The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s- Integrated Ombudsman Scheme (RB-IOS), 2021, which was launched by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi last week seeks to provide cost-free redress of customer complaints involving deficiency in services rendered by entities regulated by RBI, if not resolved to the satisfaction of the customers or not replied within a period of 30 days by the regulated entity (RE).
What are the major changes?
The new scheme integrates the existing three Ombudsman schemes of RBI—the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006; the Ombudsman Scheme for Non-Banking Financial Companies, 2018; and the Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions, 2019.
In addition to integrating the three existing schemes, the new scheme also includes under its ambit Non-Scheduled Primary Co-operative Banks with a deposit size of Rs50 crore and above. The IOS adopts ‘One Nation One Ombudsman’ approach by making the RBI Ombudsman mechanism jurisdiction neutral.
Under RB-IOS, the exclusive jurisdiction of each ombudsman office has been done away with under the concept of ‘One Nation - One Ombudsman’. A deputy ombudsman (DO) too would be appointed to address certain categories of complaints to free ombudsman for greater adjudication role.
A centralised receipt and processing centre (CRPC) has been set up at RBI, Chandigarh along with a contact centre with a toll-free number to assist complainants in filing complaints and seeking information about the redress mechanism.
Why have the three schemes been integrated?
The integration comes as the three ombudsman schemes, having evolved over different periods of time, had different grounds of complaints leading to uneven redress across customers of different entities, and had different compensation structures resulting in unequal treatment of aggrieved customers.
That’s why a need was felt to integrate existing ombudsman schemes into one, simplify the scheme by covering all complaints involving deficiency in service, and centralise the receipt and initial processing of complaints to impart process efficiency.
What are the benefits under the new scheme?
(i) Single point of reference;
(ii) Greater coverage;
(iii) Consistency in resolution for customers of different REs;
(iv) Faster redress;
(v) Fewer rejections.
How will the integration of schemes help complainants?
Under the erstwhile schemes, the customers were required to file complaints under the correct scheme, depending on the RE, and with the correct ombudsman office, based on the territorial jurisdiction with reference to the branch of the RE being complained against, failing which the complaint would get rejected. This has now been taken care of by the integration into one scheme for all REs with a single point of reference for all complaints.
The customer had also to ensure that the complaint fell under the specified and limited grounds of complaints under the respective schemes, failing which the complaint would get rejected as non-maintainable. Now, all complaints involving ‘deficiency in service’ will be admitted under the RB-IOS.
Why has the receipt of complaints under RB-IOS been centralised?
This has been done to have one address, one email, one portal and one contact number for lodging complaints, submitting documents and getting irrelevant information, and to create process efficiency through initial processing of complaints.
How will centralisation of receipt of complaints operate?
The complaints would be received online (https://cms.rbi.org.in
), as hitherto, or through one email ([email protected]
) or at one address at CRPC, RBI, Chandigarh. The email and physical complaints received at CRPC would be registered on the CMS by the staff after getting additional information, if any, from the customer.
All the complaints in the CMS will be processed initially to check their maintainability and thereafter allocated to the Ombudsman offices based on the residential address of the complainant and the volume of the complaints in the respective offices.
All the communication from, and to, the customer and the RE, including auto-intimation to the complainant and the RE upon the registration of the complaint, and the closure intimation on closing of a complaint would be through the CMS portal.
What is the role of the contact centre?
The basic idea to set up a contact centre was to bring all complaint-related queries and information to one place. The centre, with a toll-free number (14448), manned by RBI staff will operate as part of the CRPC to provide assistance to the complainants in lodging the complaints and providing information pertaining to their complaints and the grievance redress mechanism of RBI, in eight regional languages, (Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Oriya, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu), apart from Hindi and English.
Will the RB-IOS lead to speedier redress?
The faster redress depends on factors like complexity of the case, timely submission of documents, volume of complaints in ombudsman offices, etc.
At times, regulated entities do not furnish information to BOs on time resulting in delay. Will this issue be addressed?
The new scheme prescribes a 15 days timeline for the REs to furnish information/documents to the office of Ombudsman as against none at present. By non-furnishing the timely and satisfactory reply/documents, REs will lose the right to appeal in cases where an award is issued by the ombudsman against the REs.
For cases that have been closed by the ombudsman under an appealable clause and for decisions and awards of the ombudsman that are not acceptable to the complainant, where can the person lodge the appeal?
The appeal in such cases can be filed in the same CMS portal (https://cms.rbi.org.in
) These appeal cases will be handled separately by the competent authority.
Sometimes, there are different decisions in similar cases, how will this scheme address this anomaly?
CMS database will be used from the back end for analysis of past decisions, bringing in uniformity and consistency in decision making.
Can one participate in the conciliation meeting in the ombudsman office from anywhere?
Yes, the conciliation meeting can be held virtually either through the video conferencing facility of RBI, for which one may have to visit the nearest RBI office or from any nearby branch of the concerned bank, in consultation with ombudsman office or through platforms like Webex, MS Teams, etc, subject to mutual convenience. Audio conference calls are also possible.
How can one file a complaint under RB-IOS?
A complaint against any RE involving ‘deficiency in service’ can be filed under the RB-IOS, 2021 through any of the following methods:
b. E-mail - at [email protected]
in the form as specified in Annexure ‘A’ in the Scheme.
c. Hard copy complaint (letter/post) in the form as specified in Annexure ‘A’ in the Scheme to “Centralised Receipt and Processing Centre, 4th Floor, Reserve Bank of India, Sector -17, Central Vista, Chandigarh – 160017.”
Complaints against REs not covered under the RB-IOS, 2021 will be handled at the consumer education and protection cells (CEPCs) set up at 30 regional offices of RBI.
Can complaints with ombudsmen be filed in any language?
Physical and email complaints can be lodged with the ombudsman in any language.
For complaints being lodged on the CMS portal, at present, the system enables filing of complaint only in Hindi and English. However, facts/description of the complaint can be typed or copied and pasted in description box provided in the CMS portal in any language.
What about entities not covered under RB-IOS?
Complaints of the customers of entities not yet covered under the RB-IOS (UCBs with deposits of less than Rs50 crore, NBFCs with assets of less than Rs100 crore, HFCs, CICs etc.) are handled by the Customer Education and Protection Cells (CEPCs). Process of filing complaints with CEPCs is same as under RB-IOS.