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How to complain to digital payments ombudsman
Economic Times, February 11, 2019

Thanks to the RBI, aggrieved customers can now file complaints against prepaid instruments (PPIs), e-wallets, and other payment service providers with ombudsman offices in 21 locations across 19 cities. “Ombudsman for digital transactions was much needed in light of their growing volume. A dedicated redressal authority will expedite the process of complaints resolution,” says Anand Aras, CEO, Banking Codes and Standards Board of India. If you have a grievance against a bank, however, you will still have to approach the banking ombudsman, even if it pertains to an online transaction.

Grounds for complaint
Reasons for filing complaints against digital payments service providers include unauthorised electronic funds transfer, their inability to transfer the funds to your bank account, not loading funds into the wallet within a reasonable period of time, failure to effect online payment or fund transfer, failure to refund your money in case of a failed transaction, and not implementing stop-payment instructions within the specified time-frame.

Complaints related to Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Bharat Bill Payment System, Bharat QR Code and UPI QR Code also fall within the purview of the ombudsman. These entities cannot wash their hands off in case of transactions they enable on third-party platforms. “It will be the responsibility of the payment service provider to resolve customer disputes arising out of such transactions,” reads the RBI notification.

How to file the complaint
If your complaint has not been satisfactorily addressed by the digital payment service provider’s grievance redressal system, you can file a complaint with the ombudsman under whose jurisdiction the service provider’s office is located. In case of centralised operations, your billing address will determine the relevant ombudsman office. Instead of visiting the office, however, it is easier to file the complaint online— the email IDs of the ombudsman will pass an award.

Some consumer activists, however, remain sceptical of the scheme’s success. “Experience with the banking ombudsman scheme shows that only 31 complaints were adjudicated (awards were passed) during the last year, and the cost of handling each complaint was Rs 3,780. So, the new scheme will be of no use unless a proper legal mechanism is formulated to enforce orders without delay or further litigation,” says Jehangir Gai, a consumer activist.

Things to remember
If you have already filed a complaint in some other forum, the ombudsman will not entertain it. Also, if your grievance does not fall under eligible grounds of complaints, the complaint won’t be entertained. Any delay on your part can jeopardise your case too, so ensure that you file the complaint with the ombudsman within one year from the date of receipt of the reply from the payments services provider, or 13 months from the date of filing the complaint, if the service provider doesn’t reply. However, if your case is treated as an exceptional one, ombudsman offices could hear your plea despite the delay.

The final recourse
If either the customer or the payment service provider is not satisfied with the ombudsman’s decision, they can approach the deputy governor in charge of the RBI department implementing this scheme. You can file an appeal within 30 days from the date of date of receiving the communication of the award, or the rejection of your complaint by the ombudsman. The deputy governor can extend this limit by another 30 days, if he/she is convinced that the complainant had a valid reason for not meeting the deadline. If all else fails, you can always approach the consumer forums or the courts for a final resolution.

Customer compensation
Rs 1 lakh Is the compensation that can be awarded in lieu of loss of customer’s time, expenses incurred and mental agony. Rs 20 lakh Is the maximum compensation the digital payments ombudsman can award.

Grievance redressal process
1. Approach your payment service provider with your grievance and wait for at least 30 days.

2. In case of no or unsatisfactory response, write to the ombudsman within one year from the date of rejection of your complaint or 13 months from filing the complaint.
3. If you are dissatisfied with the ombudsman’s decision, you can approach the appellate authority— office of the deputy governor in charge of RBI’s department for overseeing the ombudsman.
4. If this too fails, you can file a case in the consumer forums or approach the courts.

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