Fair Practices in debt collection Laws in India(New Page)
(a) In the matter of recovery of dues, banks / NBFCs may ensure that they, as also their agents, adhere to the extant instructions on Fair Practice Code for lenders (circular DBOD. Leg. No. BC. 104 /09.07.007 / 2002–03 dated May 5, 2003) as also IBA’s Code for Collection of dues and repossession of security. In case banks / NBFCs have their own code for collection of dues it should, at the minimum, incorporate all the terms of IBA’s Code.
(b) In particular, in regard to appointment of third party agencies for debt collection, it is essential that such agents refrain from action that could damage the integrity and reputation of the bank / NBFC and that they observe strict customer confidentiality. All letters issued by recovery agents must contain the name and address of a responsible senior officer of the card issuing bank whom the customer can contact at his location.
(c) Banks / NBFCs / their agents should not resort to intimidation or harassment of any kind, either verbal or physical, against any person in their debt collection efforts, including acts intended to humiliate publicly or intrude the privacy of the credit card holders’ family members, referees and friends, making threatening and anonymous calls or making false and misleading representations.
Redressal of Grievances
- Generally, a time limit of sixty (60) days may be given to the customers for preferring their complaints / grievances.
- The card issuing bank / NBFC should constitute Grievance Redressal machinery within the bank / NBFC and give wide publicity about it through electronic and print media. The name and contact number of designated grievance redressal officer of the bank / NBFC should be mentioned on the credit card bills. The designated officer should ensure that genuine grievances of credit card subscribers are redressed promptly without involving delay.
- The grievance redressal procedure of the bank / NBFC and the time frame fixed for responding to the complaints should be placed on the bank / NBFC’s website. The name, designation, address and contact number of important executives as well as the Grievance Redressal Officer of the bank / NBFC may be displayed on the website. There should be a system of acknowledging customers’ complaints for follow up, such as complaint number / docket number, even if the complaints are received on phone.
- If a complainant does not get satisfactory response from the bank / NBFC within a maximum period of thirty (30) days from the date of his lodging the complaint, he will have the option to approach the Office of the concerned Banking Ombudsman for redressal of his grievance/s. The bank / NBFC shall be liable to compensate the complainant for the loss of his time, expenses, financial loss as well as for the harassment and mental anguish suffered by him for the fault of the bank and where the grievance has not been redressed in time
Internal control and monitoring systems
With a view to ensuring that the quality of customer service is ensured on an on-going basis in banks / NBFCs, the Standing Committee on Customer Service in each bank / NBFC may review on a monthly basis the credit card operations including reports of defaulters to the CIBIL, credit card related complaints and take measures to improve the services and ensure the orderly growth in the credit card operations. Banks / NBFCs should put up detailed quarterly analysis of credit card related complaints to their Top Management. Card issuing banks should have in place a suitable monitoring mechanism to randomly check the genuineness of merchant transactions.
Use of DSAs / DMAs and other agents
- When banks / NBFCs outsource the various credit card operations, they have to be extremely careful that the appointment of such service providers do not compromise with the quality of the customer service and the bank / NBFC’s ability to manage credit, liquidity and operational risks. In the choice of the service provider, the bank / NBFCs have to be guided by the need to ensure confidentiality of the customer’s records, respect customer privacy, and adhere to fair practices in debt collection.
- The Code of Conduct for Direct Sales Agents (DSAs) formulated by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) could be used by banks / NBFCs in formulating their own codes for the purpose. The bank / NBFC should ensure that the DSAs engaged by them for marketing their credit card products scrupulously adhere to the bank / NBFC’s own Code of Conduct for credit card operations which should be displayed on the bank / NBFC’s website and be available easily to any credit card holder.
- The bank / NBFC should have a system of random checks and mystery shopping to ensure that their agents have been properly briefed and trained in order to handle with care and caution their responsibilities, particularly in the aspects included in these guidelines like soliciting customers, hours for calling, privacy of customer information, conveying the correct terms and conditions of the product on offer, etc.
Protection of Customer Rights
Customer’s rights in relation to credit card operations primarily relate to personal privacy, clarity relating to rights and obligations, preservation of customer records, maintaining confidentiality of customer information and fair practices in debt collection. The card issuing bank / NBFC would be responsible as the principal for all acts of omission or commission of their agents (DSAs / DMAs and recovery agents).
Right to privacy
- Unsolicited cards should not be issued. In case, an unsolicited card is issued and activated without the consent of the recipient and the latter is billed for the same, the card issuing bank / NBFC shall not only reverse the charges forthwith, but also pay a penalty without demur to the recipient amounting to twice the value of the charges reversed.
- Unsolicited loans or other credit facilities should not be offered to the credit card customers. In case, an unsolicited credit facility is extended without the consent of the recipient and the latter objects to the same, the credit sanctioning bank / NBFC shall not only withdraw the credit limit, but also be liable to pay such penalty as may be considered appropriate.
- The card issuing bank / NBFC should not unilaterally upgrade credit cards and enhance credit limits. Prior consent of the borrower should invariably be taken whenever there are any change/s in terms and conditions.
- The card issuing bank / NBFC should maintain a Do Not Call Registry (DNCR) containing the phone numbers (both cell phones and land phones) of customers as well as non-customers (non-constituents) who have informed the bank / NBFC that they do not wish to receive unsolicited calls / SMS for marketing of its credit card products. The DNCR should be set up within two (2) months from the date of this circular and wide publicity should be given to the arrangement.
- The intimation for including an individual’s telephone number in the Do Not Call Registry (DNCR) should be facilitated through a website maintained by the bank / NBFC or on the basis of a letter received from such a person addressed to the bank / NBFC.
- The card issuing bank / NBFC should introduce a system whereby the DSAs/ DMAs as well as its Call Centers have to first submit to the bank / NBFC a list of numbers they intend to call for marketing purposes. The bank / NBFC should then refer to the Do Not Call Registry (DNCR) and only those numbers which do not figure in the Registry should be cleared for calling.
- The numbers cleared by the card issuing bank / NBFC for calling should only be accessed. The bank / NBFC would be held responsible if a Do Not Call Number (DNCN) is called on by its DSAs / DMAs or Call Centre/s.
- The card issuing bank / NBFC should ensure that the Do Not Call Registry (DNCR) numbers are not passed on to any unauthorised person/s or misused in any manner.
- Banks / NBFCs/ their agents should not resort to invasion of privacy viz., persistently bothering the card holders at odd hours, violation of ‘do not call’ code etc.