Banks should be more accountable for the services they render

It is an established fact that banks rate very high on security and one cannot afford to underplay the importance of a robust banking system. However, when people are forced to endure bad situations, they tend to lose faith in the system.

Mathangi, my cousin, was a loyal customer of a multi-national bank in Chennai. She maintained a locker there and was prompt in paying the annual maintenance fee. In the locker, she had kept a few Kisan Vikas Patras and 100 euros leftover from an earlier trip.

Termite attack

Recently, when she went to operate the locker, she got the shock of her life — instead of her documents and the euros, she found only bits and pieces of paper. Only then did she notice that the locker and the surrounding area was infested with white ants.

She reported this to the branch manager, and though he agreed with her, there was no further assistance from the bank. She filed a written complaint demanding compensation. It was clear that they had failed in their obligation to inspect the locker room on a regular basis, but the bank refused to accept responsibility. Mathangi sought the help of a consumer group and a notice from their end received a response which did not address the issue at hand. They stopped with offering her another locker.

In an earlier decision in a similar instance, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Uttar Pradesh held that the bank’s failure to inspect the locker room on a regular basis amounted to deficiency of service and awarded compensation.

The consumer group told Mathangi this and advised to file her complaint with the Banking Ombudsman. If not satisfied with the verdict, she was told to approach the consumer forum for redressal.

Even while Mathangi was reeling under the impact of this, another bitter incident with the same bank reinforced her decision to close her accounts with the bank and approach the consumer forum.

Mathangi had availed herself of a loan from the bank, agreeing to settle the same in monthly installments. She had given standing instructions to the bank, requesting it to deduct the due amount from her savings bank account and made sure that there was always adequate balance in her account.

One particular month, she discovered that she had been charged interest for not paying the installment the previous month. The pass book showed that there was sufficient balance; the bank had not carried out the instructions and penalised her.

Mathangi wrote to the bank, pointing out the error and asked them to rectify the issue. She also enclosed a copy of the bank statement that proved there was ample balance.

But, the bank refused to see reason and accept its mistake. She was asked to pay interest, and a legal notice was sent demanding immediate payment. Infuriated, Mathangi filed a complaint in the district forum.

It is essential that banks realise their liability and perform their duties with more conscientiousness.

A more customer-friendly approach is crucial. An in-house grievance remedial system is the need of the day.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 24914358/24460387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)

S. SAROJA

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