Anup and Ashwin are sitting in their office cafeteria. Ashwin is miffed because he has to pay a late fee on his credit card again. His crib: his bill comes late, it’s not his fault. Rings a bell? We all have these small irritating issues with our bank but find it difficult to get our bank to respond. A conversation between Ashwin and Anup (two fictitious characters created by Money Matters) to find some answers.
Ashwin: (irritated) I am tired of paying late fees, it’s not my fault they send the bill late. The bank’s call centre is useless.
Anup: Go visit the branch and talk to the branch manager. If that doesn’t help, write a complaint to the nodal officer.
Ashwin: I went to the branch, the regional office and nodal officer. It’s been three months now. And I am ready to do something drastic. It’s not the money, it’s the attitude.
Illustration by Jayachandran/Mint
Anup: Then it is time to approach the banking ombudsman under the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Ashwin: (cynical) As if that would help. I think I will just cut this card.
Anup: That’s your call. But if you have filed a complaint with the bank and it hasn’t replied within a month, or if you are not satisfied with its reply, or the bank rejects your complaint, you can approach the ombudsman.
Ashwin: And that would help?
Anup: You can’t approach an ombudsman directly. Your case will be considered only if you complained to the relevant authority and failed to get a response or the response is not up to your expectation. You can reach out to an ombudsman within a year of receiving a reply from the bank. If there is no reply, it should be within 13 months of filing the first complaint.
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Ashwin: Tell me more.
Anup: Write your complaint on a paper with relevant details, or fill the form. You can even fill it at RBI’s website but then you will have to visit the ombudsman office to sign the copy. You can send your representative who is not an advocate.
Ashwin: What details are required in the complaint?
Anup: Your name and address; the bank’s name and address; facts giving rise to the complaint supported by documents; the nature and extent of the loss caused to you; the relief sought from the ombudsman and a declaration that you will comply with required conditions.
The ombudsman will mediate a settlement by agreement between you and the bank. If you agree with the settlement, the ombudsman will pass an order which will bind you and the bank. But remember, the ombudsman can even reject the complaint if they think there is no loss or damage or inconvenience caused to you.
Ashwin: What happens if the complaint is not settled by agreement?
Anup: If it’s not settled by an agreement within a period of one month, the ombudsman will pass an award. Before passing an award, the ombudsman will give reasonable opportunity to you and the bank to present their case. It is up to you to accept the award in full and final settlement of your complaint or to reject it.
Ashwin: Award, you mean money? Already feeling better!
Anup: The ombudsman may award compensation not exceeding Rs1 lakh only in the case of complaints relating to credit card operations for mental agony and harassment. But for a complaint like your’s, the ombudsman will take into account the loss of time, expenses, harassment and mental anguish suffered.
Ashwin: What if I am not satisfied with the ombudsman’s compensation?
Anup: You can approach the appellate authority. But remember, the bank also has the option to file an appeal before the appellate authority.
You can appeal within 30 days of the date of receipt of the award. If you don’t make an appeal within time, you may get another 30 days but that depends on the appellate authority. And remember, the authority may either dismiss the appeal or allow the appeal and set aside the award. It will look into matter that they feel are fair and proper.
Ashwin: Does anything good ever come out of such complaints?
Anup: Yes, actually it does. Our problem is that not enough consumers are willing to take the time to follow a compliant through.
Ashwin: Looks like ombudsman time.
Graphics by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint