When Chen Hui received 9,917.23 yuan ($1,555) from China Construction Bank on Friday, he was relieved.
The Zhejiang resident from Taizhou's Wenling sued the bank's Wenling branch for its liability in a bank card fraud case in March. The local court ruled the bank had to pay Chen full compensation.
"It happened in the middle of the night on Jan 14. I was sleeping when I received three text messages from the bank, telling me a total of 9,917.23 yuan had been taken out of my debit card ... through three ATM withdraws. But I was in bed when it happened, not at some ATM," Chen told China Daily.
Chen said he believes the bank failed to identify the counterfeit card used to withdraw money from his account. CCB didnot agree and refused to repay Chen.
"The bank later tracked the unauthorized usage of the card and discovered that it occurred in Hong Kong and Macao. I wasn't even there," said Chen.
The Wenling court said the bank was obligated to maintain the confidentiality of consumers' accounts and protect the safety of their clients' money, and should pay 9,917.23 yuan to Chen.
Ren Jinbo, a lawyer with Shanghai Yuanye Law Firm, said Chen received full compensation "because he's living in a relatively small city rather than in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou".
"Similar cases in Shanghai would usually end up with an out-of-court settlement in my experience. The bank may pay the plaintiff part of the loss but never the full amount. A judge told me that once a full compensation is awarded, many will go to the court expecting that verdict. That would put too much pressure on the bank," Ren said, adding that he has seen a significant increase in bank card fraud cases in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Ren said he recently represented a client in Shanghai who lost 48,000 yuan in a bank fraud case. The court ruled that the bank was responsible for two-thirds of the money, and that the suspects who stole the money would pay the rest when they were caught.
An officer from Wenzhou's Agricultural Bank of China said it is unfair for the bank to take full responsibility.
"It's not part of our routine management scope, if an ATM was tampered with," said the officer, who declined to be named. "We've been put into a difficult situation as well by the card fraud because many customers don't protect their passwords."
To prevent their clients from being cheated, banks are planning to introduce new bank card technology.
"A new type of bank card will be launched hopefully next year to clients to prevent them from being cheated of their personal information when they use their cards," she said, adding that the magnetic stripe would be replaced by an chip to store the personal information, which is believed to be safer.
Han Qiang, a professor from East China University of Political Science and Law, agreed and said the bank's responsibilities varied based on the details of the case.
"I don't think it's a matter of where it happened, it's not about big city or small village. The bank doesn't have an obligation to monitor an ATM 24 hours a day," he said.
"All banks in China will no longer issue cards with a magnetic stripe card by 2015. The new card is definitely going to be more expensive and consumers need to foot the bill," said Jin Chen, project manager of Zhongchao Credit Card Industry Development Co.
Yu Ran contributed to this story.