The banking regulator has repeatedly instructed banks not to force periodic ‘statement of accounts’ on savings bank customers who prefer the passbook facility. Yet, some banks are neither listening to their customers nor the regulator.
If you see the latest Master Circular on Customer Service, issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last week, there is a clear instruction to banks to offer pass book facility to all its savings bank account holders (individuals). “A passbook is a ready reckoner of transactions and is handy and compact and as such, is far more convenient to the small customer than a statement of account,” the RBI says.
The regulator also points to certain inherent difficulties faced by customers in respect to of statement of accounts: (a) these need to be filed regularly (b) the opening balance needs to be tallied with closing balance of last statement (c) loss of statements in postal transit is not uncommon and obtaining duplicates thereof involves expense and inconvenience. Referring to consumer complaints about banks not issuing passbooks despite requests, the RBI says that banks have to strictly comply with its mandate on the issue.
Even where a customer opts for a statement of account, banks must issue it on a monthly basis and the cost of providing either the passbook or the statement should not be charged to the customer, the RBI says.
The RBI also refers to certain abbreviations used by banks in their passbooks/statements and emphasises that banks must avoid inscrutable entries and ensure that transaction particulars are in a language that is easily understood.
But obviously, not all banks are following these instructions. Sanjiv Kumar, for example, said he sent letters even to the chairman and the managing director of the bank in which he has two accounts, requesting for a passbook but the bank continued to send quarterly statements. Exasperated, he finally lodged a complaint with the Banking Ombudsman, who referred the complaint to the nodal officer of the bank, who has ‘referred the matter to the respective unit for resolution’. He is still waiting for it.
J. Tiwari is another angry customer. “The bank sends the statement once in three months and sometimes even that does not come. I just do not know what is happening with my account,” she said.
The last time she got her statement, she found that the bank had credited money to her account on three occasions from an unknown source and then reversed the credit saying “name mismatch”.
“I obviously came to know of it after three months when I got the statement and the bank is yet to respond to my query on what this was all about. If it was a mistake, it could happen once, but not three times,” she said.
Consumers also complain of account details being incomprehensible - while banking jargons are the culprits, poor quality printing also adds to the confusion. Why can’t banks replace the ink cartridges in the printer promptly and ensure that prints are clear? Sometimes the lines (particularly in passbooks) are crooked and sometimes there is over-writing and the words are jumbled. This way banks ensure that customers are in no position to read the transactions and detect any mistakes made by the bank, allege consumers. Is the regulator listening?
SR Nagaraj: For redress of a complaint pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of money from an account, which would be the appropriate forum - Ombudsman or the consumer court?
Answer: It is better to seek the help of the consumer court because Banking Ombudsmen usually reject such cases that may require consideration of elaborate documentary evidence on the ground that the proceedings before the Ombudsmen are not appropriate for adjudication of such complaints.