Greetings! This month we focused on key issues affecting bank customers, since I had the opportunity to present our concerns to the Kanungo Committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This included our continued push to have a effective public liability law in India, where insurance pays for accidents and injuries we sustain in public places. This is a necessity if India wants to count itself among the progressive and developed nations of the world.
I also want to flag an important seminar on credit scores by Ms Aparna Ramachandra who helps fix credit! It will be an important learning experience. More about this later.
Advocate Mistry shared key action taken points from our report before the bench and submitted that in the case of liability insurance, victims could be immediately provided with some relief without needing to go through a rigorous process. We are encouraged by the fact that public liability insurance was seen as a very good suggestion by the bench and hope that we can pursue the matter similarly in other areas as well.
Concerns Raised with RBI's Committee for Review of Customer Service Standards
RBI's Committee for Review of Customer Service Standards in RBI Regulated Entities (REs), is headed for former deputy governor BP Kanungo. I shared with them our key concerns such as harassment over renewal of Know Your Customer (KYC) documents, arbitrary freezing of accounts, poor grievance redress and many others. Most importantly, the absence of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which allows banks to make up rules and the fact that they go unpunished even after the most brazen callousness in handling customer issues is established. Here is a list of the issues raised:
1. Tech Traceability: The use of technology makes all communication traceable, this must work in favour of consumers as proof that bank's actually made the effort to contact consumers before initiating coercive action.
2. Faceless Customer Service: When customers have a problem, they are invariably at the mercy of a customer care email ID, where the process is faceless, centralised and, often, heartless.
3. Branch Visits for Closing Accounts: While accounts can be opened, loans availed and financial products purchased online, the process of closing them requires a needless visit to the branch with physical proof of identity documents.
4. Absence of Punishment Encourages Bad Service: As there is no punitive action against banks, issues such as sloppy handling of KYC requirements, verification of documents, failure to upload KYC on the core banking system and freezing of bank accounts continue to happen in large numbers.
5. Lack of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Each bank follows its own set of completely different rules and, often, different branches of the same bank have divergent rules, for various practices. It is vital that RBI issues SOPs for various necessary processes such as nominations and transmission of benefits to nominees or heirs, where each bank, finance company and even individual branches make up their own rule.
6. Unclaimed Benefits: The process of recovering unclaimed bank deposits in India is both opaque and harrowing for legal heirs and descendants.
7. Public Liability and General Liability Insurance: Although all banks purchase comprehensive general liability insurance cover, there is no process in place to ensure that customers who meet with accidents or are injured at the bank premises are paid costs or compensation.
8. Lost or Misplaced Documents: There are numerous cases where banks and finance companies have caused permanent damage to the value of properties by losing all or part of the document chain kept in their custody against loans. Banks responsible for such losses simply do not compensate customers, even when they admit that it is their fault.
9. Grievance Redress by Digital Companies: A pilot application of the Union ministry of home affairs - CyberSafe, which has been deployed by the police, NCPI (National Payments Corporation of India) and others; this needs to be widely publicised after eliminating some issues with the process.
10. Bank Lockers: On stamp paper agreements with customers for opening bank lockers, there is no standardisation on the value of stamp paper. This must be done and a copy of the agreement provided to customers.
My social media interactions suggest that most people are clueless about what can impact their credit score and how to fix it. On April 5th, we are hosting Aparna Ramchandra, founder-director of Rectify Credit, for a webinar explaining factors that affect your credit score and the ways to repair a poor score. As borrowers, your credit score is the single most important metric that lenders and financial institutions use to analyse your credit history. Do register for this important session to learn how you can maintain a good score and to understand strategies which can help repair a poor score.
It started as an exercise to do counseling and workshops online during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, but has now become part of our regular routine. For those who have not been keeping up, we have been hosting webinars online on a wide range of topics from right to information, health, financial literacy, broker defaults and investor grievance mechanisms, redevelopment and conveyance, wills and nominations, and more. Video recordings of all our webinars are available on our YouTube channel. Do subscribe, so that you get notified when a new video is available.
If you would like to be notified when our next webinar is scheduled, please become a member of Moneylife Foundation so that you are automatically added to our mailing lists. Do encourage others to join and take advantage as well!
Our Counseling Sessions
It's been a few months since we restarted our in-person one-to-one counseling sessions, and we are glad to report that many of you have taken advantage of this FREE service. Our experts, Mr Shirish Shanbhag for housing society and property related matters, and Mr Abhay Datar for banking, insurance, mediclaim and consumer related issues, have continued to provide workable solutions to your grievances and have helped many in these past few months to resolve issues.
