On 4 July 2017, thousands of people joined the unique #TweetMorcha against arbitrary bank charges, with the hashtag #BankSeBachao trending at top spot in India and also featuring in worldwide trends, in the afternoon that day. People from across the globe sent tweets to Prime Minister @NarendraModi and Finance Minister @ArunJaitley with the hashtags of #BankSeBachao and #TweetMorcha.
Within 72 hours of the unique #TweetMorcha, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took steps to limit the liability of bank customers in digital transactions. The issue about digital safety, which has been languishing as a draft notification of RBI, was the very first point raised by activists and trade unions in their petition to RBI and the government.
RBI says that in case of contributory fraud or negligence or deficiency from the bank, the customer will have zero liability, irrespective of whether or not she reports the unauthorised transaction. In case of third-party breach, where there is no liability on the bank, and the customer reports it to the bank within three days, then also she is entitled to zero liability.
In addition, banks are asked to credit the amount involved in the unauthorised electronic banking transaction to the customer’s account within 10 days from reporting by the customer. RBI has also asked banks to put in place a mechanism to handle communication related to electronic banking and to resolve customer grievances within the stipulated time.
Coming back to the #TweetMorcha, Moneylife Foundation, along with Sanjay Nirupam, chief of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee and others, including India’s leading bank union leaders, consumer organisations and activists, had organised this unique new form of online protest to take up the issue of high bank charges. The aim of this Tweet Morcha was to give voice to the anger of customers who are being forced to pay unfair bank charges and unjust fees and to make it heard by the prime minister. All the tweets were tagged to prime minister Narendra Modi’s twitter handle @narendramodi.
The charges that banks are levying on their customers amount to being illegal. The protest was kicked off at a live event in Mumbai, with Mr Nirupam, Sucheta Dalal, trustee of Moneylife Foundation, along with members of civil society, NGOs, bank union members, bankers, activists and others being present. They tweeted to prime minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley, demanding action against banks, with the hashtags #TweetMorcha and #BankSeBachao. In a matter of minutes, the hashtags began to trend.
Tracking data from TalkWalker shows the two hashtags, #TweetMorcha and #BankSeBachao reached over 200 million people. The hashtag #BankSeBachao was mentioned in 24,700 tweets, while #TweetMorch found mention in 15,900 tweets, the data shows.
Says Mr Nirupam, ‘The Prime Minister is more active on Twitter. Hence, we have chosen this platform to address this serious issue. We want him to hear the plea of the common man who suffers on a daily basis due to the unjust practices of the banks. Today, hundreds of victims of bank atrocities gathered and tweeted about this issue, voicing their opinions and rage, addressing it to the Prime Minister. We hope that this plea doesn't go unanswered and an appropriate action is taken against the banks.’
‘Earlier, we approached the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Finance Minister, seeking help. However, our plea went unheard. But there is nothing like the unity of common people. Hence, people came together and tweeted to the Prime Minister, expressing their views and disappointment over increasing bank charges. This protest not only aimed at bringing the prejudices of bank down but also to show them the strength of unity of the common people in this country’, says Ms Dalal.
Along with the people who gathered at the venue, hundreds of angry customers joined in the Morcha from various parts of the world, voicing and registering their protest.
As part of its advocacy Moneylife Foundation has led the effort to fight for customer rights. Yet, there has been little evidence of concrete action on the ground by the regulator.
Moneylife Foundation has been at the forefront of speaking up for bank customers. An online petition titled “RBI Governor: Please Stop Banks Fleecing us Depositors!” on Change.org has garnered more than 214,000 signatures. (Sign the Petition
). The impact of the petition is evident from a series of statements by RBI in favour of consumers which, however, fall far short of what is required.
From 1 July 2017, RBI expanded role of the banking ombudsman (BO). Under the amended scheme, the BO’s pecuniary jurisdiction has doubled from Rs10 lakh to Rs20 lakh. It is also allowed to pay a compensation of up to Rs1 lakh for harassment, mental anguish, loss of time and expenses. RBI has widened the scope of filing an appeal against the BO’s orders. However, the increase in pecuniary jurisdiction for the BO is far too little. Cases of mis-selling of insurance products or problems relating to third-party wealth management products are usually for amounts far in excess of Rs20 lakh.
The change.org petition follows a memorandum sent to the RBI governor by a group of consumer activists (Moneylife Foundation, All India Bank Depositors Association, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, Rashtriya Matadata Manch, Police Reforms Watch, Public Concern for Governance Trust), bank unions (All India Bank Employees Association-AIBEA, Central Bank Employees Union-CBEU and New Trade Union Initiative-NTUI), finance experts such as Dhirendra Kumar, Harsh Roongta, RN Bhaskar, Debashis Basu, Yogesh Sapkale, Mahua Ghosh, Advocate Bapoo Malcolm, Shubha Khandekar and others. While RBI has not bothered to respond so far, the petition has found widespread support from people across the spectrum.
The group had, on 12 May 2017, presented a 1,100 page printout of over 100,000 signatures to an online petition at Change.org, to M Veerappa Moily, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on finance.