Monday, June 22, 2009

Banks take long duration for reimbursement in case of ATMs fault

In case you insert your debit card in an ATM for cash withdrawal but the cash is not dispensed yet the transaction gets debited in your bank account then as per Reserve Bank of India norms, banks should refund such wrongly debited amount within 12 working days. However in reality the process generally takes longer durations if the card has been used at other bank ATM.

A senior banking ombudsman official informed, "Sticking to the 12-day deadline become difficult because there are two banks involved here. Reimbursement may take up to three weeks.'' Most important the official said the amount does not get automatically reaccredited; the customer has to first log a complaint.

Since April the customers has been allowed to use the automated teller machines freely to draw cash from all ATMs across banks without paying any extra charge. After this two problems have risen. One is delay in the reimbursement of wrongly debited amounts and the second is rejection of a card at the ATM of another bank because its software fails to recognize the `foreign' card.

However a senior Mumbai banker, assured, "Initial glitches would be smoothened out once banks change their software (to meet the new requirements)”.

Sanjeev Talwar, banking advisor at the Delhi-headquartered National Consumer Helpline pointed out the problem was severe during April when customers were allowed to use all ATMs across the banks free of charge. Whereas the senior bankers in Mumbai and Delhi informed now the problems aren't as severe anymore, though they have not been eliminated.

In February a consumer-friendly circular on reimbursement from RBI, which pre-dates freeing of ATMs in April, says, "...we have been receiving a number of complaints from bank customers, regarding debit of accounts even though the ATMs have not disbursed cash for various reasons. More importantly, banks take considerable time in reimbursing the amounts involved in such failed transactions to card holders. In many cases, the time taken is as much as 50 days.''

The ombudsman official stated to meet RBI-mandated deadline, "We have asked nodal officers of each bank to work in close cooperation with others to allow for quicker reimbursement.''

Bankers informed faulty ATM transactions can involve connectivity problems. The ombudsman official explained, "When a card is physically present in the ATM, the churn of printing roll is generated, and when there is any transaction, it hits a switch centre and reconciliation of the transaction takes place. If these two proofs are produced, it shows the transaction actually took place.'' But in cases where money is not dispensed, the official added, "We rely on the cash reconciliation statement. Every day or two, the cash which has been put inside the ATM is tallied with what has been actually dispensed. If cash doesn't come out, surplus money would be found in the statement. We take a decision (in a dispute) based on these three things.''

The customers who have to wait longer than 12 days are directed to speak to RBI's customer care department with their complaint.

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