Know the Instructions given by RBI to Banks on customer services

Reserve Bank of India issued a master circular no RBI/2011-12/56 DBOD No.Leg.BC.18/09.07.006/2011-12 on 1st July, 2011 giving instructions to banks on customer services. Many a times common man faces difficulties while operating their bank accounts like paying minimum balance charges, not issuing  of cheque books at counters etc. Coustomers should be aware of  instructions issued by RBI to banks. I am sharing the some extracts of the master circular herebelow:

RBI in the above referred  master circular has instructed the banks in para 5.4 of the said circular that bank should make transapraently known to all depositors in advance and should also inform the existing account holders  of any change in the prescribed minimum balance and the charges that may be levied if the prescribed minimum balance is not maintained. with one month's notice

5.4 Minimum balance in savings bank accounts
 At the time of opening the accounts, banks should inform their customers in a transparent manner the requirement of maintaining minimum balance and levying of charges, etc., if the minimum balance is not maintained. Any charge levied subsequently should be transparently made known to all depositors in advance with one month’s notice. The banks should inform, at least one month in advance, the existing account holders of any change in the prescribed minimum balance and the charges that may be levied if the prescribed minimum balance is not maintained.

It has been instructed to the Banks by RBI in para 5.6.1 provided herebelow that pass book should be provided to saving bank account holders free of cost and if any customer wants statement of saving account the same should be provided to him free of cost.

 5.6.1   Issuance of Passbooks to Savings Bank Account holders (Individuals)
A passbook is a ready reckoner of transactions and is handy and compact and as such, is far more convenient to the small customer than a statement of account. Use of statements has some inherent difficulties viz., (a) these need to be filed regularly (b) the opening balance needs to be tallied with closing balance of last statement (c) loss of statements in postal transit is not uncommon and obtaining duplicates thereof involves expense and inconvenience (d) ATM slips during the interregnum between two statements does not provide a satisfactory solution as full record of transactions is not available and (e) there are a large number of small customers who do not have access to computers / internet, etc. As such, non-issuance of pass-books to such small customers would indirectly lead to their financial exclusion.

Banks are therefore advised to invariably offer pass book facility to all its savings bank account holders (individuals) and in case the bank offers the facility of sending statement of account and the customer chooses to get statement of account, the banks must issue monthly statement of accounts. The cost of providing such Pass Book or Statements should not be charged to the customer.

5.6.3 Entries in passbooks / statement of accounts (i) Banks should give constant attention to ensure entry of correct and legible particulars in the pass books and statement of accounts.

(ii) The banks often show the entries in depositors' passbooks / Statements of accounts, as "by clearing" or "by cheque". Further, it is observed that in the case of Electronic Clearing System (ECS) and RBI Electronic Fund Transfer (RBIEFTR), banks generally do not provide any details even though brief particulars of the remittance are provided by the receiving bank. In some cases, computerized entries use codes which just can not be deciphered. With a view to avoiding inconvenience to depositors, banks should avoid such inscrutable entries in pass books / statement of accounts and ensure that brief, intelligible particulars are invariably entered in pass books / statement of account.

 5.6.5   Providing monthly statement of accounts
(i) Banks may ensure that they adhere to the monthly periodicity while sending statement of accounts.

(ii) The statements of accounts for current account holders may be sent to the depositors in a staggered manner instead of sending by a target date every month. The customers may be informed about staggering of the preparation of these statements.

(iii) Further, banks should advise their Inspecting Officers to carry out sample check at the time of internal inspection of branches to verify whether the statements are being despatched in time.

5.7.3   Dispatching the cheque book by courier
The procedure of disallowing depositors to collect the cheque book at the branch and insisting on dispatching the cheque book by courier after forcibly obtaining a declaration from the depositor that a dispatch by the courier is at depositor's risk is an unfair practice. Banks should refrain from obtaining such undertakings from depositors and ensure that cheque books are delivered over the counters on request to the depositors or his authorized representative.

