009 at 14:01 UTC by Ross Anderson
The trial of Job v Halifax plc has been set down for April 30th at 1030 in the Nottingham County Court, 60 Canal Street, Nottingham NG1 7EJ. Alain Job is an immigrant from the Cameroon who has had the courage to sue his bank over phantom withdrawals from his account. The bank refused to refund the money, making the usual claim that its systems were secure. There’s a blog post on the cavalier way in which the Ombudsman dealt with his case. Alain’s case was covered briefly in Guardian in the run-up to a previous hearing; see also reports in Finextra here, here and (especially) here.
The trial should be interesting and I hope it’s widely reported. Whatever the outcome, it may have a significant effect on consumer protection in the UK. For years, financial regulators have been just as credulous about the banks’ claims to be in control of their information-security risk management as they were about the similar claims made in respect of their credit risk management (see our blog post on the ombudsman for more). It’s not clear how regulatory capture will (or can) be fixed in respect of credit risk, but it is just possible that a court could fix the consumer side of things. (This happened in the USA with the Judd case, as described in our submission to the review of the ombudsman service — see p 13.)
For further background reading, see blog posts on the technical failures of chip and PIN, the Jane Badger case, the McGaughey case and the failures of fraud reporting. Go back into the 1990s and we find the Halifax again as the complainant in R v Munden; John Munden was prosecuted for attempted fraud after complaining about phantom withdrawals. The Halifax couldn’t produce any evidence and he was acquitted.