Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise announcement on November 8 2016, declaring demonetisation and the thrust to move towards a digital/cashless economy was met with equally with praises and brickbats. India has always been a highly cash-centric economy, with electronic forms of payment still a very small proportion of overall transactions. Demonetisation intended to change everything, almost overnight.
As people began to sign up for savings accounts, cash found its way from every nook and cranny into the banks. As the Government motivates people to use banks for settlement and transactions, the need for simplified banking policies is more than ever. However what seems to be happening is the exact opposite, as hidden charges, incomprehensible fine print and lack of transparency dominate the relationship between banks and customers.
Sucheta Dalal, a journalist, has launched an online petition demanding that banks treat customers fairly. The petition has already received signatures from over 1,90,000 supporters.
Sucheta’s petition demands that banks “stop frequent, arbitrary, one-sided increases in banking charges” and introduce fair, transparent practices for their customers.
Here are some of the charges that banks are typically levying on customers.
1. In India’s private sector banking, three of the biggest banks levy charges on any cash transaction that a customer makes at the bank
2. Only four cash withdrawals or deposits are allowed for free, post which ₹150 is added to cost.
3. Customers also pay for services like SMS alerts, online transactions – NEFT, RTGS, issuing cheque leaves and issuing demand drafts, debit and credit cards.
4. Upto five ATM cash transactions are free after which ₹20 is levied on each transaction if it is your own banks ATM. If not, first three transactions in a month are free and then a charge of ₹20 per transaction is levied.
5. Some banks have craftily enrolled customers into “Preferred Banking” programmes with quarterly charges, without the express consent of customers or without adequate information on opting out.
Concerns about the influence of banks has also been echoed by industry experts in the past. In an interview to Economic Times, Ramganesh Iyer, co-founder Fisdom, a wealth advisory firm, said, “Unlike other service providers, banks have a higher leverage over customers.”
Sucheta has petitioned to Dr Urjit Patel, Governor, Reserve Bank of India seeking the implementation of the Charter of Consumer Rights that was issued by RBI in 2014.
The charter laid down 5 basic rights that the banks should adopt:
1. Right to Fair Treatment;
2. Right to Transparency; Fair and Honest Dealing;
3. Right to Suitability;
4. Right to Privacy; and
5. Right to Grievance Redress and Compensation.
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This charter if implemented in its true spirit would put many grievances of the customers to rest. However three years later, the RBI has not yet fixed timelines for grievance redressal nor announced the penalties for failure to costumers fairly.
In her petition, Sucheta demands, “A Master circular/notification by the Reserve Bank giving teeth to the Charter of Customer Rights with clear provisions fixing timelines for redressal and escalation, penalty for negligent service and interest/compensation to customers for losses caused due to mis-selling is urgently needed.”
To access and sign the petition launched by Sucheta Dalal, click here.
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