Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 12 launched the Reserve Bank of India Integrated Ombudsman Scheme (RB-IOS), which strengthens the grievance redress mechanism for consumers of different regulated entities like banks, non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and payments system operators.
How is the new scheme different from the past? What are the salient features? Here are some frequently asked questions on the scheme.
Why have the three ombudsman schemes been integrated? What are the major changes?
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.
There was a perceived need to integrate the three ombudsman schemes into one, simplify the procedure by covering all complaints involving deficiency in service, and centralise the receipt and initial processing of complaints to impart process efficiency.
In addition, under RB-IOS, the exclusive jurisdiction of each ombudsman’s office has been done away with under the concept of ‘One nation, one ombudsman’. A deputy ombudsman too would be appointed to address certain categories of complaints to allow the ombudsman’s office a 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 related to their complaints/other aspects of the redress mechanism.
What would be the benefits under the new scheme?
An important benefit is that there is now a single point of reference. The complaint management system and CRPC at RBI, Chandigarh, enable a one-point interface for customers to file complaints, submit documents, track status and get relevant information. The RB-IOS scheme allows for greater coverage as well. While 11,352 entities will eventually come under the scheme in a phased manner, to begin with the number of entities covered will increase from 1,091 under the current three ombudsman bodies to 1,975. RB-IOS will not only cover the customers of all scheduled commercial banks, regional rural banks, scheduled urban cooperative banks (UCBs) and other UCBs with deposits of Rs50 crore and above, all deposit-taking NBFCs and NBFCs with assets of ₹100 crore and above, and non-bank system participants, it will also cover all complaints involving deficiency in service.
How will the integration of ombudsman schemes help complainants?
Under the earlier schemes, customers were required to file their complaints under the correct scheme and with the correct ombudsman’s office, based on the territorial jurisdiction with reference to the branch of the entity being complained against, failing which the complaint would be rejected. This has now been taken care of by having one scheme with a single point of reference for all complaints.
Under the earlier dispensation, 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 RB-IOS.
The limit for compensation, if any, would also be the same for all complainants, unlike earlier where it varied.
Why has the receipt of complaints under RB-IOS been centralized?
The basic idea behind centralization of receipts was to have one address, one email, one portal and one contact number for lodging complaints, submitting documents and getting relevant information, and to create process efficiency through initial processing of complaints in the system and centralizing non-adjudication processes in the CRPC to free up ombudsman staff for the adjudication process. This also facilitates faceless interface and a one-point reference for complainants as well as the regulated entities.
How will the centralisation of receipt of complaints operate?
Under RB-IOS, the complaints would be received online (https://cms.rbi.org.in), as hitherto, or through one email (email@example.com) 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 against a set of parameters (first resort complaints, sub-judice matters, repeat complaints, etc.,) 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 communication from and to the customer and the regulated entity, including auto-intimation to the complainant and the entity upon registration of the complaint, and the closure intimation upon at the end of the process would be through the CMS portal.
Why has a contact centre been set up and what would be its role?
The basic idea of setting up a contact centre was to bring all complaint-related queries and information, including requests seeking help and guidance, to one place thereby allowing staff to focus on adjudication of complaints.
The centre with a toll-free number (14448) manned by RBI staff will operate as part of the CRPC to provide assistance to customers in lodging complaints and providing information pertaining to their complaints and the grievance redress mechanism of the RBI in eight languages (Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Oriya, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu) apart from Hindi and English.
Will the RB-IOS lead to speedier grievance redress?
A speedier process depends on a number of factors like complexity of the case, timely submission of documents, volume of complaints in ombudsman offices, etc.
The CRPC and CMS will send instant notifications to the complainant and the regulated entity and will function as single-point reference for all complaint-related communication for both, thereby obviating undue delays and leading to speedier redress.
At times the regulated entities do not furnish information to BOs (Banking Ombudsman) on time, resulting in delay in redressing complaints. Will this issue be addressed by the new scheme?
The scheme prescribes a 15-day timeline for the regulated entity to furnish information/documents to the office of the ombudsman as against none at present. If they do not furnish the reply/documents in time, they stand to lose the right to appeal in cases where an award is issued by the ombudsman against them.
If the ombudsman rules against a complainant while closing a case under an appealable clause, where can he or she lodge the appeal?
The appeal in such cases can be filed in the same CMS portal (cms.rbi.org.in). Such appeal cases will be handled separately by the competent authority.
It has been seen that sometimes there are different decisions in similar cases. How will the new scheme address this anomaly?
The 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’s office from anywhere?
Yes, the conciliation meeting can be held virtually either through the videoconferencing facility of the RBI, for which one may have to visit the nearest RBI office, or from any nearby branch of the bank concerned in consultation with the ombudsman’s 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 regulated entity involving deficiency in service can be filed under the RB-IOS through any of the following methods:
Online: Through RBI’s CMS portal (https://cms.rbi.org.in)
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org the form or physical 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 RB-IOS 2021 will be handled by the consumer education and protection cells (CEPCs) set up at 30 regional offices of the RBI.
Can the complaints 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 complaints only in Hindi and English. However, facts/description of the complaint can be typed or copied and pasted in the description box provided in the CMS portal in any language.
What about those entities not covered under RB-IOS?Customer complaints regarding entities not yet covered under RB-IOS (UCBs with deposits of less than Rs 50 crore, NBFCs with assets of less than Rs 100 crore, housing finance companies, CICs (core investment companies) are handled by the CEPCs operating from the RBI’s regional offices. The process of filing complaints with CEPCs is the same as under RB-IOS.