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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Visit your old bank locker before it’s too late

Pushpa Girimaji   August 26, 2012
First Published: 00:45 IST(26/8/2012) | Last Updated: 00:47 IST(26/8/2012)

When was the last time you opened your safe deposit locker? If it’s been more than a year, I would suggest that you pay a visit to your bank and operate the locker because these days banks have become quite finicky about unopened lockers.

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They are also incorporating in their agreements governing the renting of lockers, terms and conditions that give the bank the right to cancel the allotment of the locker and even break open the locker, if it has not been opened by the hirer for over a year.

The reason for this can be seen in the instructions of the banking regulator on the subject.

Referring to a case where arms and explosives were found in a locker, the Reserve Bank of India, in its guidelines to the banks on the operation of safe deposit lockers, advises them to strictly monitor the operations of the lockers and ask customers who have not opened their lockers for over three years (One year in case of ‘high risk’ customers), an explanation for it in writing and allow the continued use of the locker only if there is a satisfactory response.

In this regard, banks should incorporate a clause in the locker agreement that in case the locker is not operated for over a year, the bank would have the right to cancel the allotment of the locker and open the locker, even if the rent is paid regularly, says the RBI.

Of course, the regulator makes it clear that due process of law should be followed while taking this course of action.

However, there have been cases before the consumer courts where such due process was not followed and lockers were opened (not for any security reasons, but on grounds of non-payment of rent) without any notice to the customer.

In one such case decided recently, the apex consumer court has asked the bank, which broke open the locker ‘inadvertently’,  believing that the hirer had not paid the rent, to pay Rs. 1,30,000 towards the loss valuables and Rs. 50,000 as compensation.

Even though the bank had later apologised and handed over the contents of the locker, removed in front of two witnesses, the customer found that the package was not sealed (but only stapled) and several valuables were missing. (State Bank of India Vs Tapash Kumar Majumdar, RP NO 1915 of 2012, decided on July 2, 2012)

So I would also suggest that you make an inventory of all your valuables in the locker.

Ruchi Rathore: The bank in which my husband has an account demanded that we first keep a fixed deposit of R2.5 lakhs in order to hire a locker.

Is this a rule decided by the government?
No. As per the RBI guidelines, banks cannot insist on an FD. In fact, demanding an FD (or forcing the customer to buy an insurance policy) as a condition to renting out a locker is a restrictive trade practice. Please complain to the RBI.

You can also write to the bank, quoting from the RBI guidelines on the subject (Master circular on customer service in banks, issued this year),  which makes it clear that at the most, banks can obtain an FD covering three years’ rent and the charges for breaking open the locker in case of an eventuality. In fact, this is only applicable for new customers.

The regulator also says that banks should maintain a wait list of applicants for lockers, give them a wait list number and ensure complete transparency in the allotment of lockers.

It is also mandatory for banks to give you a copy of the agreement at the time of renting you a locker.


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