When customer care fails

When customer care doesn’t help, reach out to the banking ombudsman or the public grievance cell of the Telecom Department.

One of our readers, Ravi Varma (name changed on request), was recently the victim of a credit card fraud. After formally lodging a complaint with his bank, Varma made a call to the bank’s helpline a few days later to inquire about the status of his complaint.

After navigating through the IVRS and connecting to an agent, he was asked to provide the details of his latest transaction. When he did so,he was informed it was not correct.

Despite Varma’s protests, he was unable to convince the agent that he was right, as the cheque payment he had last made duly reflected in his bank passbook.

During the course of the 20-minute call, Varma was put on hold multiple times. When he expressed his disappointment at the treatment, his call was unceremoniously cut. Not only was he entangled in a new issue now – that of his last transaction not matching the bank’s records – but his earlier grievance remained unsolved.

Deepika Pallikal, an Arjuna awardee, also recounts a sour experience. Pallikal’s Axis Bank debit card had declined a transaction during one of her overseas trips in 2011, causing her immense embarrassment. Adding insult to injury, when she complained about the issue, she was told by the bank that she lacked the “mental toughness to be a world champion” and was unprofessional.

Later that year, a cheque issued by the Union Sports Ministry to Pallikal was rejected by the bank as “not being drawn on us”. It took a series of emails before the bank acknowledged an error on its part. Pallikal is now suing the bank for Rs 10 lakh.

While not seeking legal compensation, Varma is approaching thebanking ombudsman to highlight the problems he has been facing over a genuine dispute.

OF LITTLE HELP

Dealing with customer care, be it hitches with your mobile phone, bank account or credit card, can be a frustrating experience. Many times, multiple calls and heated exchanges with call centre executives sap your energy, but the problem remains unsolved.

Almost every company nowadays has an interactive voice response system to greet customers when they call up. Navigating through the multiple choices presented by the IVRS is a time consuming process and there is a chance that if you accidentally press the wrong number on your phone or misunderstand the option, you will have to call back and start afresh.

Rather than continuing to butt heads in situations where you find the customer service executives unable to address your concerns don’t hesitate to take up the matter with higher authorities.

GRIEVANCE REDRESS

In the case of a bank, take your complaint to the banking ombudsman, the point person appointed by the RBI to redress customer complaints regarding deficiency in banking services. The ombudsman caters to specific geographic locations, so approach the one under which your billing address falls. Besides sending a physical complaint via post, you can email the ombudsman directly or fill up the complaint form on the RBI’s Web site.

There is no fee for filing a complaint.

Make sure you include documentation supporting your complaint, including copies of correspondence with the bank.

But remember, you can only approach the ombudsman if a reply to your complaint is not received from the bank within one month, or the bank rejects the complaint, or if you are not satisfied with the reply given by the bank.

PROCESS

In the case of a mobile phone service provider, there is a three-tier process for redressal of grievances. In case your complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction by customer care, you need to approach the nodal officer in charge of your telecom circle. As with the banking ombudsman, furnish appropriate documentation supporting your case along with the complaint reference number.

The nodal officer for the telecom circle is expected to reply to you with a resolution within 10 days of registering your complaint. Should this fail, approach the Appellate Authority in your telecom circle. There is a specific form for this purpose available from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which is required in duplicate.

Keep a copy for yourself as well. There is a 15-day timeframe for the Appellate Authority to respond to you after receiving the complaint.

If all else fails, you still have the option of approaching your local consumer court. Whether it is your bank, mobile phone service provider or even your gas distribution agency, it is important to recognise that such businesses are dependent on a licence from the government or its agencies. This licence outlines certain quality and service standards that have to be maintained by these service providers, failing which their licence can be cancelled in extreme cases.



>arvind.jayaram@thehindu.co.in

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