Dispute Digital Transaction - Justice & Conflict

Tapas Bhattacharya

Banking system in India played a significant role in popularising the digital utility and its application to common masses. Today of course a considerable  section of  the  population are  aware of fastest growing Digital  World and knows a bit of upcoming technologies of 5G,IOT,AI and robotics etc. 

If I remember correctly banks in India started ATM, Netbanking etc digital services in late nineties and in our state also sometimes during that period only. My keen interest for getting the digital service was a inspiring factor for getting facility of all services digitally. I was one of the few having a credit card in Agartala when credit cards were issued against some fixed deposit unlike now.  Naturally I got used to digital banking facility quite early and were very much comfortable and delighted to have the services.

With this preface in the backdrop, I share an recent incident  which actually provoked me to pen down something regarding ATM banking transaction . An SB account for my daughter was opened some years before in a nationalised bank newly opened branch in Melarmath area . Transaction  in the account was very minimal, but ATM and netbanking facility was taken by downloading their less user friendly app. Last two years in fact there was very minimum transaction or no transaction at all in the account as my wife was taking care of daughters small cash requirement for college purpose and college fees etc was taken care by me online.

After chasing her repeatedly,   to make some transaction once in a while through ATM card so that the account  does not become inoperative,  she made an ATM transaction from SBI branch near to my house on 5th Feb. and there was some transaction dispute. Basic intention  of this article is to share the difficulties  faced by a customer in case of digital transaction dispute.

On my return from office I was briefed by her about the happenings, on 1st attempt she tried for Rs 5000 but no money was dispensed , again an attempt of Rs 5000 was made and that too failed. 3rd attempt she made with 1000 and the same was dispensed. Lastly with an self made understanding she thought ATM machine has got activated and tried for Rs 5000 again but only Rs 2000 was dispensed. SMS was generated instantly for all the transaction but she left the mobile in home and unaware of the deduction made.

On return the SMSs were scanned and found that Rs 5000 reversal was made automatically in the SB account. So it was a total deduction of 16000 during the day and money dispensed was only Rs 3000 , Rs 5000 was credited back to account that means total Rs 8000 short transaction . I was a bit apprehensive about her statement and used some strong words for not calling me over phone or for making repeated transaction even though it was failing.
On 8th of Feb I along with my daughter visited the branch and explained the incident . A reversal form was filled up and handed over to the lady in counter. More than a month elapsed and 3/4 times I visited the branch without much response from the staff . My daughter and wife wanted me to stop pursuing and within a short time it seems both of them has accepted this as a loss of money, like pickpocket etc and has conveniently forgotten the episode. They felt  substantial proof is not available to establish that money as claimed was not dispensed  and I failed to convince them its bank’s duty to establish that proper transaction was made to user of the ATM card.

Almost a month was over and due to everyday other assignments the items goes out of mind often as usual.    On 12th of march I visited RBI Agartala where I know some official because of their communication issue they keep visiting me. The gentleman at RBI was very much responsive  and gave me a prescribed form of complaint to banking Ombudsman. Before that of course, he spoke to manager of concerned bank branch with a clear instruction to settle the dispute within 5 days as per RBI guidelines. But nothing happened and finally the format of complaint along with available evidence was submitted to RBI which was subsequently forwarded to Ombudsman with office at Guwahati. But time passes on, the branch was given two reminder meanwhile.  Bank responded with a letter dtd 30th April, that the case is closed by the banking ATM dispute management system of NPCI (National Payment Corporation of India).

They also followed up with ATM cell looking after such complain twice but was rejected by NPCI which was communicated via mail . Bank also mentioned that, if the reply is not satisfactory, then by paying an amt of Rs 590 further investigation may be initiated again. Naturally this sort of reply was good enough for escalating the tension further.  Rejecting a case hints  as falsehood, which definitely hurts the sentiment of  any rightful customer.
Meanwhile one  online complain was registered on 18th April’19 to Govt of India CPGRAMS ( with two intermittent reminders.  

The banking ombudsman arranged a conciliation meeting on May 27th at Guwahati , wherein the complainant was invited to remain present, within a notice of 3 days which was not possible for obvious reason. The hearing took place with the representative of both the bank involved and the arbitrator. It was heard without the presence of complainant thus giving no scope to complainant  for defence . Naturally the representing bank were able to convince the arbitrator with available record and there was no one to challenge the video footage etc. 

The  judgement was issued with a relief of Rs 3000 only to the complainant and the case was rejected. The 15 pages of judgement with all withdrawal statement, transaction record of ATM etc. almost not in a readable format was sent to the complainant by speed post and received on 1st June.  Naturally the judgement was not satisfactory, which raised further discourse.  In the meantime the papers for proceeding to District consumer forum also was made ready and about to be filed.

Surprisingly 1st of June itself almost double the amount claimed, was credited to the complainant account in two spell which came as a surprise. But this surplus compensation increased more confusion about the source of money remitted. Under this situation it was also not possible to go ahead with consumer forum proceeding. It was preferred to be silent for sometime and watch . The local bank branch could not give any suitable answer for the source of money but on updating the passbook it was clearly noted the arbitration and the arbitration penalty/NFSI (National Financial Switch)- which is the largest network of shared automated teller machines (ATMs) in India .

Finally it was seen that the complaint lodged in CPGRAMS (Centralized Public Grievance redress and Monitoring System)was closed with remarks of settlement on 1st June and penalty of Rs.100 per day of delay after one week from the date of complaint was compensated. The whole episode of digital anxiety came to an end at last yielding satisfactory result through a  Digital conflict.  Though Banking Ombudsman is the right platform for settlement of this type of dispute but in this case the judgement released by them found to be ambiguous and debatable .
In brief steps to be followed in case of similar dispute may be used as a ready reference
i) Lodging a complaint to the Bank Branch of account holder with evidence like Transaction Slip
         printout of SMS , updated passbook statement and keeping a receipt copy of the complaint.   
         Complaint application must contain mobile no, email id and postal address positively with account  
         details and brief of the incident. There may be prescribed format of Bank
ii) 1st reminder to the concerned bank after 2/3 weeks if not settled and keeping receipt copy.
         Email correspondence, written correspondence along with physical persuasion may also be done 
iii) Issuing a 2nd Reminder to the concerned bank branch after a week or so
iv) Lodging complaint with Ombudsman in RBI prescribed format with case history and record of 
v) To wait for the judgement of response from the bank till solution as desired is obtained.
vi) In parallel to the other mode of redressal Govt of India CPGRAMS online complaint may be registered 
        after completion of registration formalities. Keeping track of the progress and sending intermittent 
         reminder is necessary.
vii) The issue of dispute if not settled in normal way through this forum, then off course there is no way   left but to knock the door of District Consumer redressal Forum and so on till the matter resolved.
It is a matter to wonder what percentage of people  dealing with ATM transaction daily in remote areas even  would be in a position to get the justice through this type of cumbersome and complex  mechanism of redressal. Its time to simplify the procedure for real benefit of Digital India down the line.

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