Bank customers may soon expect better services and fast-track redressal of their grievances as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to consider a fresh set of rules to improve the banks' customer service practices.
Almost a year after RBI put in motion a process to improve banks' customer service practices, a high-profile panel set up by the central bank in this regard is likely to submit its recommendations later this month.
Sources close to the matter said that the panel is likely to suggest a tighter vigil by RBI for banks lacking on customer service front, monetary and procedural penalties and other remedial measures to guard against such lapses.
Besides, banks may be asked to resolve various customer grievances within a pre-determined time period, they added.
The committee, constituted by RBI in June last year under the chairmanship of former Sebi chief M Damodaran, is likely to submit its recommendations on required changes in existing policy framework and prevalent practices of customer service in banks, sources said.
The panel, which comprised representatives from banking industry, had completed its draft recommendations by January and was earlier expected to submit the report in February itself.
However, the panel decided to redraft the proposals after receiving some fresh inputs from various stakeholders in the matter, including the banks, and its final recommendations are almost complete now, sources said.
The panel took such a long time as it would be first major report on banks' customer services after a report in early 1990s submitted by the MN Goiporia committee, headed by the then SBI chairman.
The proposed recommendations may include penalties on banks for lapses on both implementation and maintenance of model customer service standards, they said.
The panel is also said to be in favour of giving more teeth to the Banking Ombudsman through necessary legal measures. The Banking Ombudsman Scheme was established by RBI in 1995 to provide speedy solutions to the grievances faced by bank customers.
RBI will frame its final guidelines after studying the panel recommendations, which also include putting in place a pre-determined time frame for resolving customer complaints.
The banks will also have to tell the customers beforehand about the expected time they would take for providing various banking services.
The panel may also suggest reviewing the entire existing system of attending to customer service in banks, including the approach, attitude and fair treatment to customers from retail, small and pensioners segment.
Sources said that the panel could suggest better use of technology by the banks to improve their customer service standards. Banks might be asked to adopt greater use of internet in providing services and attending the grievances.
Besides, the RBI might also be asked to consider putting more responsibility on the banks' key executives in terms of adopting better customer service standards and putting in place necessary checks against any lapses.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of customer complaints at various banks.
The Banking Ombudsman received as many as 79,266 complaints in the year 2009-10, the latest period for which data is available. This marked an increase of about 15% from 69,117 complaints received in 2008-09.
There are 15 offices of Banking Ombudsman spread across the country and RBI had initiated this step to provide an expeditious forum to bank customers for resolution of their complaints relating to deficiency in banking services.