Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Banking Ombudsmen Scheme

A brief Dissection Banking Ombudsmen Scheme
By : PRONOY KUMAR GHOSE

In order to provide quick, inexpensive and expedite settlement of customer's complaints, the Reserve Bank introduced Banking Ombudsman Scheme since June 1995 under the provisions of Section 35 of Banking Regulation Act, 1949. The Banking Ombudsman Scheme enables an expeditious and inexpensive forum to bank customers for resolution of complaints relating to certain services rendered by banks.

Banking Ombudsman Scheme 2006 and Recent Amendments:
The Banking Ombudsman Scheme is introduced under Section 35 A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 by RBI with effect from June, 1995 and was revised in 2002 and later the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 was introduced. The Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 enables resolution of complaints of bank customer relating to certain services rendered by banks. The Scheme has come into force from January 1, 2006 replacing the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2002. The new Scheme also provides for online submission of complaints. The new Scheme additionally provides for the institution of an “appellate authority” for providing scope for appeal against an award passed by the Ombudsman both by the bank as well as the complainant.

Who is a Banking Omdudsman:
The Banking Ombudsman is a senior official appointed by the Reserve Bank of India to redress customer complaints against deficiency in certain banking services. The Banking Ombudsman is appointed by the RBI under the Banking Ombudsman Scheme,1995 for redressing the grievances of members of the public. The Banking Ombudsman is a quasi judicial authority.

Appointment of Banking Ombudsmen:
The Reserve bank of India appoints banking Ombudsman under the provisions of banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date). According to the provisions of Chapter II clause 4 (1) The Reserve Bank may appoint one or more of its officers in the rank of Chief General Manager or General Manager to be known as Banking Ombudsmen to carry out the functions entrusted to them by or under the Scheme. As on date, fifteen Banking Ombudsmen have been appointed with their offices located mostly in state capitals.

Qualification and tenure of Banking Ombudsman:
Senior officials of high standing in the legal, banking, financial services or public administration are usually appointed as a Banking Ombudsman. The tenure of a Banking Ombudsman is three years, although that can be extended for a further period not exceeding two years, subject to an overall age-limit of sixty-five years. The Banking Ombudsman, is required to devote all of his or her time to the affairs of their office. The remuneration and other perquisites payable to the Banking Ombudsman is determined by the RBI from time to time and is borne by the banks in such proportion and in such manner as is determined by the RBI.

Jurisdiction, powers and duties of Banking Ombudsman:
According to the provisions of the Chapter III Clause 7 (1) of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date), {herein after called ‘Scheme’}, the Reserve Bank of India specifies the territorial limits to which the authority of each Banking Ombudsman appointed under the provisions of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme shall extend.

According to the provisions of the Chapter III Clause 7 (2) of the Scheme, The Banking Ombudsman shall receive and consider complaints relating to the deficiencies in banking or other services filed on the grounds mentioned in the provisions of the Scheme and facilitate their satisfaction or settlement by agreement or through conciliation and mediation between the bank concerned and the aggrieved parties or by passing an Award in accordance with the Scheme.
According to the provisions of the Chapter III Clause 7 (3) of the Scheme, The Banking Ombudsman shall exercise general powers of superintendence and control over his Office and shall be responsible for the conduct of business thereat.

According to the provisions of the Chapter III Clause 7 (4) of the Scheme , The Office of the Banking Ombudsman shall draw up an annual budget for itself in consultation with Reserve Bank and shall exercise the powers of expenditure within the approved budget on the lines of Reserve Bank of India Expenditure Rules, 2005.
According to the provisions of the Chapter III Clause 7 (5) of the Scheme, The Banking Ombudsman shall send to the Governor, Reserve Bank, a report, as on 30th June every year, containing a general review of the activities of his Office during the preceding financial year and shall furnish such other information as the Reserve Bank may direct and the Reserve Bank may, if it considers necessary in the public interest so to do, publish the report and the information received from the Banking Ombudsman in such consolidated form or otherwise as it deems fit.

Grounds of Complaint: 
According to the provisions of the Chapter IV Clause 8 of Banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date),

(1) Any person may file a complaint with the Banking Ombudsman having jurisdiction on any one of the following grounds alleging deficiency in banking including internet banking or other services :

(a) non-payment or inordinate delay in the payment or collection of cheques, drafts, bills etc.;

(b) non-acceptance, without sufficient cause, of small denomination notes tendered for any purpose, and for charging of commission in respect thereof;

(c) non-acceptance, without sufficient cause, of coins tendered and for charging of commission in respect thereof;

(d) non-payment or delay in payment of inward remittances ;

(e) failure to issue or delay in issue of drafts, pay orders or bankers’ cheques;

(f) non-adherence to prescribed working hours ;

