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Public service announcement
Reproduced from the New Sunday Express, January 15, 2006
Very few people know that there is an ombudsman to address unresolved grievances against their bank – fraudulent withdrawals, interest rate disputes on deposits, payment delays, refusal to accept small denomination notes, basically anything. The banking ombudsman used to only deal with complaints related to banking transactions. Last month, the RBI expanded their scope of inquiry to also cover credit and debit cards; banks reneging on promises made by their DSAs (direct selling agents); charges levied by banks without prior intimation; misbehavior by bank staff.
What the ombudsman essentially does is offer a common forum to a complainant and the bank.
If you have a grievance against your bank, approach the ombudsman within whose jurisdiction the bank branch is located. You can file your complaint in person, through a letter, over the phone and, soon, even online. You are asked to file a simple form and attach the relevant documents. Even if you can’t make the complaint in person, you can authorise a representative to do so provided he’s not a lawyer. Although complaints that exceed one year from the date of occurrence are not accepted, sometimes allowances are made.
Next, the ombudsman informs the bank about the complaint. Around 30 per cent of the cases get resolved at this level. If a case is unresolved, the ombudsman gets the bank and the complainant together. If that too doesn’t work, the ombudsman does his inquiry; if he finds the bank guilty, he issues an award. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the award can be in the form of monetary compensation. However, an ombudsman is not authorized to ask a bank to pay more than Rs 10 lakh.
The complainant is required to acknowledge the award and submit it to the bank within 30 days (including a grace period of 15 days). Better make sure the bank acknowledges the award, as non-acceptance will require you to get another letter from the ombudsman. The bank is then given a month to either obey the verdict or appeal to the RBI. The entire process generally takes around six months.
- Deepti Bhaskaran
How to contact the Ombudsman?
Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andaman & Nicobar
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