Banking ombudsman not to handle demonetisation complaints: RBI


Customers’ complaints about problems like cash withdrawal and exchange of old notes faced post demonetisation cannot be entertained under the Banking Ombudsman (BO) scheme, the Reserve Bank has said.

The central bank said that demonetisation is not one of the 27 grounds under which a customer can lodge a complaint with the Banking Ombudsman.

During the demonetisation period, people had to face various problems in form of restrictions on withdrawal of currency notes and exchanging of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were withdrawn with immediate effect from midnight of November 8, 2016.

“Banking Ombudsman Scheme (BO Scheme), 2006 specifies 27 grounds of complaints under which complaints can be lodged. Complaints related to demonetisation is not a ground of complaint specified under the Scheme,” a Right to Information (RTI) query sent to the Reserve Bank has revealed.

In response to the question as to how many complaints came to RBI ombudsman offices across India related to demonetisation, the RBI stated: “As such information is not available.”

When contacted, a banking ombudsman officer said, “Demonetisation does not come under Ombudsman Scheme.”

All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) Secretary General Harvinder Singh said a lot many complaints came to banks during the demonetisation period and the lenders tried to resolve them to the extent possible, barring a few.

“Many complaints came through emails, letters, phone calls and through personal visits. Even complaints were made directly to the Department of Financial Services,” Singh said.

However, for example when banks were instructed to allow withdrawal of up to Rs 2.5 lakh by a family having marriage, the lenders could not help on time as the formal directives came late, he added.

The banking ombudsman scheme covers complaints related to deficiency in banking including Internet banking or other services, non-adherence to the instructions of the RBI on ATM/debit cards and prepaid card operations.

It also covers complaints regarding non-adherence by the bank or its subsidiaries of RBI guidelines on credit card operations, non-adherence of norms related to mobile banking or electronic banking, non-disbursement or delay in disbursement of pension among others.

Even as the window to exchange the disbanded high value currency notes ended on December 30, 2016, people still visit RBI offices, though in a scattered number, in a hope to exchange their old notes which they could not do within the stipulated time for some or the other reasons.

A Gurgaon resident, visiting RBI Delhi office, said he found some Rs 8,000 in old currency notes which his son had hidden somewhere and now wanted to exchange it with new ones.

“But there is no one to hear my complaint,” he said.

Here, it is pertinent to mention that the Supreme Court earlier this month has given the Centre and the RBI two weeks’ time to consider the option of granting a window to those who could not deposit their old notes for genuine reasons.

A Supreme Court bench is hearing a batch of petitions, including from individuals seeking a direction to authorities to allow depositing demonetised notes to banks in lieu of legal currency after being failed to do so under the given time-frame.