Justice for Foreign Investors in FD of an Indian company
I am a 61-year-old Malaysian citizen married and living in India. My family and I had invested in fixed deposit of a listed company for one-year period. The maturity date has passed and the company has defaulted in paying back the maturity amount as well as interest.
Post-dated cheques issued by the company have bounced due to insufficient funds in the company’s bank account. The company is Gujarat-based and has hotels and other business. I sent several emails to company officials but got no replies. I even tried contacting them on their phone number but no one picks up the phone. I want to know if there is a law to protect foreign senior citizen like me. Where should I make a complaint?
LRC’s Reply: There are no separate laws for investors falling in foreigners or senior citizens category. The process of filing complaints is the same for every investor who has bought Indian investment products. Corporate FDs are an unsecured investment and, to that extent, unsafe. You should have known this at the time of your investment.
Like other investors facing similar problems, you have to follow a simple process of filing a complaint with the company. Since you have already done so and they have not responded to your queries, you can file a complaint against the company on the website of ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) as well as the Company Law Board (CLB). Once you file the complaint with MCA and CLB, the chances of getting your money increases as MCA and CLB can order Neesa Leisure Limited to pay you.
We have provided a detailed process; you just have to follow it with necessary links. Here is what you need to do:
First, you should file a complaint with the investor grievance cell or with the company secretary of the company. Go to the company’s website and check contact details. Email them regarding your issues and complaints and save it as a proof that they did not bother to reply to your complaints.
If you do not get a proper response from them by email or on their helpline numbers, escalate the issue. You can do so by filing an online complaint to MCA as mentioned below.
On MCA website (http://www. mca.gov.in/MCA21/index.html), click on ‘Important Links’ on the right side of the menu; then click on ‘Lodge Investor Complaints’. It will provide you the investor complaint form (http://www.mca.gov.in/ DCAPortalWeb/dca/EFormDisplay. do?method=getForm&contentId=1 021&taskID=9501 ). Fill in all the necessary details and submit your complaint online.
While filling online complaint form on MCA’s website, you need to enter the corporate identity number (CIN) of the company (http://www. mca.gov.in/DCAPortalWeb/dca/ MyMCALogin.do?method=setDefa ultProperty&mode=14 ).
You can also file a case against the company with the CLB under Section 58A (9) of Companies Act, 1956, or under Section 45QA of the RBI Act, 1934. You need to fill form no. 4 of company law board regulations and submit it with a demand draft of Rs50 to nearest CLB bench.
Keep reading Moneylife (http://www.moneylife.in /). We published an article on, “How to get your money back from Yash Birla group companies” (http:// www.moneylife.in/article/how-toget-your-money-back-from-yashbirla-group-companies/34593. html ) to guide our readers about getting their corporate FD amounts back from the Yash Birla group of companies. Many got their money back using this process, as the CLB directed the company to pay to its deposit-holders. (http://www. moneylife.in/article/company-lawboard-directs-zenith-birla-ltd-topay-dues-of-its-depositors/36446. html).
IRDA should act a little more in consumer interest
ARight to Information (RTI) application to the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDA), followed by an appeal, is what it took to ferret out the information that, until August 2013, Reliance Life Insurance, through its corporate agent, had defrauded 2,141 persons into buying insurance with the false assurance that they would get an interest-free loan equal to 10 times the premium. The agent was AB Capital which ran a call centre that expertly duped people by claiming that the loan would be processed once the policy was bought. Immediately after the policy purchase, they would stop taking the calls.
Until the RTI, Moneylife Foundation (MF), our not-for-profit entity, and Raj Pradhan our insurance expert, had been plodding, case after case, to help the 30-odd victims of this fraud to get back nearly Rs22 lakh from Reliance Life. We repeatedly wrote that the geographical spread of the victims made it clear that the complaints reaching us were a fraction of those duped. It is not that Reliance Life has not initiated action. It has terminated the agency contract AB Capital and filed a criminal complaint, leading to the arrest of five officials. But, contrary to what it claimed to the regulator, the fraud has not ended with 2,141 cases. Our insurance helpline continues to receive complaints even today. In fact, Reliance Life has now adopted stricter standards for making payments. Why would IRDA not follow a clear and simple process to find out how many people have been cheated? The process would be to ask Reliance Life to provide a list of all policies sold by AB Capital, eliminate those who have got their money back and publish a list of all others on IRDA’s website, or in a national daily, asking people to write to a central helpline if they have also been cheated. The job of the regulator is not merely to act as a post-office while harried persons run from pillar to post seeking redress.
We do admit that IRDA has levied stiff penalties against several insurers, including Reliance Life, for mis-selling and other violations after due process and investigation. That surely has its place, but a financial regulator needs to have a parallel process of forcing those guilty of mis-selling to collate, compile and redress grievances through refunds. The regulator must recognise that Indian regulatory and legal systems rarely compensate victims by way of costs, interest or for the mental agony and hardship suffered in fighting their battles; so, the least they can ensure is that the money is refunded quickly.
We have a long way to go before financial consumers feel safe
Consumers International (CI), a global network of 240 consumer organisations, has decided on four key areas of financial consumer protection (FCP) that will be the focus of its consumer advocacy in the coming year. CI will campaign to place FCP on the agenda of the G20 nations, and also work at influencing recommendations of Financial Stability Board (FSB) and OECD. These four areas are: action to prevent abusive financial products and practices; promotion of competition in financial services; measures to tackle consumer debt and consumer access to basic products.
Where does India figure in all this? And what is the attitude of our regulators to the concerns of global consumers of financial products? Probably, for the first time ever in the 25 years since SEBI came into existence, the Sensex is scaling new, all-time highs but the majority of Indians are completely uninterested.
The same is true of insurance where, too, the regulator does not seem to understand that keeping the faith of consumers must be a priority. As far as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is concerned, there is now an inclination to work at a comprehensive consumer protection framework, but RBI still has no formal engagement with consumers. The top brass at the banking regulator believes that the many complaints it receives everyday gives it a fair idea of consumer grievances. We beg to differ.
Most consumers articulate their issues poorly and are unable to place them appropriately in the context of a regulatory or consumer protection framework. That is why an NGO like Disha Financial Counselling is required to guide people correctly. More important, the availability and willingness of banks to provide basic banking services, which the RBI governor mentioned recently, will be the key to financial inclusion in India, along with a focus on ensuring safer mobile payments, which is also a global concern. (Moneylife Foundation, of which this writer is a founder trustee, is a supporter-member of CI.)