Disclaimer : I do not wish to defame any bank in any way as I type this post. I just intend to create awareness amongst the readers about their options. If you own a bank which conducts fair business practices, I am pretty sure yours is not the bank that I mention henceforth.
In one of my previous posts I had tried to elaborate on the various measures we can take while carrying out online transactions to secure our money and our data. That being done, we still handout lots of our support cash to someone we barely know, for safekeeping and growth. That someone are the financial institutions.
But what if these very people whom we trust, breach our trust and leave us with nothing? Time and again we have learnt about large scams with lots of big financial institutions, including banks, collapse due to a huge scam, resulting in the loss of poor mans hard earned money. It makes us shiver and make a beeline to liquidate our assets/savings and keep cash on us. But the prospects of being robbed, force us to trust the lesser of two evil and we stay put with the banks. So who protects us from the treacherous practices of such institutions?
The answer is Banking Ombudsman. It is not another scam devised by the government to fool us. It actually works and has been handing out justice when banks have been dubious in their acts. Let me narrate two episodes.
A few years back, one fine day, I logged on to check my account, and found that the bank which held my savings account had deducted a considerable sum from my account with some unintelligible narration for the transaction. At first, I took it to be some regular deduction which banks always carry out, based on some finely typed clause(maybe font arial 6) in their 20+ page application form. But later as I remembered, the bank “official”, who had been very forthcoming and courteous in his manners while opening the account, had assured me that I wouldn’t be charged anything for the first year. My year was not yet up and I decided to take up the case.
Wearily, I dialed up the toll free customer care number and after minutes of punching in lots of details on the phone for the benefit of the Interactive Voice Recording, I began my wait for the “executive” to answer. The executive was polite and upon investigation, informed me that I had failed to maintain the average quarterly minimum balance as prescribed by them. I informed that I had maintained the balance as was informed while opening up the account and the executive responded that the balance requirement had been increased in previous quarter. I informed that I had not been updated regarding this, to which the executive said that I must have been informed since they had sent emails and SMS to everyone. I was pretty sure I didn’t receive any such mail and asked the executive to file a complain to which I was denied any complaint and told that I was at fault.
I decided to take matters further ahead and send a mail to proper customer care complaint department, then to nodal officer, within a week of each other. I kept on receiving those “ we are reviving your complaint and will get back to you in a weeks time” for three consecutive weeks, every Monday. That’s when I decided to take matters higher. Armed with all the mail trail, and reference number of my telephonic conversation, I sent them one more strong email, while keeping in cc, the Banking Ombudsman.
One point to be noted here. Whenever you are dealing with such firms on phone, ask for the reference number of your current conversation. They are bound to give it and they are bound to keep the recorded voice communication for a certain period of time, by law. They say one wrong word against themselves and the case comes in your hand.
After sending the email, I didn’t expect much since my idea of Banking Ombudsman was some hall, filled with about 20-25 people, one or two computers(intel i386), old creaking fans, lots of papers and files covered with dust and a child laborer in a short pant and a vest, serving tea to all. Little did I know that the office of my imagination was most feared by this financial institutions, in case they were wrong. I didn’t receive any auto response of delayed response the next week. In fact, the next morning I got a message that the deduction had been reverted. And hour later, I got a phone call from the pseudo apologetic customer care executive, regarding the wrong deduction and inconvenience.
Needless to say, I closed the account shortly.
Very recently, my colleague narrated an experience she had faced with the same bank. Early one morning, she woke up to book a ticket for her father in law as he had to travel to his native place on some urgently matter. She went through all the processes and when the time came for payment, it was declined. She tried multiple times and it was declined all through. Luckily, she managed to book the ticket using some other source. She didn’t investigate initially, but had a suspicion and later called up the customer care to check out the reason. To her shock, she was informed that her card had been blocked since the bank had detected some fraudulent transaction on her account. She demanded why she was not informed regarding this via email or a phone call, to which she got no satisfactory reply. She was very angry at such an irresponsible practice from the bank since it was her salary account, she had forgotten the password, she couldn’t use the debit card and all the options to create a new password were linked to her debit card. Effectively, her money was locked in to her account and she would not be able to use it in case of emergency.
She made a complaint regarding this on the regular email and she got a new card delivered immediately within a day or two.(I guess the bank realized their mistake and wanted to amend, a little to late since my colleague was adamant on getting some kind of apology).
When I heard this, I immediately asked her to go through the proper channels, with banking ombudsman in the loop. Later, from what she told me, banking ombudsman started their own process of investigation from their end and it seemed they didn’t get any proper response. The Ombudsman also kept her informed about the progress of her case.
A couple of days back a very respectable amount was transferred in to her account. She was informed by the bank that this amount was the fine levied by the banking ombudsman on to them which was to be paid to the customer for their wrong doings. Though my colleague, was reluctant to take the compensation, since money was not her concern, I asked her not to feel guilty for someone else’s mistake. The compensation was given to her fair and square and the bank needed to apologies and ensure such incidents don’t happen again.
My belief in the banking ombudsman has increased considerably and my mental vision of its office has changed from some desi babu’s office to a swanky high tech houston mission control.
Here are few details for the mission control and the Banking Ombudaman Scheme 2006.
I just hope my colleague doesn’t find a way to return the money to the wrongful owners….
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