Thursday, June 11, 2009

Banks routinely flout RBI's norms

New Zealand's Banking Ombudsman conducts every year, a detective-like exercise to see if the country's banks are following a prescribed code. It uses students on summer jobs to test customer service. It would be interesting to know how far Indian banks go in complying with Reserve Bank of India's Code of Banks' Commitment to Customers.

Issued in 2006, RBI's code sets minimum standards. For example, it promises customers that any changes in fees and charges would be notified one month prior to enforcement. But if you see the complaints before the Ombudsman, you will get a fair idea of ground realities: the number of complaints against banks levying charges without notice went up from 2,594 in 2006-2007 to 3,740 in 2007-2008!

RBI is regularly issuing directives on customer service. It's 92-page Master Circular of November 3, 2008 is a compilation of all such circular. But most are followed only in breach. For example, the RBI says that all bank branches should have a customer service committee which should meet once a month to resolve customer issues. That's hardly followed.

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