(g) failure to provide or delay in providing a banking facility (other than loans and advances) promised in writing by a bank or its direct selling agents;

(h) delays, non-credit of proceeds to parties' accounts, non-payment of deposit or non-observance of the Reserve Bank directives applicable to rate of interest on deposits in any savings, current or other account maintained with a bank

(i) complaints from Non-Resident Indians having accounts in India in relation to their remittances from abroad, deposits and other bankrelated matters;

(j) refusal to open deposit accounts without any valid reason for refusal;

(k) levying of charges without adequate prior notice to the customer;

(l) non-adherence by the bank or its subsidiaries to the instructions of Reserve Bank on ATM/Debit card operations or credit card operations;

(m) non-disbursement or delay in disbursement of pension (to the extent the grievance can be attributed to the action on the part of the bank concerned, but not with regard to its employees);

(n) refusal to accept or delay in accepting payment towards taxes, as required by Reserve Bank/Government;

(o) refusal to issue or delay in issuing, or failure to service or delay in servicing or redemption of Government securities;

(p) forced closure of deposit accounts without due notice or without sufficient reason;

(q) refusal to close or delay in closing the accounts;

(r) non-adherence to the fair practices code as adopted by the bank;

(s) non-adherence to the provisions of the Code of Bank's Commitments to Customers issued by Banking Codes and Standards Board of India and as adopted by the bank ;

(t) non-observance of Reserve Bank guidelines on engagement of recovery agents by banks; and

(u) any other matter relating to the violation of the directives issued by the Reserve Bank in relation to banking or other services.

(2) A complaint on any one of the following grounds alleging deficiency in banking service in respect of loans and advances may be filed with the Banking Ombudsman having jurisdiction:

(a) non-observance of Reserve Bank Directives on interest rates;

(b) delays in sanction, disbursement or non-observance of prescribed time schedule for disposal of loan applications;

(c) non-acceptance of application for loans without furnishing valid reasons to the applicant; and

(d) non-adherence to the provisions of the fair practices code for lenders as adopted by the bank or Code of Bank’s Commitment to Customers, as the case may be;
(e) non-observance of Reserve Bank guidelines on engagement of recovery agents by banks; and

(f) non-observance of any other direction or instruction of the Reserve Bank as may be specified by the Reserve Bank for this purpose from time to time.

(3) The Banking Ombudsman may also deal with such other matter as may be specified by the Reserve Bank from time to time in this behalf.

According to the provision of Chapter IV Clause 8 (3) of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 The Banking Ombudsman may also deal with such other matter as may be specified by the Reserve Bank from time to time in this behalf.

Procedure for redressal of grievances:
According to the provisions of Chapter IV Clause 9 of the Banking Ombudsma Act, 2006 (as amended upto date),

(1) Any person who has a grievance against a bank on any one or more of the grounds mentioned in herein above of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme may, himself or through his authorised representative (other than an advocate), make a complaint to the Banking Ombudsman within whose jurisdiction the branch or office of the bank complained against is located. Provided that a complaint arising out of the operations of credit cards and other types of services with centralized operations, shall be filed before the Banking Ombudsman within whose territorial jurisdiction the billing address of the customer is located.

(2) (a) The complaint in writing shall be duly signed by the complainant or his authorized representative and shall be, as near as thereto as circumstances admit, stating clearly:

(i) the name and the address of the complainant,

(ii) the name and address of the branch or office of the bank against which the complaint is made,

(iii) the facts giving rise to the complaint,

(iv) the nature and extent of the loss caused to the complainant, and

(v) the relief sought for.

(b) The complainant shall file along with the complaint, copies of the documents, if any, which he proposes to rely upon and a declaration that the complaint is maintainable under the provisions of Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 (as amended upto date).

(c) A complaint made through electronic means shall also be accepted by the Banking Ombudsman and a print out of such complaint shall be taken on the record of the Banking Ombudsman.

(d) The Banking Ombudsman shall also entertain complaints covered by this Scheme received by Central Government or Reserve Bank and forwarded to him for disposal.
(3) No complaint to the Banking Ombudsman shall lie unless:-

(a) the complainant had, before making a complaint to the Banking Ombudsman, made a written representation to the bank and the bank had rejected the complaint or the complainant had not received any reply within a period of one month after the bank received his representation or the complainant is not satisfied with the reply given to him by the bank;

(b) the complaint is made not later than one year after the complainant has received the reply of the bank to his representation or, where no reply is received, not later than one year and one month after the date of the representation to the bank;

(c) the complaint is not in respect of the same cause of action which was settled or dealt with on merits by the Banking Ombudsman in any previous proceedings whether or not received from the same complainant or along with one or more complainants or one or more of the parties concerned with the cause of action ;

(d) the complaint does not pertain to the same cause of action, for which any proceedings before any court, tribunal or arbitrator or any other forum is pending or a decree or Award or order has been passed by any such court, tribunal, arbitrator or forum;

(e) the complaint is not frivolous or vexatious in nature; and

(f) the complaint is made before the expiry of the period of limitation prescribed under the Indian Limitation Act, 1963 for such.

