In response to one of my earlier columns, where I had criticised the apex consumer court for an unjust order pertaining to a case of ATM fraud, I’ve received several emails from readers who have lost money through such illegal withdrawals from ATMs and have not been able to get back the money.
Aviroop Chandra, for example, describes how Rs 40,000 was fraudulently drawn from his account through an ATM transaction. In fact, the CCTV footage showed a person with his face covered with a handkerchief and a pair of dark glasses withdrawing money, but the bank was unwilling to compensate Chandra.
Vaibhav Kumar also talks about a relative who came to know of such illegal transaction when he received an SMS alert. He was at home at that point of time and his ATM card was with him. Yet, someone took the cash. Kumar’s relative now plans to file a case in the consumer court.
All these people are all worried about the apex consumer court’s decision in the case of SBI Vs KK Bhalla, (RP No 3182 of 2008, decided on April 7, 2011) that I had referred to.
Here, the consumer courts at the district and the state level had directed the bank to reimburse the consumer, the amount (Rs 65,116) illegally withdrawn and also pay Rs 15,000 as compensation.
However, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, before which the bank filed a revision petition, set aside the orders of the lower consumer courts, saying “it was not possible to withdraw money from an ATM by an unauthorised person, when the card and the PIN were secure with the customer.”
Frankly, I do not think that consumers should worry about this order — it may well be quashed by the Supreme Court (If an appeal has been filed by the consumer). I must also mention here that, recently, in a somewhat similar case pertaining to insurance, the Supreme Court has been very critical of the National Commission for indiscriminately invoking its revisional jurisdiction to set aside the orders of the lower consumer courts giving relief to the consumer.
Under the Consumer Protection Act, the National Commission can hear appeals against the orders of the State Commission. In addition, it has the revisional jurisdiction, which basically is meant only to rectify any illegality or miscarriage of justice in the orders of the State Commission. Reminding the National Commission of this, the Supreme Court has chastised the Commission for going beyond its brief under the law. [Mrs Rubi (Chandra) Dutta Vs M/s United India Insurance Co Ltd, March 18, 2011].
So, the doors of the consumer courts have certainly not shut on consumers who are victims of ATM fraud .
However, the large number of letters from readers focus attention on the possible increase in such illegal activity and it’s therefore time the banking regulator investigated into this and issue guidelines to banks to spruce up their security and also take responsibility for such ATM thefts and compensate the consumer.
Ashok Kumar: On October 19, at 8.24am, I withdrew Rs 1,000 from one of the ATMs in a chamber where two machines are located. Just a minute later, someone withdrew Rs 1,500 from my account using the other ATM. The bank refuses to refund the amount. How do I get back my money?
Answer: Please complain to the Reserve Bank. Also get a copy of the police investigation report. That will help you in your case. I would also suggest that you write to the All India Bank Depositors’ Association and seek their help in getting back your money.