They spend their valuable time to provide guidance through counseling sessions and also through our online helplines, and their efforts continue to help many of those who have sought help. If you have a specific concern or issue related to co-operative housing societies, insurance, mediclaim or consumer related complaints, do call our office - (022) 2444 1058 or (022) 2444 1059 for an appointment if you are in Mumbai. Otherwise use our Free Helplines for guidance.
Consumer Awareness & Financial Literacy
As members of Moneylife Foundation, you have access to various content in the form webinars, recorded videos and articles on matters of consumer awareness and financial literacy that we have published on our websites and YouTube channels. All of our published content is available for free, with no restrictions whatsoever. If you've not taken the time to educate yourself, please do so and spread the word about our work to your friends, colleagues and family so that many others can benefit.
As consumers you need to be vigilant when shopping or transacting online. Deals that seem too good to be true, are most likely scams designed to lure unsuspecting consumers. Thousands of people become victims of holiday scams every year. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and at the very least, a festive mood. It is important you remain vigilant and aware in an increasingly online world that becomes unsafe for consumers in new ways everyday. Moneylife Foundation has actively made efforts on several fronts in this regard.
We continue to educate our members on the latest frauds, scams and attractive yet fraudulent schemes through series of articles on Moneylife. Our Youtube Channel has a vast repository of videos from past seminars and workshops, as well as short videos on topics of financial literacy which are a great resource to those willing to spend some time learning. Our online helplines are always open for counselling from a panel of experts on issues on banking, insurance, housing and property related matters, consumer and other issues.
Do take the time to read our articles, watch the videos and also share them with others, so that many more can take advantage of the knowledge and remain safe. Please also do encourage your friends, family members and colleagues to become members of Moneylife Foundation.
Take extra precaution when using banking apps, websites or e-commerce sites while shopping, as they have been instances of fake apps and fraudulent websites masquerading as authorised ones. Read this article to know what you should do when you are cheated while shopping online and follow this how-to guide when you want to file a consumer complaint.
We have a few webinars lined up in the coming months. So keep a lookout for the invitations in your mailbox or WhatsApp (if you're on our lists). If you have a topic or issue that you would like us to cover in a webinar or workshop, do send us an email at [email protected], and we will surely consider your request.
Do subscribe to our YouTube Channel for regular updates and notifications when a new video is released, and also encourage your friends and family to do so as well. After all, the more number of people that watch and learn from these short videos, the more financially literate we can all be.
We are also happy to send them to you in the language of your choice on WhatsApp and Telegram if you share your numbers at Moneylife Foundation's WhatsApp number (+91 7045156415). This is also a good opportunity for you to join our WhatsApp broadcast list as well as our telegram channel. Join to stay in the loop about Moneylife Foundation's activities.
Do send us your feedback on these and if you have benefitted from our work, please do not forget to pass it forward by introducing our videos, free helplines and membership benefit to others. Do register for a free membership and also encourage your friends and family to join as well.
File your RTI Applications with Expert Guidance
RTI Advice App पर विस्तृत गाइड से विशिष्ट उपयोग के मामलों के लिए आरटीआई आवेदन दाखिल करने का तरीका जानें। हिंदी और मराठी भाषाओं में उपलब्ध।
Many of you are already aware of our 'RTI Advice' app, which was launched for both android and iOS devices a year ago. The app helps you get expert advice on your RTI queries in any language or format (text, audio or video) and access to over 900 queries that are already asked and answered by our 14 highly regarded RTI experts.
Don't worry about how to navigate the app—we now have user guides for you in English, Hindi and Marathi! Download the app or access the guides from our website here.
This month, Yogesh Sapkale, our resident tech expert and deputy editor of Moneylife, spoke about online and digital frauds, and how to stay safe from them. Some of the essential topics covered were KYC frauds, electricity bill scams, investment and crypto scams, online shopping frauds, sextortion, fake crowdfunding, password security, OTPs and more. If you missed important webinar, you can always watch a video recording of the same on our YouTube channel here. The session was well attended by interested members of Moneylife Foundation on Zoom and also on our YouTube and Facebook channels.
Also, Moneylife Foundation is now on Telegram and Instagram, so do follow us on these channels to stay updated on our activities and events.
Founder-Trustee, Moneylife Foundation
Trustees: TS Krishnamurthy, Walter Vieira, Sucheta Dalal, Debashis Basu.
Moneylife Foundation is registered with the Charity Commissioner of Mumbai, is an Affiliate member of OECD's International Network on Financial Education, is a Supporter Member of Consumers International, Development Partner of Advocates for International Development (A4ID), and is a winner of the 10th MR Pai Memorial Award.
Donations are eligible for tax benefits under Sec 80G of the Income Tax 1961 (50% tax exemption) and MLF is registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.