 5.7.4   Acceptance of cheques bearing a date as per National Calendar (Saka Samvat) for payment
Government of India have accepted Saka Samvat as National calendar with effect from 22 March 1957 and all Government statutory orders, notifications, Acts of Parliament, etc. bear both the dates i.e., Saka Samvat as well as Gregorian Calendar. An instrument written in Hindi having date as per Saka Samvat calendar is a valid instrument. Cheques bearing date in Hindi as per the National Calendar (Saka Samvat) should, therefore, be accepted by banks for payment, if otherwise in order. The banks can ascertain the Gregorian calendar date corresponding to the National Saka calendar in order to avoid payment of stale cheques.

5.8.1   Issue of term deposit receipt
Bank should issue term deposit receipt indicating therein full details, such as, date of issue, period of deposit, due date, applicable rate of interest, etc.

5.8.2   Transferability of deposit receipts
 Term deposits should be freely transferable from one office of bank to another.

5.8.3   Disposal of deposits
 Advance instructions from depositors for disposal of deposits on maturity may be obtained in the application form itself. Wherever such instructions are not obtained, banks should ensure sending of intimation of impending due date of maturity well in advance to their depositors as a rule in order to extend better customer service.

5.8.4   Notifying the change in interest rates
Change in interest rate on deposits should be made known to customers as well as bank branches expeditiously.

 5.8.6 Premature withdrawal of term deposit
A bank, on request from the depositor, should allow withdrawal of a term deposit before completion of the period of the deposit agreed upon at the time of making the deposit. The bank will have the freedom to determine its own penal interest rate of premature withdrawal of term deposits. The bank should ensure that the depositors are made aware of the applicable penal rate along with the deposit rate. While prematurely closing a deposit, interest on the deposit for the period that it has remained with the bank will be paid at the rate applicable to the period for which the deposit remained with the bank and not at the contracted rate. No interest is payable, where premature withdrawal of deposits takes place before completion of the minimum period prescribed. However, the bank, at its discretion, may disallow premature withdrawal of large deposits held by entities other than individuals and Hindu Undivided Families. The bank should, however, notify such depositors of its policy of disallowing premature withdrawal in advance, i.e., at the time of accepting such deposits.

 5.9   Acceptance of cash over the counter
Some banks have introduced certain products whereby the customers are not allowed to deposit cash over the counters and also have incorporated a clause in the terms and conditions that cash deposits, if any, are required to be done through ATMs.

Banking by definition means acceptance of deposits of money from the public for the purpose of lending and investment. As such, banks cannot design any product which is not in tune with the basic tenets of banking.

Further, incorporating such clauses in terms and conditions which restricts deposit of cash over the counters also amounts to an unfair practice.

Banks are therefore advised to ensure that their branches invariably accept cash over the counters from all their customers who desire to deposit cash at the counters. Further, they are also advised to refrain from incorporating clauses in the terms and conditions which restricts deposit of cash over the counters.

5.12 Reconciliation of transactions at ATMs failure - Time limit
Reserve Bank has been receiving a number of complaints from bank customers, regarding debit of accounts even though the ATMs have not disbursed cash for various reasons. More importantly, banks take considerable time in reimbursing the amounts involved in such failed transactions to card holders. In many cases, the time taken is as much as 50 days. The delay of the magnitude indicated above is not justified, as it results in customers being out of funds for a long time for no fault of theirs. Moreover, this delay can discourage customers from using ATMs.

Based on a review of the developments and with a view to further improve the efficiency of operations, it has been decided as under:-
  1. The time limit for resolution of customer complaints by the issuing banks shall stand reduced from 12 working days to 7 working days from the date of receipt of customer complaint. Accordingly, failure to recredit the customer’s account within 7 working days of receipt of the complaint shall entail payment of compensation to the customer @ ` 100/- per day by the issuing bank.

  2. Any customer is entitled to receive such compensation for delay, only if a claim is lodged with the issuing bank within 30 days of the date of the transaction.

  3. The number of free transactions permitted per month at other bank ATMs to Savings Bank account holders shall be inclusive of all types of transactions, financial or non-financial.

