October 19, 2017 / 5:42 AM / 2 years ago

Australia's Westpac to refund 200,000 customers for missed benefits

Westpac Bank CEO Brian Hartzer listens to a question from the Australian government's Economics Committee at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, October 11, 2017. AAP/Lukas Coch/via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) said on Thursday it will pay refunds to about 200,000 customers who should have received cash benefits, as the country’s lenders seek to ease concerns about their governance after a series of scandals.

Westpac said it would pay the customers about A$65 million ($51 million) in total, resulting in an after-tax charge of A$45 million ($35.3 million).

The customers were supposed to receive cash payments for holding multiple “packaged” accounts since 2010 but did not get the money, Australia’s No. 2 lender said.

“Some customers did not receive discounts on ancillary products such as home and contents insurance and term deposits,” Westpac said in a statement issued to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“The packages have since been simplified and all benefits are now automated.”

The government has increased scrutiny of the banks after a number of scandals shook public confidence in the sector, including alleged breaches of money-laundering laws by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX).

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected opposition calls for a powerful judicial enquiry into the financial sector, saying existing laws and self-regulation are enough to improve the banks’ governance standards.

Westpac shares closed up 0.5 percent on Thursday, in a flat overall market.

Reporting by Rushil Dutta in BENGALURU; Editing by Byron Kaye and Stephen Coates

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