Consumer rights panel in Kerala asks banks to put out service information, SMS alerts in regional languages

Order was passed while dismissing a petition accusing a bank of negligence, inefficiency and deficiency of service after the petitioner lost ₹45,000 in three fraudulent ATM transactions in Deogarh district of Odisha in February 2019

October 07, 2023 02:39 pm | Updated 03:00 pm IST - KOCHI

The Ernakulam Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed that its order be shared with the Reserve Bank of India.

The Ernakulam Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed that its order be shared with the Reserve Bank of India. | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

The Ernakulam Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Kerala in an order has advised banks to publish forms, service conditions and guidelines in regional languages with an option for the customer to choose his/her preferred language for SMS alerts during the account opening stage itself.

The commission, comprising president D.B. Binu and members V. Ramachandran and Sreevidhia T.N., directed that the order be shared with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The order was passed while dismissing a petition filed by Ambika Gopi of North Paravur accusing the Cheriyappilly branch of the State Bank of India (SBI) of negligence, inefficiency and deficiency of service after she lost ₹45,000 in three fraudulent ATM transactions in Deogarh district of Odisha in February 2019.

The petitioner did not know how to check SMS alerts which were in English from the bank after each transaction and came to know about the loss of money only after her daughter noticed the alerts three months later, in May 2019. She alerted the bank branch and the police stating that she had not shared her ATM card or pin number with anyone and that none of her family members had ever been to Deogarh. However, she neither received a refund nor the police registered a case.

Following this, she had petitioned the commission demanding the refund of ₹45,000 with 18% interest since February 2019, ₹50,000 towards compensation and ₹2,000 as cost of litigation.

However, the bank in its submission argued that the complaint was not valid factually and legally, citing that the bank had promptly issued SMS alerts about the withdrawals and that the complaint was lodged well beyond the seven day-window as per the bank policy for reporting such frauds. The bank further claimed that there was no deficiency of service or negligence on its part since it was the customer’s responsibility to protect the ATM card and the pin.

Surging cases

While the commission dismissed the complaint due to the lack of sufficient evidence to establish liability on the part of the opposite party, it did observe that considering the growing concerns over surging cases of fraud such as misuse of debit/credit cards and net banking services, it is advisable for banks to offer information about services in regional languages of customers.

The commission recommended that account opening forms, terms and conditions as well as usage guidelines for debit and credit cards and net banking and SMS alerts be issued in regional languages as well.

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