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Banks are bound to change mutilated notes

About six months ago, I had written about a reader, Dr Pradeep Saini, who had got nine highly mutilated (cut, pasted, burnt) bank notes of thousand rupee denominations from an ATM.

delhi Updated: Aug 08, 2011 02:20 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

About six months ago, I had written about a reader, Dr Pradeep Saini, who had got nine highly mutilated (cut, pasted, burnt) bank notes of thousand rupee denominations from an ATM.

Here is another such case. On November 6, 2010, Mr Dikshit withdrew Rs5,000 from an ATM in CR Park, he found one of the notes of Rs500 to be badly damaged. All that the bank had to do was accept responsibility for what had happened and replace the currency. But the bank's response makes a mockery of the innumerable instructions of the banking regulator on customer service. If this is how customers are being treated, then I would say that the banking service in the country has reached its nadir.

First and foremost, the bank refused to accept that the note had come from its ATM and accused him of lying! When he persisted and escalated his complaint to higher levels, he was called to the bank four times and was made to wait for long periods and then sent back. The excuse being that the valuer who would evaluate the note had failed to turn up! Eventually it said the note had 'zero' value and when the complaint went to the nodal officer, he agreed to replace the currency but refused to recompense the customer, forcing him to complain to the Ombudsman.

Kunal Dikshit: My complaint before the Ombudsman seeking a compensation of Rs11,500 has been rejected on some technical ground. What is the way forward?

Answer: Please file an appeal before the Appellate Authority (AA) under the Ombudsman scheme. When you do that, I would like you to focus on these points:

First and foremost, the Reserve Bank has been instructing banks at regular intervals to stringently implement its Clean Note Policy and ensure that only good quality, clean notes are issued to the public. So by issuing a mutilated note (so damaged that as per its own valuer, it had zero value) the bank is guilty of violating this directive of the RBI.

Second, the RBI, in its circular of November 19, 2009, advised banks that bank notes in denominations of Rs100 and above should be issued through the ATMs only after they are duly checked for authenticity, genuineness and fitness by (note sorting) machines. Obviously, the bank failed to ensure this or else the mutilated note would not have come out of the ATM - a clear violation of the RBI guidelines.

Third, the bank is guilty of non-adherence to the Code of Bank's Commitment to its Customers, issued by the Banking Codes and Standards Board of India. The bank, as a member, is committed to the Code. As per the Code, the bank has to "deal quickly and sympathetically with things that go wrong". It is also committed to "correcting mistakes promptly". It failed to follow its own Code.

In fact, instead of accepting responsibility for the mutilated note issued by its ATM, the bank tried to apply the RBI rules on Note Refund, under which anyone in possession of such a note can get a refund, on the basis of the note's evaluation done in accordance with the rules. This was totally unacceptable. For a refund under the rule, you would have got better service from the RBI regional office. Here, you were made to go to the branch several times.

The crux of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme is: "Treating the bank customer fairly". The treatment meted out to you by the bank was anything but fair. It showed no respect for your time or money. The staff misbehaved with you. How can the Ombudsman scheme fail you now?