Mumbai 15 May 2010: Moneylife Foundation on Saturday held an interactive workshop on Banking Services, attended by a packed audience. Speaking on the occasion, Kaza Sudhakar, chief general manager, customer services department, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said, “The Banking Ombudsman is only for catering to customers’ grievances, its entire intent is to see to it that banks try to resolve issues with customers in a speedy manner. But still, we find that many customers are fearful of approaching bank branches. We would advise the customers to get back to the concerned banks quickly.”
Mr Sudhakar talked at length about the rights and responsibilities of a consumer of banking services. He highlighted the numerous ways in which bank customers can be harassed and at the same time explained how their grievances can be redressed through the Banking Ombudsman (BO). He also outlined that customers need to be more careful and diligent while entering into any transactions. “I have come across several cases where customers put their signatures blindly on loan documents without thinking twice and then face severe difficulties. It is always advisable to look closely at the documents before jumping into any loan transaction. It is entirely a question of the customer’s ability to understand and gauge the risk.”
During his discussion, Mr Sudhakar highlighted common complaints dealt with by the BO. These pertain to ATM transactions, credit card issues, loss of housing loan documents, KYC procedures, loans against shares, etc. In one particular case of delayed pension payments, Mr Sudhakar explained how repeated complaints against State Bank of India (SBI) from one customer drove the RBI to issue a circular across the banking system, directing banks to make good the payments immediately, along with penal interest to the customers. This resulted in benefits to 65 lakh customers in the country.
Also present for the workshop was Mr OP Agarwal, Banking Ombudsman (BO), Maharashtra and Goa. Mr Agarwal advised customers on how to approach the BO with complaints and the procedure for the same. “Almost any area of banks’ service can be questioned in the BO. We are ready to help customers and get their issues resolved. You have to make sure that your complaint includes basic details like your name, the bank’s name, account details, etc. Keep the complaint brief and to the point. Also mention what exactly you expect from the bank in terms of compensation or services, etc.” He specified that the BO does not entertain personal hearings except in extreme cases or difficulties.
He also directed customers to be reasonable in their expectations from the BO and to give them a reasonable timeframe to get a response from the bank concerned. He asked customers not to confuse the role of the BO with that of the regulator, RBI.
The workshop was organised with a view to expose the users of banking services to the various facets of dealing with banks and to make them aware of their rights as customers. The event saw active participation from several members of the banking fraternity, with representation from some of the top public sector, private and foreign banks in India, including Bank of India, Citibank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, HSBC and HDFC Bank.
The audience had a healthy interaction with the two experts, with customers discussing and bringing to light various issues they had faced while dealing with banks.