The Annual Report on “consumer education and protection activities” that were carried out during the Financial Year (FY) 2021–22 as part of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) “Ombudsman Schemes” has been made public by the RBI.
This report from the RBI discusses the major developments that occurred during the fiscal year 2021-22 and the way forward with regard to the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 (BOS), the Ombudsman Scheme for Non-Banking Financial Companies, 2018 (OSNBFC), and the Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions, 2019 (OSDT) up to November 11, 2021. It also discusses the activities that have been carried out under the RB-IOS, 2021, since 12/11/2021.
RBI Annual Report on the Banking Ombudsman Schemes 2021-22 (dt. 04/01/2023)
RBI Press Release dt. 04/01/2023: Annual Report on the Banking Ombudsman Schemes 2021-22
Activities in FY 2021-22 under the RBI’s Ombudsman Schemes:
i) The number of complaints received through the Ombudsman Schemes and Consumer Education and Protection Cells increased by 9.39 percent over the previous year, totaling 4,18,184 during the reported period.
ii) The 22 RBI Ombudsman Offices (ORBIOs) handled 3,04,496 complaints, including those received under the three previous Ombudsman Schemes, until 11/11/2021.
iii) Since the establishment of the Centralised Receipt and Processing Center (CRPC) under the RB-IOS, 2021, 1,49,419 complaints have been handled at the CRPC, with 1,43,552 complaints resolved as of 31/03/2022.
iv) Complaints about digital modes of payment and transactions were the most numerous, accounting for 42.12% of all complaints received during the year.
v) The rate of complaint resolution by RBIOs increased to 97.97% in 2021-22, up from 96.59% in 2020-21.
vi) The vast majority of maintainable complaints, approximately 64%, were resolved through mutual settlement/conciliation/mediation.
Important developments in RBI’s Ombudsman Schemes during FY 2021-22:
Throughout the year, the RBI’s Consumer Education and Protection Department (CEPD) has implemented the following initiatives to strengthen the grievance redress system:
i) Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the RB-IOS 2021 on November 12, 2021. The scope of the RB-IOS, 2021 has been expanded to include non-scheduled Urban Cooperative Banks with deposits of Rs 50 Crore or more.
ii) Under the RB-IOS, 2021, a CRPC was established at the RBI in Chandigarh to receive complaints from across the country via email/physical mode and handle the initial scrutiny and processing of these complaints before assigning the maintainable ones to ORBIOs for further redressal. A Contact Center was also established to assist complainants in lodging their complaints, providing information about the RBI’s redressal mechanism, and spreading awareness about safe banking practises in ten regional languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu) in addition to Hindi and English.
iii) On World Consumer Rights Day, March 15, 2022, a Nationwide Intensive Awareness Programme was launched to strengthen the department’s and Ombudsman Offices’ ongoing financial awareness and education. During the year, the RBIOs also held 29 town hall meetings and 175 awareness campaigns.
Way forward for the RBI’s Ombudsman Schemes:
The CEPD of the RBI will work on the following action plans from 01/04/2022 to 31/0/2023:
I A review of the January 2021 guidelines on “Strengthening the Grievance Redress Framework for Banks.”
ii) Extending the RB-IOS, 2021, and Internal Ombudsman Scheme to additional REs that are not currently covered;
iii) Improve the efficiency and usability of CMS;
iv) Extend the Internal Ombudsman Scheme (IO) to Credit Information Companies (CICs) and Housing Finance Companies (HFCs).
v) Additional initiatives under the nationwide awareness campaign to reach out to remote and unexplored regions, as well as previously excluded segments of the population.
vi) Upgrade the Contact Center to meet the needs of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.
As per Annual Report (2021-2) on “Ombudsman Schemes”, RBI will make efforts to expand appropriate regulatory initiatives for financial consumer protection and to improve the grievance redress mechanisms of REs, as well as measures to implement the framework for financial education.
The RBI should also carry out a survey to determine the proportion of people who seek assistance through the Ombudsman Scheme (the number of complainants), relative to the total number of people who could benefit from this type of assistance (Actual Number of persons with grievances). The statistics presented in the “RBI Annual Report on Ombudsman Schemes for 2021-22,” which indicate that a total of 4.18 lac complaints were received (mostly resolved mutually), will, however, be presented in a different light as a result of this survey exercise, if so conducted. Because the general public does not have sufficient education or awareness of the availability of assistance from the OMBUDSMAN, it is possible that the number of complaints and grievances in real life is significantly higher than what has been reported. Instead of just advertising in the media, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ought to also make efforts toward spreading awareness about these help options among the individuals who actually require the same. In any case, the RBI deserves praise for its work and regulatory framework on digital banking and the resolution of complaints related thereto, which is the kind of assistance that is most needed in the world and in India in the current times of transition.
I really hope that the Reserve Bank will extend the coverage of the Ombudsman Scheme to include “Housing Finance Companies (HFCs)” as soon as possible. It will be of great assistance to me and many other people who are frustrated with the misconduct of HFCs.