Unified Ombudsman Scheme: A Single-Point Grievance Redressal Mechanism for Banking Customers

BW Legal World | 15 February 2022

The Government of India set a clear roadmap for creating a jurisdiction neutral Ombudsman mechanism by unveiling the RBI-Integrated Ombudsman Scheme, 2021 on November 12, 2021. It has lent firm credence to the ‘One Nation One Ombudsman’ approach and made the grievance redressal mechanism more responsive and time-bound. 

By integrating three different Ombudsman schemes viz; the Banking Ombudsman Scheme 2006, the Ombudsman Scheme for Non-Banking Financial Companies, 2018 and the Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions, 2019 under a single central scheme, its process efficiencies have been significantly boosted. The groundwork for the New Scheme was prepared based on the recommendations of a committee set up by the RBI to review existing Ombudsman schemes.

Customers of entities regulated by Banks comprising Banks, NBFCs and payments system operators can seek cost-free redressal of their complaints pertaining to deficiency of services on a single interface. They can report their issues and concerns to the Integrated Ombudsman in the event of grievances not resolved to their satisfaction and if a reply is not furnished within a period of 30 days.

Non-scheduled primary co-operative banks having a deposit size of Rs. 50 crore and above have also been brought under the ambit of the New Scheme. A robust integrated grievance redressal body with a customer-centric operating framework is key to helping expand the maintainable grounds for complaints and precluding unwarranted delays in speedier delivery of communication and relief.

Key features integrated within the Integrated Ombudsman Scheme have made grievance redressal a seamless and hassle-free process for aggrieved customers. Under the new policy regime, a complainant will be in a position to file a grievance without needing to exclusively identify the scheme under which the complaint needs to be raised with the Ombudsman. A greater adjudication role has been allowed for the Ombudsman office with the removal of jurisdictional limitations. The New Scheme provides for the setting up of a dedicated Centralized Receipt and Processing Centre at RBI, Chandigarh for the receipt and initial processing of physical and online (via email) complaints in any language. Deficiency in service has been defined as one of the grounds for filing a complaint with a specified list of exclusions. Through this introduction, the complaints shall no longer be simply rejected on account of “not covered under the grounds listed in the scheme” as was the case earlier.

The responsibility of representing the Regulated Entity and furnishing information with respect to the complaints filed by customer(s) against the Regulated Entity shall be borne by a Principal Nodal Officer in the rank of a General Manager in a Public Sectors Bank or equivalent. The Regulated Entity shall not have the right to appeal in the event of an award being issued by the Ombudsman against it for not furnishing satisfactory and timely information/documents. The Appellate Authority shall be the Executive Director-In-Charge of Consumer Education and Protection Department of RBI. The New Scheme allows for online complaints to be filed on the dedicated platform  https://cms.rbi.org.in as well as through the email address crpc@rbi.org.in.   Physical filing of the complaint shall be ‘made to the ‘Centralized receipt and Processing Centre’ in the prescribed format available on the official website of RBI. A customer contact centre has also been operationalized.

The New Integrated Ombudsman Scheme holds the potential to restore customer trust and confidence in the country’s banking system. It is a key measure towards assuring the country’s small investors that their voice is being heard, their interests are safeguarded and their grievances will be resolved in a hassle-free and transparent manner. It is the foundation on which the edifice of a sound banking system will be built with customer-centricity at the core of operations.