Sunday, 14 April 2013

Banking Ombudsmen at New Delhi, Chandigarh, and Jaipur - People Friendly or Bank Friendly

Reserve Bank of India has only one Banking Ombudsman Scheme, the current version of which is called Banking Ombudsman Scheme 2006. The parent department of Banking Ombudsmen, Customer Service Department based at Mumbai at times issues some guidelines to Banking Ombudsmen operating in India. Again, these guidelines are common for all the Banking Ombudsmen. Therefore, one would expect that the decisions taken by different Banking Ombudsmen in India should be based on what is written in the Banking Ombudsman Scheme and the guidelines issued by Customer Service Department. Even after providing for a little bit of subjectivity, we cannot expect a situation where one Banking Ombudsman's decisions are largely in favour of public or largely in favour of banks. To know the truth, I sent out three applications under RTI Act, 2005 to the Offices of Banking Ombudsmen in Jaipur, Chandigarh, and New Delhi asking for details of complaints decided by them during July 31, 2012 and December 31, 2012. I received the information which I tabulated and compared to see the performance of the three Offices of Banking Ombudsmen in terms of the decisions given by them on public complaits. The results of my comparison are startling. Thinking in terms of public interest, the Banking Ombudsman at Jaipur turned out to be the most people friendly followed by Chandigarh, while New Delhi came a distant third. The performance of Jaipur and New Delhi Banking Ombudsmen varies so widely that I am forced to wonder whether there is only one Banking Ombudsman Scheme operational in India? See details below...

(A) Performance Snapshot

Let us first take a summary look at the complaints handled by the three Offices of Banking Ombudsmen and the decisions given by them on those complaints:

How Complaints Were Decided
1st July 2012 to 31st December 2012
ParticularsJaipur BOChandigarh BONew Delhi BO
Complaints Decided183616074179
Non-Maintainable Complaints (Number)5536992219
Non-Maintainable Complaints (Percentage)30%43%53%
Non-Maintainable Being First Resort57
Maintainable Complaints (Number)12839081960
Maintainable Complaints (Percentage)70%57%47%
Maintainable but Rejected (Number)4554111055
Maintainable but Rejected (Percentage)35%45%54%
Awards Passed Against Banks11NIL12
Mutual Settlement (Number)817497893
Mutual Settlement (Percentage)64%55%45%

Before we analyse this table, we need to be clear about what a "Maintainable Complaint" is. When a complaint is received by an office of Banking Ombudsman, it is examined to decide it the complaint is eligible for consideration under Banking Ombudsman Scheme (See Banking Ombudsman Scheme here). If a complaint is found to be eligible and is admitted for resolution, it is called a maintainable complaint. Maintainable complaints are sent to the concerned banks for resolution / comments. The bank's reply is examined and if a deficiency is found on the part of the bank, the concerned bank is asked to resolve the complaint. If no deficiency is found on the part of the bank, the complaint is rejected.

If an office of Banking Ombudsman finds a complaint to be outside the purview of Banking Ombudsman Scheme, or if the complainant has sent the complaint directly to Banking Ombudsman without having complained in writing to the concerned bank (First Resort Complaint), such a complaint is called "Non-maintainable Complaint".

We also need to know the area of jurisdiction of the three Banking Ombudsman offices compared in this article. Jaipur BO has jurisdiction over the entire State of Rajasthan. Chandigarh BO's area of jurisdiction covers the entire states of Punjab & Himachal Pradesh, the Union Territory of Chandigarh, and three districts of Haryana State - Ambala, Panchkula, and Yamunanagar. New Delhi BO has jurisdiction over Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana (except the districts of Ambala , Yamuna Nagar and Panchkula), and the districts of Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar of Uttar Pradesh.

Here's my analysis of the above Table:

1. Jaipur BO found 30% complaints non-maintainable (not eligible under the BO Scheme). The percentage of complaints considered as non-maintainable by Chandigarh BO was 43% whereas New Delhi BO treated 53% complaints as non-maintainable. Share of First Resort Complaints in total non-maintainable complaints was not very significant at 3.10% for Jaipur BO, 7.22% for Chandigarh BO, and 8% for New Delhi BO. First Resort Complaints for Chandigarh and New Delhi BO were almost at the same level - 7.22% and 8%, but the percentage of complaits rejected as non-maintainable by New Delhi BO was very high at 53% as compared to 43% rejected by Chandigarh BO.

2. Out of the 1960 complaints found maintainable by New Delhi BO, 54% complaints were closed in favour of the banks, meaning no deficiency was found in banking service. Chandigarh BO closed 45% (out of 908) maintainable complaints in favour of the banks whereas Jaipur BO closed only 35% (out of 1283) maintainable complaints in favour of the banks.

3. Jaipur BO seemed to have made the most efforts at promoting an amicable settlement between the banks and the complainants as the percentage of complaints closed by mutual settlement was highest at 64% for Jaipur BO. Chandigarh BO could achieve mutual settlement for 55% complaints whereas New Delhi BO could achieve the lowest among the three - 45%.

4. Jaipur BO passed 11 Awards against banks whereas New Delhi BO passed 12 Awards during the six month period. Chandigarh BO did not pass a single Award against any bank. Here a comparison between Jaipur and Chandigarh BO will be very relevant. Chandigarh BO did not pass any Award against any bank but on the other hand rejected more complaints as non-maintainable, rejected more maintainable complaints and could achieve far lesser mutual settlements as compared to Jaipur BO.

The Winners

Jaipur BO (Mr. N. P. Topno) emerged as the most People Friendly BO on all the parameters whereas New Delhi BO (Mr. M. Rajeshwara Rao) emerged as the most Bank Friendly BO on all the parameters. Chandigarh BO (Mr. Jaimal Tashi) was less people friendly than the Jaipur BO and also a little less bank friendly than the New Delhi BO.

My Legal Advice

I would sincerely advise all those members of public who feel wronged because their complaints were rejected by the New Delhi BO and Chandigarh BO during July and December 2012 to use RTI Act, 2005 and call for copies of all office notes recorded on their complaints and all the correspondence entered into between the BO and the concerned bank. Maybe you will find something interesting.

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All information given in this blog is obtained from sources in the public domain, RTI applications, discussions with bankers, bank customers in India and also with some employees of Reserve Bank of India having knowledge of the working of various Offices of Banking Ombudsman in India. All information in this blog is presented on a best effort basis and is not claimed to be complete information on any of the subjects covered in this blog. Use of any information given in this blog is purely voluntary on the part of the readers. Author of this blog does not assume any responsibility for any action of the readers related to any matter discussed in this blog or any consequences thereof. Readers of this blog are advised to consult a legal practitioner before taking any action related to any matter discussed in this blog.