ATM centres should ensure security measures are intact in the interest of the customers

The attacks on individuals and robbery at ATM centres reveal the absence of security measures and the dangers consumers are exposed to. News reports state that 40 per cent of the 4,200 ATMs in Chennai do not have security cover such as guards, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, etc. Though the police, in many cities, have been repeatedly asking banks to ensure proper safety measures in all ATM centres, banks have not heeded yet.

Lately, the Karnataka Government issued a directive to all banks in the State, asking them to deploy security guards and to install CCTV cameras with immediate effect and to close all ATM centres till said government order was complied with. Citing this, a Public Interest Litigation has been filed before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, seeking direction for appointment of trained security guards below 45 years of age, setting up of burglar alarms and sensors, connecting them to the nearest police station and the bank branch and CCTV cameras in all ATM kiosks in the State. Though it is the banks’ duty to protect consumers coming to the ATM centres, they consistently fail to do so, the petitioner said.

The High Court, in response, has ordered issuance of notices to the Reserve Bank of India, Union Finance and Home Ministry, State’s Chief and Home Secretary and the Director General of Police.

The age of the security guards, mentioned above, assumes significance considering the fact that today, in most of the manned ATM kiosks, we find elderly personnel posted as security guards who may not have the physical and mental strength to handle an emergency.

Banks also cannot carp about costs involved in hiring such security guards and providing for safety measures such as having an alarm or a surveillance camera as it is their responsibility to ensure customer safety. More importantly, the burden of providing better security to carry out transactions in ATM centres should not be loaded on to the consumer, as is being discussed, according to newspaper reports. It is to be noted that consumers are already weighed down by varied service charges, the applicability of many of which is certainly questionable.

It is vital that the Banking Regulator comes up with rigid standards for safety and security of ATM centres and ensures proper execution. Otherwise, the purpose of their establishment would be defeated.

(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)