ANZ officials have conceded they’re unsure what powers they have if a customer uses online banking transactions to send death threats.

The Australian Banking Association has raised the issue of domestic violence in banking when people send insignificant amounts of money online, using the transaction description to send abusive messages.

ANZ’s Mark Hand has told a parliamentary inquiry descriptions are blocked if they use swear words, but was unsure about threats of violence.

Liberal MP Julian Simmonds asked if the bank had powers to refer such instances to the police.

Asked what happens if a message says “I will kill you”, Mr Hand admitted he didn’t know and would find out.

“It would be good to get an understanding if you think those requirements aren’t there for you to refer, or if the police don’t have the appropriate power at the moment, then we could consider what legislation we have to put in place around that,” Mr Simmonds said.

ANZ chief Shayne Elliott said the bank was figuring out how to approach the issue as it was difficult to manage.

“I’m not sure it’s appropriate we monitor customer communications,” he said on Friday.

“It’s really sad that people are abusing it.”

Commonwealth Bank has recently introduced new rules for online banking after discovering abusive messages in the transaction descriptions of scores of customers.

Under revised guidelines the bank may refuse transactions and suspend online access for customers who use its online services to stalk, harass or intimidate others.

But the new approach will not prevent people using other banks’ systems to send potentially abusive messages.

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