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Banks liable to reimburse for faulty ATM transactions

Have you ever seen an ATM releasing cash in installments and then withholding the last installment? Well, that's what the ATM at the Pragati Maidan Metro station in Delhi did in the first week of June, when a colleague tried to get some cash from his account.

delhi Updated: Jul 09, 2011 23:24 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

Have you ever seen an ATM releasing cash in installments and then withholding the last installment? Well, that's what the ATM at the Pragati Maidan Metro station in Delhi did in the first week of June, when a colleague tried to get some cash from his account. First came Rs2,000 and then slowly, after a gap, the machine threw out a currency note of Rs500. And then it stopped and would not release the remaining Rs500.

Upset, he called the helpline number to report the matter. The person at the other end was anything but sympathetic. Saying that the server was down, he dismissed this as a "common problem" and said the bank could do nothing in the matter. "Complain to your bank", he was told.

The colleague visited his bank to report the incidence. He expected the bank to commiserate with him and help him, but he was in for a rude shock. Before accepting the complaint, the colleague was warned that if his complaint turned out to be false, the bank would impose as penalty, 18% interest on the amount of Rs500 (for how long, it was not clear) and deduct it from his account! Then, as an after thought, he was told that if his complaint proved to be right, he would get an SMS notifying that the money had been credited to his account. He is still awaiting that SMS.

Is this where banking service is heading these days? First and foremost, banks do not ensure that ATMs function properly. And then when consumers who are victims of ATM malfunctioning complain, they treat them like criminals! This is despite clear instructions from the banking regulator on the subject. Even at the cost of being repetitive, let me quote once again for the benefit of consumers, the RBI circular of July 17, 2009, which makes it clear that

(a) It is mandatory for banks to reimburse the customers, the amount wrongfully debited on account of failed ATM transactions within a maximum period of 12 working days from the date of receipt of the complaint.

(b) For any failure to re-credit the amount within 12 working days from the date of receipt of the complaint, the bank shall pay compensation of Rs100 per day, to the aggrieved customer. This compensation shall be credited to the customer's account automatically without any claim from the customer, on the same day when the bank affords the credit for the failed ATM transaction.

(c) Non-adherence to this directive shall attract penalty as prescribed under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007.

If things are to improve, the banking regulator should impose on banks, stiff penalty on two counts (a) for failing to maintain their ATMs in good working condition and (b) for non-compliance of its directive on redress of complaints pertaining to ATM transactions. And in both the cases, the penalty should come from the pockets of those officials who fail to do what they are expected to do.

R Rawat: It's 11 months since I complained to my bank about the shortfall (of Rs1,000) in the money dispensed by the ATM. How do I get back the money? For a retired person like me, the loss is immense.

Answer: Please complain to the RBI. You can also lodge a complaint online with the Banking Ombudsman. (www.bankingombudsman.rbi.org.in) You should not only get back your money, but also compensation at the rate of Rs100 per day for the past 11 months.