  4. All disputes regarding ATM failed transactions shall be settled by the issuing bank and the acquiring bank through the ATM System Provider only. No bilateral settlement arrangement outside the dispute resolution mechanism available with the system provider is permissible. This measure is intended to bring down the instances of disputes in payment of compensation between the issuing and acquiring banks.
Non-adherence to the provisions contained in para 5.12 (a) to (d) shall attract penalty as prescribed under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007 (Act 51 of 2007).

5.13 Lodging of ATM related Complaints

The following information should be displayed prominently at the ATM locations:-

(i) Information that complaints should be lodged at the branches where customers maintain accounts to which ATM card is linked;

(ii) Telephone numbers of help desk / contact persons of the ATM owning bank to lodge complaint / seek assistance.

(iii) Uniform Template (as given in Annexure V) for lodging of complaints relating to ATM transactions
 5.15    Security Issues and Risk mitigation measures- Online alerts to the cardholder for usage of credit/debit cards.
Banks were mandated to send online alerts to the cardholders for all Card Not Present (CNP) transactions for the value of ` 5000/- and above. Recently incidents of unauthorized / fraudulent withdrawals at ATMs have come to the notice of RBI. It is, therefore, decided that banks may take steps to put in place a system of online alerts for all types of transactions irrespective of the amount, involving usage of cards at various
channels. This measure is expected to encourage further usage of cards at various delivery channels. Banks have been advised to implement this measure latest by June 30, 2011.

6. Levy of Service Charges
6.1  Fixing service charges by banks

The practice of IBA fixing the benchmark service charges on behalf of member banks has been done away with and the decision to prescribe service charges has been left to individual banks. While fixing service charges for various types of services like charges for cheque collection, etc., banks should ensure that the charges are reasonable and are not out of line with the average cost of providing these services. Banks should also take care to ensure that customers with low volume of activities are not penalised.

Banks should make arrangements for working out charges with prior approval of their Boards of Directors as recommended above and operationalise them in their branches as early as possible.

6.2 Ensuring Reasonableness of Bank Charges

In order to ensure fair practices in banking services, Reserve Bank of India had constituted a Working Group to formulate a scheme for ensuring reasonableness of bank charges and to incorporate the same in the Fair Practices Code, the compliance of which would be monitored by the Banking Codes and Standards Board of India (BCSBI). Based on the recommendations of the Group, action required to be taken by banks is indicated under the column 'action points for banks' in the Annex I to this circular.

12.2   Demand Drafts
12.2.1   Issue of Demand Drafts

Measures seeking to bring down the incidence of frauds perpetrated through bank drafts should be built into the draft form itself. Necessary changes in system and procedures to speed up issue and payment of drafts should be taken.

All superscriptions about validity of the demand draft should be provided at the top of the draft form. A draft should be uniformly valid for a period of six months and procedure for revalidation after six months should be simplified.

Banks should ensure that drafts of small amounts are issued by their branches against cash to all customers irrespective of the fact whether they are having accounts with the banks or not. Bank's counter staff should not refuse to accept small denomination notes from the customers (or non customers for issuance of the drafts).

12.2.2   Encashment of drafts

The banks should ensure that drafts drawn on their branches are paid immediately. Payment of draft should not be refused for the only reason that relative advice has not been received.

Passport and postal identification card could be deemed to be adequate identification for encashment of drafts. Banks should ensure that their branches make payments against drafts promptly, without causing inconvenience to the public by accepting passports or postal identification cards as adequate for the purpose.

There is no objection to banks putting a ceiling of ` 25,000/- for payment of drafts against production of passport/postal identification purpose.

12.2.3   Issue of Duplicate Demand Draft 

Duplicate draft, in lieu of lost draft, up to and including ` 5,000/- may be issued to the purchaser on the basis of adequate indemnity and without insistence on seeking non payment advice from drawee office irrespective of the legal position obtaining in this regard.

