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|4th April 2008, 11:01||#1|
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A shield against harassment by banks
For all those whose complaints against banking services have been left unaddressed, there is help available from the banking regulator.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has put in place a facility called the Banking Ombudsman Scheme to help individuals whose complaints against banking services are not answered by banks themselves.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you knock on the ombudsman's door.
What sort of complaints would the ombudsman take up?
The complaints can be about anything that a bank is supposed to be doing, but is not. For instance, one can approach the ombudsman if a bank delays in making payment, collection of cheques, drafts, bills or refuses to accept small denomination notes. Non-efficiency such as not adhering to prescribed working hours or not providing a service, which was promised in writing, would also be looked after.
One can complain about non-payment of deposits or applicable interest rate or levying of charges without prior notice to the customer. One can also bring to the notice of the ombudsman if the bank denies opening or closing of an account, or has forcefully closed deposit accounts without notice or sufficient reason.
Moreover, if loans are not sanctioned, not disbursed or not provided without giving an appropriate reason, one can approach the ombudsman. These short-comings may either be made by the banks or their direct selling agents.
Whom does one contact for complaints?
All banks (nationalised, private, primary co-operative bank or regional rural banks) would come under the purview of a banking ombudsman. All banks are required to display the name and address of the officer to be approached for complaints. These details are also available on the websites of most banks.
There are various banking ombudsmen located in various regions. One would have to complain to the ombudsman, in whose area the bank branch against which the complaint has been made, except for the issues arising out of credit cards. For the complaint regarding credit cards, the banking ombudsman looking after the area where the billing address of the cardholder is marked should be approached.
The list of the banking ombudsman placed at various locations and other contact details can be accessed from the webpage.
Reserve Bank of India on the RBI's website.
What is the procedure for filing a complaint?
For the banking ombudsman to look into a matter, it should first have been addressed to the bank in writing. Only if the bank declines to respond or doesn't give a satisfactory response within 30 days can the individual approach the banking ombudsman.
There is a set format for the complaint to be registered with the ombudsman, which is available on the RBI website. There have been cases where the applications have been rejected because they were not in the prescribed format. Details such as the loss suffered by the individual (including monetary), what is he seeking from the bank, proofs to the individual's claims and other personal details should be included in the complaint.
In case of credit card complaints, the ombudsman has been suggested that he take into account the loss in terms of time, expenses incurred, financial loss, harassment and mental anguish that the individual had to go through.
The complaint should be made within a year after receiving the reply from the bank. If the bank doesn't respond to the initial complaint, then the banking ombudsman should be approached within 11 months from writing to the bank.
The ombudsman would then act as a mediator between the bank and the individual to resolve the issue. If both do not come to a conclusion within a month of the individual registering a compliant, the banking ombudsman would either announce his decision after giving both parties a reasonable hearing or reject the case.
When the ombudsman has announced his judgement, the bank has to comply within 15-30 days of receiving the judgement.
Once rejected the case cannot be brought to the ombudsman again. One would then have to approach a higher authority called the appellate authority within 45 days of receiving the banking ombudsman judgement.
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