Power to call for information:
According to the provision of the Chapter IV Clause 10 of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 (as amended up to date),

(1) For the purpose of carrying out his duties under this Scheme, a Banking Ombudsman may require the bank against whom the complaint is made or any other bank concerned with the complaint to provide any information or furnish certified copies of any document relating to the complaint which is or is alleged to be in its possession.

Provided that in the event of the failure of a bank to comply with the requisition without sufficient cause, the Banking Ombudsman may, if he deems fit, draw the inference that the information if provided or copies if furnished would be unfavourable to the bank.

(2) The Banking Ombudsman shall maintain confidentiality of any information or document that may come into his knowledge or possession in the course of discharging his duties and shall not disclose such information or document to any person except with the consent of the person furnishing such information or document.

Provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent the Banking Ombudsman from disclosing information or document furnished by a party in a complaint to the other party or parties to the extent considered by him to be reasonably required to comply with any legal requirement or the principles of natural justice and fair play in the proceedings.

Settlement of Complaint by Agreement: 
According to the provision of the Chapter IV Clause 11 of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date), {herein after called ‘Scheme’},

(1) As soon as it may be practicable to do, the Banking Ombudsman shall send a copy of the complaint to the branch or office of the bank named in the complaint, under advice to the nodal officer referred to in the provisions of the Scheme, and endeavour to promote a settlement of the complaint by agreement between the complainant and the bank through conciliation or mediation.

(2) For the purpose of promoting a settlement of the complaint, the Banking Ombudsman may follow such procedure as he may consider just and proper and he shall not be bound by any rules of evidence.

(3) The proceedings before the Banking Ombudsman shall be summary in nature.

Award by the Banking Ombudsman: 
According to the provision of the Chapter IV Clause 12 of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date), {herein after called ‘Scheme’},

(1) If a complaint is not settled by agreement within a period of one month from the date of receipt of the complaint or such further period as the Banking Ombudsman may allow the parties, he may, after affording the parties a reasonable opportunity to present their case, pass an Award or reject the complaint.

(2) The Banking Ombudsman shall take into account the evidence placed before him by the parties, the principles of banking law and practice, directions, instructions and guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank from time to time and such other factors which in his opinion are relevant to the complaint.

(3) The award shall state briefly the reasons for passing the award.

(4) The Award passed under the provisions of the Scheme shall contain the direction/s, if any, to the bank for specific performance of its obligations and in addition to or otherwise, the amount, if any, to be paid by the bank to the complainant by way of compensation for any loss suffered by the complainant, arising directly out of the act or omission of the bank.

(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in the provisions of the Scheme, the Banking Ombudsman shall not have the power to pass an award directing payment of an amount which is more than the actual loss suffered by the complainant as a direct consequence of the act of omission or commission of the bank, or ten lakh rupees whichever is lower.

(6) In the case of complaints, arising out of credit card operations, the Banking Ombudsman may also award compensation not exceeding Rs 1 lakh to the complainant, taking into account the loss of the complainant's time, expenses incurred by the complainant, harassment and mental anguish suffered by the complainant.

(7) A copy of the Award shall be sent to the complainant and the bank.

(8) An award shall lapse and be of no effect unless the complainant furnishes to the bank concerned within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of copy of the Award, a letter of acceptance of the Award in full and final settlement of his claim. Provided that no such acceptance may be furnished by the complainant if he has filed an appeal under the provisions of the Scheme.

(9) The bank shall, unless it has preferred an appeal under the provisions of the Scheme, within one month from the date of receipt by it of the acceptance in writing of the Award by the complainant under the provisions of the Scheme, comply with the Award and intimate compliance to the Banking Ombudsman.

Rejection of the Complaint:
According to the provision of the Chapter IV Clause 13 of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date), {herein after called ‘Scheme’},

The Banking Ombudsman may reject a complaint at any stage if it appears to him that the complaint made is;
(a) not on the grounds of complaint referred to in under the provisions of the Scheme; or

(b) beyond the pecuniary jurisdiction of Banking Ombudsman prescribed under the provisions of the Scheme; or

(c) requiring consideration of elaborate documentary and oral evidence and the proceedings before the Banking Ombudsman are not appropriate for adjudication of such complaint; or
(d) without any sufficient cause; or

(e) that it is not pursued by the complainant with reasonable diligence; or
(f) in the opinion of the Banking Ombudsman there is no loss or damage or inconvenience caused to the complainant.

