The Death of Common Sense

by | Mar 10, 2015 | General property Law

“It’s the death of common sense,” he said leaning on my doorframe, frustration etched on his face.  This was the third visit – trying to provide information to the bank suitable to meet anti-money laundering requirements; – so he could get online access to a bank account.

Ronald* (*name changed for issues of privacy and to save him from embarrassment) had so far provided to the bank a copy of his valid passport, a certified true copy of his firearms licence, a certified true copy of his driver’s licence and a copy of a utility bill certified as been the same as the one just printed.  Still, it was not enough.  This bank* (*name withheld for issues of privacy and to save them from embarrassment) now wanted to insist on the precise wording of the certification.  They liked the language of one certifying stamp used by a lawyer rather than the other.  Ronald responded by telling the bank he did not want access to the bank account anymore.

He is not alone in his frustration.  New requirements mean this is a constant theme – and interpretation of the legal requirements differ from bank to bank.  To comply with individual interpretations of the requirements we have had to:

  • certify that certified copies of originals were in fact true copies.
  • have a client print off a utility bill and hand-deliver it to us (rather than e-mail it to us) so we could certify a copy as being a copy of the original printed.
  • meet personally with the banks so they could carefully go through the identity/ documentation.

In 2013 the Department of Internal Affairs issued a code of practice explaining what information a new customer to a bank needs to provide to verify their identity.  It gets pretty complicated.  Here is the link.

Verification of identity can be made by providing certain documents or through electronic identity verification.

To comply with electronic identity requirements the customer must verify their name:

  • from an electronic source to a high level of confidence


  • 2 independent sources

They must also verify their date of birth from an independent source.

Most people still opt for providing hard copy documents to verify identity.  There are other documents that will work but if you provide a passport that will be sufficient to prove your identity.  You can provide the bank with the original of the passport directly or a certified copy.  There are specific requirements about how the certification requirements can be met.

A bank is also required to verify the customer’s address using documents, data or information from a reliable and independent source.  The code of practice does not prescribe how this requirement should be met leaving banks to make their own requirements.

By Debra Dorrington