- An ombudsman is an official of the government who deals with complaints made by ordinary citizens against public organizations. This concept originated in Sweden.
- It refers to an officer appointed by the Legislature to handle complaints against a service or administrative authority.
- Need for an ombudsman in an organisation:
- Address concerns: Ombudsman gives an opportunity for the public to express their grievances against an organisation. This feedback will help in improving service to the public.
- Impartial working: Ombudsman works in an impartial, confidential and independent manner. They function independently without the influence of the organisation.
- Avoid duplication of work: The ombudsman can carry out a single investigation into multiple complaints about the same topic, which avoids duplication and excessive cost.
- Streamlining complaints: Ombudsman will establish a procedure for taking and resolving complaints from the public.
The Integrated Ombudsman Scheme of the RBI
- The Reserve Bank – Integrated Ombudsman Scheme (RB-IOS) was launched in November 2021 after integrating three erstwhile ombudsman schemes of RBI.
- These included the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006; the Ombudsman Scheme for Non-Banking Financial Companies, 2018; and the Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions, 2019.
- The scheme will also bring under its ambit Non-Scheduled Primary Co-operative Banks with a deposit size of Rs 50 crore and above.
RBI framed the scheme by exercising powers under:
- Section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 (10 of 1949)
- Section 45L of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (2 of 1934)
- Section 18 of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (51 of 2007)
- The scheme will provide cost-free redressal of customer complaints involving deficiency in services provided by entities regulated by RBI, which have not been resolved within a period of 30 days by the regulated entity.
- Executive Director-in charge of Consumer Education and Protection Department of RBI.
Filing Complaints Under the Scheme
- Visiting the website
- Through a dedicated email id
- Physical application directed to ‘Centralized Receipt and Processing Centre’ in Chandigarh
- Contacting a dedicated toll-free number
Features of the Scheme
- Category neutral: Complainant need not identify under which scheme he/she should file complaint with the Ombudsman.
- Narrowing grounds for rejection: ‘Deficiency in service’ has been provided as the ground for filing a complaint, with a specified list of exclusions. Hence, complaints would no longer be rejected simply on account of “not covered under the grounds listed in the scheme”.
- Jurisdiction neutral: The scheme operates on a ‘One Nation One Ombudsman’ approach, making it jurisdiction neutral.
- Usage of technology: RBI will make use of Artificial Intelligence tools so that regulated entities and investigating agencies could coordinate in a better way in the fastest time possible.
- Representing regulated entity: The Principal Nodal Officer in the rank of a General Manager in a Public Sector Bank or equivalent will be responsible for representing the Regulated Entity and furnishing information in respect of complaints filed by customers.
- Single email id: Customers can file complaints, submit documents, track status, and give feedback through a single email address.
- Right to appeal: Regulated entity will not have the right to appeal against the order in cases where the ombudsman has ruled against it for not furnishing satisfactory and timely information/documents.
Significance of the Scheme
- Customer satisfaction: The ombudsman scheme is expected to enhance grievance redressal mechanism against RBI’s regulated entities and improve customer satisfaction.
- Uniform standards: The scheme will ensure uniformity and streamline user-friendly mechanisms across the country.
- Easy access to services: The integrated platform allows for easy lodging and tracking of complaints by customers. This will benefit bank customers from rural areas.