Experts complain of deprivation of consumer rights in finance sector

The Hindu, March 19, 2011

Special Correspondent

Poor awareness, lack of accessibility exists among consumers of banking sector

Poor, migrants, marginalised struggle to open bank account in absence of proper identification’
Only 13% people use ATM, debit cards in India, only 10% possess life insurance: 2009 study

Financial experts and bankers who assessed the status of consumer protection in the financial sector have termed access and affordability of financial services as still a dream in the country. In this modern era, when the global economy adds around 1.5 crore new consumers of financial services every year, awareness of their rights was awfully low, it was pointed out.

“Better terms, conditions”

Speaking on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day, Jaipur circle Reserve Bank of India General Manager S.N. Panda conceded that the problem of poor awareness and lack of accessibility exists among consumers of the banking sector.

“There is need for better terms and conditions in services for customers in the financial sector,” Mr. Panda said.

The RBI has been taking various initiatives in creating financial literacy and better accessibility for consumers, he added.

The event, “Consumers for Fair Financial Service”, was organised by consumer advocacy group CUTS.

Calling for financial inclusion of poor, the migrants, disadvantaged and marginalised people, CUTS International director George Cheriyan said these segments often struggle even to open a bank account in the absence of proper identification or address proof.

Mr. Cheriyan added that a study in 2009 had found that only 13 per cent people used ATM and debit cards in the country, and only 10 per cent possessed life insurance.

Jaipur Office of Banking Ombudsman (BO) Deputy General Manager K. Sundari sought RBI intervention in cases of serious financial abuses.

Fairness in financial services

Talking about fairness in financial services, Ms. Sundari presented an overview of the BO and the mechanism of seeking redressal through it.

The former Rajasthan State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission chairman, Justice Vinod Shankar Dave, shared his personal and professional experience in the legal field and emphasised behavioural aspect of consumer and service-provider relationships and constraints due to ignorance.

The banking sector needs to show more responsibility towards consumers, and digitalisation was taking away the personal touch from banking services, he noted.

BO AGM S.N. Senapati said consumers should take advantage of the existence of many regulatory bodies like the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and the RBI existed. On the part of the banks and financial companies, they should ensure fairness and transparency in contracts, he felt.

CUTS programme officer Deepak Saxena and project coordinator Amarjeet Singh threw light on consumer protection in the newly emerging financial areas.

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