"A high-value cheque drawn on bank (1) was lodged in the drop box of bank (2) for credit to the complainant's account maintained at bank(2). The payee's name in the cheque was changed under authentication purported to be that of the drawer, which was collected by bank (3) on behalf of the charged payee from bank (1)"
Does all that confuse you?
If you are wondering what this is all about, let me explain. This is an extract from the compendium of cases handled by the Banking Ombudsman put up on the RBI website. The Ombudsman addresses the details and pins down the bank’s follies in being lax with customer service and procedural requirements, but the bank’s name is simply not mentioned! What really disturbs me — in this age of transparency and Right to Information, should not the consumers know the name of the banks against which complaints were filed? While the Ombudsman does the job required, as a consumer, would certainly like to avoid a bank which is careless about its responsibilities.
Or, maybe, an organisation that represents the interests of depositors such as the Bank Depositors' Association would have taken up the issue and demanded that the bank put in place a proper system to ensure that cheques left by depositors in the drop box are not lost, misplaced or stolen. But so long as the bank's identity is protected, no such action is possible.
Naming the banks against which complaints are filed serves another purpose: it helps consumers assess various banks on the basis of the number and the nature of complaints filed before the Ombudsman. If a large number of complaints are against one particular bank or branch, one can safely pin the blame on the bank. My own guess is that a larger number of complaints go to the consumer court, but even then, the number received by the Ombudsman in the country can act as a sample to assess the quality of service provided by banks.
The Better Business Bureau of North America offers quick and impartial dispute resolution between consumers and businesses and uses these complaints and the company's response to them to assess and rate the businesses. The bureau’s ‘reliability reports’ on businesses are meant to enable consumers make better purchasing decisions.
In 2005, for example, the Canadian BBB helped resolve more than 14,000 consumer complaints and provided consumers with over 2.3 million company reports. In Hawaii, the department of commerce and consumer affairs analyses the complaints received against vehicle manufacturers and publicises it to help consumers make an informed choice.
In India, the Ombdusman scheme provides the banking regulator with a good opportunity to rate the banks not just on the basis of the complaints, but also on the banks’ response to the Ombudsman's queries and awards. It must not be frittered away. Nor should banks that show contempt for consumer rights be protected against bad publicity.
(Pushpa Girimaji: Senior journalist, consumer affairs specialist)