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Banks routinely flout RBI’s norms

india Updated: Jun 07, 2009 21:14 IST
Pushpa Girimaji
Pushpa Girimaji
Hindustan Times
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New Zealand’s Banking Ombudsman conducts every year, a detective-like exercise to see if the country’s banks are following a prescribed code. It uses students on summer jobs to test customer service. It would be interesting to know how far Indian banks go in complying with Reserve Bank of India’s Code of Banks’ Commitment to Customers.

Issued in 2006, RBI’s code sets minimum standards. For example, it promises customers that any changes in fees and charges would be notified one month prior to enforcement. But if you see the complaints before the Ombudsman, you will get a fair idea of ground realities: the number of complaints against banks levying charges without notice went up from 2,594 in 2006-2007 to 3,740 in 2007-2008!

RBI is regularly issuing directives on customer service. It’s 92-page Master Circular of November 3, 2008 is a compilation of all such circular.

But most are followed only in breach. For example, the RBI says that all bank branches should have a customer service committee which should meet once a month to resolve customer issues. That’s hardly followed.

RBI also says if a bank branch is convinced that an irregularity/fraud has been committed by its staff towards any constituent, it should at once acknowledge its liability and pay the just claim. Similarly on October 23 last year, the RBI asked banks to return within a maximum period of 12 days, any money wrongfully deducted from the accounts of customers on account of failed ATM transactions.

If only banks followed these instructions, they will have fewer complaints with the ombudsman and consumer courts. A regular audit of compliance is a must.