Complaints by customers on various banking matters have been dealt with in the Damodaran Committee report giving more power to account holders
A series of complaints related to banking services have exposed instances where banks are openly floutingly rules and regulations of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Now, in the interest of customers, these issues have been addressed in a report on customer services prepared by a committee headed by former Securities and Exchange Board of India chief M Damodaran. Strangely, however, the report has not been released, nearly 12 months since the committee was set up in June last year.
According to sources, "the report on customer services by the RBI has described solutions to resolve customer issues. The report is believed to be pro-consumers."
"But the report, despite being ready, has not been released for the reasons best known to Mr Damodaran. Even the committee members are unaware of the release date," the source said.
There are a lot of complaints by customers relating to poor banking services, and very little has been done to resolve these issues, leaving many customers dissatisfied. Of course, there have been few cases when some people have fought and got their issues resolved.
Like the case of Pune-based resident Anil Agashe, who was asked by HDFC to close his existing joint account and open a new bank account after the demise of his father, who was co-joint account holder.
Following the demise of his father, Mr Agashe approached the bank to delete his father's name and continue the account in his own name. However, the bank informed Mr Agashe that "as per the rules of the bank" the account would be closed on the death of the first account holder and a new account would have to be opened in his name. This is surprising, as the RBI allows the simple deletion of the name of the deceased person and continuation of the account.
Being an ex-banker, Mr Agashe was aware of the RBI guidelines and got HDFC to follow the rules. (Read, 'Banks flout RBI rules on retaining account numbers after the demise of a joint account holder'.) Sources have confirmed to Moneylife that the RBI will take up this issue with HDFC Bank.
Another example is that of Pune-based senior citizen and entrepreneur Sharad Phadke, who used the Right to Information Act (RTI) to force Bank of India to pay for failed ATM transactions. On 18 October 2009, his ATM transaction of Rs1,000 failed. He tried a second time and received the cash. However, the failed transaction was also debited from his account in Bank of India. The same day he lodged a complaint online to Bank of India. But nothing happened until 1st December, a good 40 days after the failed transaction occurred.
According to RBI guidelines under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007, it is mandatory for banks to restore the failed transaction amount of the customer within 12 days, or pay a penalty of Rs100 per day to the customer.
Mr Phadke produced a copy of the RBI circular to the bank's officials and Rs1,000 was credited to his account. He subsequently evoked the Right to Information (RTI) Act to find out the extent of the problem and the number of other cases of failed ATM transactions. In the end the bank compensated him with Rs6,500 for the 65 days delay in resolving his case.
Mr Phadke also routed a query to the RBI through RTI, seeking to know whether it had conducted an audit of the banks to check if they were complying with the guidelines on failed ATM transactions.
In its reply the apex bank admitted that "no audit is conducted by RBI so far as per Section 16 of the PSS Act, 2007."
Speaking to Moneylife, Mr Phadke said, "Such a reply is vague as it is the duty of the RBI to check if banks are following the rules and regulations. It is the customer who suffers in the end, as banks get away easily. Where would a lay man go to complain if the RBI itself doesn't seem to be aware of the activities of the banks?"
Moneylife has repeatedly written about the report on customer services and that its release has been delayed for unexplained reasons. (Read, 'The curious case of the Damodaran Committee's report on customer services: Why is it still in limbo?')
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