Appeal before the Appellate Authority: 
According to the provision of the Chapter IV Clause 14 of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date), {herein after called ‘Scheme’},

(1) Any person aggrieved by an Award under clause 12 or rejection of a complaint for the reasons referred to in sub clauses (d) to (f) of clause 13 of the Scheme, may within 30 days of the date of receipt of communication of Award or rejection of complaint, prefer an appeal before the Appellate Authority;

Provided that in case of appeal by a bank, the period of thirty days for filing an appeal shall commence from the date on which the bank receives letter of acceptance of Award by complainant under sub. clause (6) of clause 12 of the Scheme;

Provided that the Appellate Authority may, if he is satisfied that the applicant had sufficient cause for not making the appeal within time, allow a further period not exceeding 30 days;

Provided further that appeal may be filed by a bank only with the previous sanction of the Chairman or, in his absence, the Managing Director or the Executive Director or the Chief Executive Officer or any other officer of equal rank.”

(2) The Appellate Authority shall, after giving the parties a reasonable opportunity of being heard,

(a) dismiss the appeal; or

(b) allow the appeal and set aside the Award; or

(c) remand the matter to the Banking Ombudsman for fresh disposal in accordance with such directions as the Appellate Authority may consider necessary or proper; or

(d) modify the Award and pass such directions as may be necessary to give effect to the Award so modified; or

(e) pass any other order as it may deem fit.

3) The order of the Appellate Authority shall have the same effect as the Award passed by Banking Ombudsman under clause 12 or the order rejecting the complaint under clause 13 of the Scheme, as the case may be.

Banks to Display Salient Features of the Scheme for Common Knowledge of Public:
According to the provision of the Chapter IV Clause 15 of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme,2006 (as amended up to date), {herein after called ‘Scheme’},

(1) The banks covered by the Scheme shall ensure that the purpose of the Scheme and the contact details of the Banking Ombudsman to whom the complaints are to be made by the aggrieved party are displayed prominently in all the offices and branches of the bank in such manner that a person visiting the office or branch has adequate information of the Scheme.

(2) The banks covered by the Scheme shall ensure that a copy of the Scheme is available with the designated officer of the bank for perusal in the office premises of the bank, if anyone, desires to do so and notice about the availability of the Scheme with such designated officer shall be displayed along with the notice under sub -clause (1) of this clause and shall place a copy of the Scheme on their websites.

(3) The banks covered by the Scheme shall appoint Nodal Officers at their Regional/Zonal Offices and inform the respective Office of the Banking Ombudsman under whose jurisdiction the Regional/Zonal Office falls. The Nodal Officer so appointed shall be responsible for representing the bank and furnishing information to the Banking Ombudsman in respect of complaints filed against the bank. Wherever more than one zone/region of a bank are falling within the jurisdiction of a Banking Ombudsman, one of the Nodal Officers shall be designated as the 'Principal Nodal Officer' for such zones or regions.

Banks covered under the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006:
All Scheduled Commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks and Scheduled Primary Co-operative Banks are covered under the Scheme.

Cost involved in filing complaints with Banking Ombudsman:
The Banking Ombudsman does not charge any fee for filing and resolving customers’ complaints.

Limit on the amount of compensation as specified in an award:
The amount, if any, to be paid by the bank to the complainant by way of compensation for any loss suffered by the complainant is limited to the amount arising directly out of the act or omission of the bank or Rs 10 lakhs, whichever is lower.

Compensation may be claimed for mental agony and harassment:
The Banking Ombudsman may award compensation not exceeding Rs 1 lakh to the complainant only in the case of complaints relating to credit card operations for mental agony and harassment. The Banking Ombudsman will take into account the loss of the complainant s time, expenses incurred by the complainant, harassment and mental anguish suffered by the complainant while passing such award.

How to file a complaint before the Banking Ombudsman:
One can file a complaint with the Banking Ombudsman simply by writing on a plain paper. One can also file it online or by sending an email to the Banking Ombudsman.

Conclusion:
At present there are 15 (Fifteen) Banking Ombudsmen in India established in major cities having jurisdiction over the territory as conferred by the Central Government and these Ombudsmen are doing their best to mitigate the dispute and resolve the grievances that comes for adjudication before them.

The scheme is very important channel for redressal of grievances of the general public against banks and banking services. It is framed in such a manner that it does not oust the jurisdiction of other courts, and hence, aggrieved people do not hesitate in using the banking ombudsman as a primary forum for resolution of disputes regarding banks. The speciality of the banking ombudsman is that it is in position to do justice in an individual case, in the sense it is not bound by the precedents and in certain circumstances, can ignore technicalities and legal rules of evidence while resolving disputes between aggrieved customer and the bank.

1 comment:

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