It’s time banks realised how important it is to solve customer issues amicably

Banking is a business transaction between bankers and consumers. Thus, any negligence on the part of banks would amount to deficiency in service under the Consumer Protection Act 1986. It is unfortunate that many a time people encounter various problems with banks and find it difficult to get it resolved because of the unfriendly approach of these banks.

Least did Meena Chadrashekar expect the embarrassment that a cheque she issued in favour of her Apartments’ Association caused her. She had issued the cheque a few days earlier, and during the association meeting, she was told that the cheque was returned for want of funds and the instrument handed over. Mortified, as she was a customer of the bank for many decades and always maintained sufficient balance in her account, Meena Chandrashekar contacted the manager of her bank at once. There were no proper responses initially and then, she wrote to them seeking a written explanation. The manager promptly replied stating that they had verified with their service branch and found that the said cheque was not presented for payment to her account at all. The bank in which it was presented had mentioned the cheque number wrongly and therefore, the cheque was presented to some other account for payment and was returned. He also apologised to her for the inconvenience. Now, on our advice, she has written to the other bank seeking their response to the situation and compensation, and is awaiting a reply. It is a clear instance of negligence on part of the drawee bank. If the cheque number were not legible, the bank should have returned it earlier instead of doing what they did.

Numerous cases of wrongful dishonour of cheques have been heard and decided by various Consumer Forums and Commissions over the years. In one such case, the cheque issued by Gurpreet Singh for Rs. 13,486 was dishonoured on the grounds of “insufficient funds”. He had more than Rs. 13 lakh in his account. The reason given by the bank was that the account number on the cheque was overlapping with the stamp and hence could not be read properly. Anyway, since the instrument was returned for insufficient funds when there was adequate balance, Gurpreet Singh filed a complaint in the District Forum seeking compensation on grounds of mental agony and loss of reputation before his customers and suppliers. The District Forum ordered a compensation of Rs. 6 lakh and Rs. 5,000 towards costs, in his favour. The bank appealed before the State Commission where the compensation was reduced to Rs. 13,486 and this was upheld by the National Commission.

Banks must be more affable in their approach towards consumers. Mistakes could happen once in a while, but it is important to realise that the responsiveness shown will help go a long way in resolving matters amicably.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details / queries contact 2491 4358 / 2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)