The 22 offices of RBI ombudsman (ORBIOs) have disposed nearly 98% of the complaints, the majority of them (63.63%) through mutual settlement or agreement and issued awards in 0.01% or 33 cases, reveals a report from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The annual report is for 12 months till March 2022.
In the report, RBI says, "Under the erstwhile banking ombudsman scheme (BOS), offices of non-banking financial companies (NBFC) ombudsman (ONBFCO), ombudsman for digital transactions (OODTs) and the Reserve Bank-integrated ombudsman scheme (RB-IOS), during 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022, the total number of complaints received at the ORBIOs and the centralised receipt and processing centre (CRPC), stood at 4,18,184, showing an increase of 9.39% over last year. Of these, 3,04,496 complaints were handled by the 22 ORBIOs (till 11 November 2021). The overall disposal rate for the year at the ORBIOs stood at 97.97%. A total of 33 awards were issued by the ORBIOs and 92 appeals were received against the decisions of the RBI Ombudsmen (RBIOs) during the year."
According to RBI, complaints relating to digital modes of payment and transactions were the highest in number, constituting 42.12% of the total complaints received during the year. "The rate of disposal of complaints by RBIOs improved to 97.97% in FY21-22 from 96.59% in FY20-21. A majority (63.63%) of the maintainable complaints were resolved through mutual settlement, conciliation and mediation."
On 12 November 2021, RB-IOS was launched, and its ambit was extended to include non-scheduled urban cooperative banks (UCBs) with deposits of Rs50 crore and above. Under the RB-IOS, a CRPC was established at Chandigarh to receive complaints through email and physical mode from across the country and handle the initial scrutiny and processing of these complaints before assigning the maintainable ones to ORBIOs for further redressal.
From 12 November 2021 to 31 March 2022, a total of 186,268 complaints were received under the RB-IOS. The CRPC handled the preliminary scrutiny of 149,419 complaints received through email and physical mode and closed 107,821 complaints as non-complaintsor non-maintainable complaints. A total of 72,580 complaints were assigned to the ORBIOs from the complaint management system (CMS) portal directly or through CRPC for redress during this period. A total of 31 appeals were received against the decisions of ORBIOs and all such appeals were filed by the complainants. During this period, four awards were issued by the ORBIOs.
Out of the 149,419 complaints handled at the CRPC, 143,552 complaints had been disposed as of the end of 31 March 2022, the report says.
Maintainable complaints are those relating to the grounds of a complaint specified in Clause 8 of the BOS and are in line with the requirements laid down in the Scheme. BOS envisages the settlement of complaints by agreement through conciliation or mediation. If the parties fail to arrive at an acceptable agreement, the BO gives a decision, which includes passing an award against the bank.
According to RBI, the CMS portal retains the highest share of complaints received or assigned to ORBIOs. However, physical complaints have witnessed an uptick in the current year compared to the previous year, especially post-launch of the RB-IOS. "This could be ascribed to the convenience arising from a single address to send the physical complaints from anywhere in the country under the 'one nation, one ombudsman' approach adopted under RB-IOS."
The report also points out that complaints relating to automated teller machines (ATM) or debit cards have witnessed a decline over the past three years, while the share of complaints related to mobile banking or electronic banking has seen a slight increase.
The share of complaints regarding loans and advances has increased, mainly due to complaints against the fair practices code (FPC) being classified under 'loans and advances' since the launch of RB-IOS. This, RBI says, justifies the decline in FPC complaints.
"Post dissolution of Banking Codes and Standards Board of India (BCSBI) and the launch of RB-IOS, complaints against BCSBI codes have also been diverted to other categories, including 'loans and advances'. Loans and advances contribute to the majority of complaints against NBFCs, followed by nonadherence to FPC, which is also indirectly related to loans and advances," the report says.
RBI says after the launch of RB-IOS, only maintainable complaints are assigned to ORBIOs post initial screening of non-maintainable and non-complaints at the CRPC, and hence, the complaints closed at the CRPC do not get accounted for as complaints under ORBIOs as per the RB-IOS.
However, it clarifies that the erstwhile schemes account for all complaints and references received at the ORBIOs and the data for 2021-22 is not comparable with data of previous years.