Is the Banking Ombudsman a broken system of grievance redress?
The latest report of the banking ombudsman’s office seems to confirm what many of us have suspected for over a year—that banking ombudsmen are closing cases and rejecting complaints every time there is even a whiff of another regulator involved. Consequently, bank customers, who have been hard-sold third-party products by wealth managers and relationship managers of banks, by exploiting a fiduciary relationship, are left high and dry.
Of the 75,183 complaints received in 2012-13, only half were found maintainable. Even of these, 49% were rejected for various reasons such as the amount involved or not having followed the process of approaching the bank first. Significantly, in just 1% of the cases—312 to be precise—was an order passed. There is something really wrong with this number at a time when consumer organisations like Moneylife Foundation have argued for exemplary damages as the fastest way to make banks more customer-focused.
Interestingly, a quarter of the complaints related to credit and debit card issues, which clearly remain a stress point for consumers and that mischief, like issue of unsolicited cards, skimming of cards, wrong debits, charging fees on free cards and using credit card to deduct mis-sold insurance, continues unabated. A hefty 26% were about the bank’s failure to adhere to its fair banking practices code. The fact that this becomes a matter of complaint to the banking ombudsman suggests that the statutory service committees of banks are probably not doing their job and are unconcerned about the BCSBI code, knowing that there is no consequence to ignoring it. The Reserve Bank attributes it to lack of awareness among bank staff about the fair practices codes. With over 72% of complaints coming from urban areas, it is clear that lack of awareness about redress mechanisms is also a huge problem.
The finance minister reduced excise duty on capital goods to 10% from 12% and on mobile handsets to 6% and in the case of automobile having different duty rate, the reduction is by 2-6%.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram has spared items used by the common man from price hikes in his tax proposals for the interim Budget 2014-15. He also reduced duties on automobiles.
Chidambaram also reduced the excise duty on capital goods to 10% from 12% and on mobile handsets to 6% and in the case of automobile having different duty rate the reduction is by 2-6%. These reductions will be applicable till 30 June 2014.
The customs duty has been reduced on the non-edible oils used in soap, making it 7.5% and exemption of countervailing duty on specified machinery for road construction has been withdrawn. The minister also exempted service tax on warehousing of rice and blood banks.
Following are the highlights of Interim Budget 2014-15:
* Income tax rates kept unchanged
* 10% surcharge on ‘super-rich’ having annual income above Rs1 crore to continue
* 10% surcharge on domestic corporates with income of Rs10 crore
* Foodgrain production estimated at 263 million tonnes in 2013-14
* Fiscal deficit at 4.6% in 2013-14 and 4.1% next year, revenue deficit at 3% in 2013-14
* Current Account Deficit (CAD) to be $45 billion as against $88 billion in 2012-13
* Excise duty on small cars, motorcycles and commercial vehicles cut to 8% from 12%
* Excise duty on SUVs cut to 24% from 30%
* Large and mid-segment cars to 24-20% from 27-24%
* Excise duty on mobile handsets to be 6% on CENVAT credit to encourage domestic production
* Excise duty cut on capital goods, non-consumer durables cut from 12 to 10%
* Moratorium on interest on student loans taken before 31 March 2009; to benefit 9 lakh borrowers
* $15 billion addition to foreign exchange in 2013-14
* Disinvestment target for FY14 cut to Rs16,027 crore versus Rs40,000 crore; next year Govt eyeing Rs36,925 crore
* Lowers residual stake sale target to Rs3,000 crore from Rs14,000 crore for this fiscal
* Govt obtains information in 67 cases of illegal offshore accounts of Indians
* Govt’s net borrowing in next fiscal to be Rs4.57 lakh crore
* Plan expenditure cut by Rs79,790 crore for current fiscal
* Allocates Rs1,000 crore more to Nirbhaya Fund
* CCI cleared 296 projects worth Rs6.6 lakh crore by end-January
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