We, the investors, have a very powerful tool at our disposal to raise complaints against services offered to us to make sure any wrong doing is investigated and possibly corrected.
It’s called the ombudsman. I am sure each one of us has come across this term sometime or the other.
Let’s take a look at who is an ombudsman in India, what the ombudsman term means and how it can help you.
So, who is an ombudsman ?
An ombudsman is an authority, appointed by the government and even private bodies to investigate complaints against an authority. Essentially, the ombudsman is an intermediate person who tries to resolve the complaints which one party has raised against the other. Their task is to look into the complaint and resolve the matter in a peaceful manner. Generally it is meant to be used by a service consumer.
In other words, the ombudsman is supposed to provide quick, neutral and cost effective justice to an aggrieved complainant. He tries to bring the issue of the consumer/complainant to the service provider’s notice so that it can be resolved.
In India, ombudsman exists for sectors like insurance, income tax, banking and other sectors as well. So you can approach the Insurance Ombudsman for your insurance related complaints; the Banking Ombudsman for banking related complaints and the Income Tax Ombudsman for income tax related complaints.
What steps do I need to follow to register a complaint ?
Here are the steps you might want to follow if you are an aggrieved customer.
Step 1: The first wise thing to do is to raise a complaint with the party concerned (bank or insurance company for example) in writing. Make sure you have a proof of the fact that you raised the complaint with all the details.
Step 2 : If the party rejects your complaint or does not reply within a stipulated time, then raise a complaint with the ombudsman. Make sure you supply all the documentation and proof to the ombudsman for them to assess your case.
Step 3 : Within a stipulated time of the complaint, the ombudsman tries to resolve the dispute.
Step 4 : If the resolution is acceptable to you, you will need to accept within 15 days. The party against whom the complaint was lodged has to inform the ombudsman within a month of the verdict about how it has complied with the judgment. If the party agrees with the verdict, it actions it.
Step 5 : If the resolution is not acceptable to you, you can approach the courts.
Points to note
Please keep in mind the following points when you raise a complaint with the ombudsman.
You can never go to the ombudsman directly without first having raised the issue with the concerned party/service provider. For example, if you have a grievance against an insurance company, you will first need to raise it with them before you knock on the doors of the insurance ombudsman.
Remember, you will need to raise the complaint within a year of having received the reply from the concerned party.
A complain can be made in ordinary writing. However, there is a form which is available as well. Another thing to note is that you can simply email your grievance also to the ombudsman.
Ombudsman keep their ruling simple and short – do not expect rolls of paper reaching your doorstep awarding you compensation.
An often missed consumer-friendly point to note is that the verdicts are binding on insurance companies, banks and the tax department but not on the complainant. Over and above this, if an individual is not satisfied with the verdict handed out by the ombudsman, he is free to approach other redressal forums.
It has often been alleged that the ombudsman often is a representative of the service provider and sides with the provider. The banking ombudsman is appointed by the Reserve Bank of India and is usually a chief general manager or general manager of the RBI. The insurance ombudsman is named by the Governing Body of the Insurance Council (GBIC) which was set up to appoint and supervise the insurance ombudsman. The taxation ombudsman is appointed by the Centre on the recommendations of an expert committee.
So do expect a fair trail.
Is an ombudsman helpful to consumers ?
Having used it personally against insurance companies, I am sure it is of great significance and help. It is shocking to see that most service providers have very incompetent help desk, phone and email support. You can hardly make any progress for an amicable resolution with them.
This is where the ombudsman comes into the picture and can help out. Since they have enough powers vested in them to pass awards and verdicts, they are a huge relief as the consumer is given an opportunity to resolve the matter in a time and cost effective manner. If the complainant has to approach the courts, the going will be very tough on time and monetary fronts.
Have you ever approached any ombudsman ? Was it effective ?