Banks should issue duplicate Demand Draft to the customer within a fortnight from the receipt of such request. Further, for the delay beyond this stipulated period, banks were advised to pay interest at the rate applicable for fixed deposit of corresponding maturity in order to compensate the customer for such delay.

The period of fortnight prescribed would be applicable only in cases where the request for duplicate demand draft is made by the purchaser or the beneficiary and would not be applicable in the case of third party endorsements.

Some doubts were raised regarding the term "customer" used above and whether it would include only purchaser / beneficiary or also include any holder of the instrument other than the purchaser or the beneficiary. It is clarified that the above instructions would be applicable only in cases where the request for duplicate demand draft is made by the purchaser or the beneficiary and would not be applicable in the case of draft endorsed to third parties.

13.  Cheque Drop Box Facility

Both the drop box facility and the facility for acknowledgement of the cheques at regular collection counters should be available to the customers and no branch should refuse to give an acknowledgement if the customer tenders the cheques at the counters.

Banks should ensure that customers are not compelled to drop the cheques in the drop-box. Further, in the context of customer awareness in this regard, banks should invariably display on the cheque drop-box itself that "Customers can also tender the cheques at the counter and obtain acknowledgment on the pay-in-slips". The above message is required to be displayed in English, Hindi and the concerned regional language of the State.

Banks are also advised to make absolutely fool proof arrangements accounting for the number of instruments each time the box is opened so that there are no disputes and the customer’s interests are not compromised.

15.2   Procedure for return/ despatch of dishonoured cheques
(i) The paying bank should return dishonoured cheques presented through clearing houses strictly as per the return discipline prescribed for respective clearing house in terms of Uniform Regulations And Rules for Bankers' Clearing Houses. The collecting bank on receipt of such dishonoured cheques should despatch it immediately to the payees / holders.

(ii) In relation to cheques presented direct to the paying bank for settlement of transaction by way of transfer between two accounts with that bank, it should return such dishonoured cheques to payees/ holders immediately.

(iii) Cheques dishonoured for want of funds in respect of all accounts should be returned along with a memo indicating therein the reason for dishonour as "insufficient funds".  
  16. Dealing with Complaints and Improving Customer Relations
16.1 Complaints/suggestions box

Complaints/suggestions box should be provided at each office of the bank. Further, at every office of the bank a notice requesting the customers to meet the branch manager may be displayed regarding grievances, if the grievances remain unredressed.

16.2  Complaint Book /Register

Complaint book with perforated copies in each set may be introduced, so designed as to instantly provide an acknowledgement to the customers and an intimation to the Controlling Office.
IBA has, for the sake of uniformity, prepared a format of the complaint book with adequate number of perforated copies, which are so designed that the complainant could be given an acknowledged copy instantly. A copy of the complaint is required to be forwarded to the concerned controlling office of the bank along with the remark of the Branch Manager within a time frame. Bank should introduce the complaint book as per the above format for uniformity.

All bank's branches should maintain a separate complaints register in the prescribed format given for entering all the complaints/grievances received by them directly or through their Head Office/Govt. These registers should be maintained irrespective of the fact whether a complaint is received or not in the past.

The complaints registers maintained by branches should be scrutinised by the concerned Regional Manager during his periodical visit to the branches and his observations/comments recorded in the relative visit reports.
Banks having computerized operations may adopt the afore-said format and generate copies electronically.

16.3 Complaint Form

Further, a complaint form, along with the name of the nodal officer for complaint redressal, may be provided in the homepage itself to facilitate complaint submission by customers. The complaint form should also indicate that the first point for redressal of complaints is the bank itself and that complainants may approach the Banking Ombudsman only if the complaint is not resolved at the bank level within a month. Similar information may be displayed in the boards put up in all the bank branches to indicate the name and address of the Banking Ombudsman. In addition, the name, address and telephone numbers of the Controlling Authority of the bank to whom complaints can be addressed may also be given prominently.
The above are only the few extracts from the master circulars, there is lot more in the said circular which every customer of a bank should know. The full master circular is being provided herebelow for download:
Master Circular on Customer Service in Banks   



Post a Comment