Idea of this office seems to have some influence from concept adopted by Qin Dynasty of China in which an undercover officer was positioned by King for the purpose to monitor Government officials and their abuse of power. Ombudsman or Mohtasib is a State Official appointed to provide check on governmental activity in the interest of citizens and to oversee the complaints of citizens in this behalf. Considering the growth of private industry and its importance office of Ombudsman was also introduced in different industries and enterprises to resolve disputes by referring the same before transparent and autonomous body or authority termed as Ombudsman.
Some reasons for Popularity of the office of Mohtasib / Ombudsman
- Ombudsman schemes effectively helped resolving disputes
- Helped improve service quality and efficiency levels by identifying weakness during dispute and recommend improvement
- Cost effective dispute resolution forum
- Helped reduced backlog from the courts
- Informal, flexible and quick process of resolution of disputes
- Documents before office remained private and helped to ensure confidentiality
There are 5 different Ombudsman in Pakistan
- Federal or Wafaqi Ombudsman / Provincial Ombudsman
- Federal Tax Ombudsman
- Insurance Ombudsman
- Banking Ombudsman
- Federal or Provincial Ombudsman for women
Laws regulating the office of Banking Ombudsman
Provision with reference Banking Ombudsman were first time introduced in Pakistan by virtue of presenting Banking companies (amendment) Act, 1997 in the Banking Companies Ordinance 1962
Some of the important features of the amendment are as follow:
- Banking Ombudsmanestablished under the Ordinance 1962 is a Quasi Judicial Authority functioning under Banking Companies Ordinance 1962, and the authority was created pursuant to a decision made by Government of Pakistan to enable resolution of complaints of customers of banks relating to certain services rendered by the banks.
- The Ombudsman accepts complaints by customers against Banks not only related to deposit accounts and loans but also credit card complaints, deficiencies in providing the promised services even by banks’ sales agents, levying service charges without prior notice to the customer and non-adherence to the fair practices code as adopted by individual banks.
- Ombudsman Office is fully staffed and funded by the State Bank of Pakistan instead of the banks.
- The complainant to file complaint in any form, including online. The bank customers would also be able to appeal to the President against the award given by the Banking Ombudsmen.
- Complainant upon dismissal of complaint may still approach court of law for redressal of grievance
What are the matter that can be taken up by Banking Ombudsman / Banking Mohtasib
- Enquire into complaints of banking malpractices
- Against perverse, arbitrary or discriminatory actions
- Against violations of banking laws, rules, regulations or guidelines
- Against inordinate delays or inefficiency
- Against corruption, nepotism or other forms or maladministration
Type of Complaints which can be filed before Banking Ombudsman
- Non-payment or inordinate delay in the payment or collection of cheques, drafts, bills, etc
- Non-acceptance, without sufficient cause, of small denomination notes tendered for any purpose, and for charging of commission for this service
- Non-payment or delay in payment of inward remittances
- Failure to issue or delay in issue, of drafts, pay orders or bankers’ cheques
- Non-adherence to prescribed working hours
- Delays, non-credit of proceeds to parties’ accounts, non-payment of deposit or non-observance of the State Bank directives, if any, applicable to rate of interest on deposits in any savings, current or other account maintained with a bank
- Refusal to open deposit accounts without any valid reason for refusal
- Levying of charges without adequate prior notice to the customer
- Non-adherence by the bank or its subsidiaries to the instructions of State Bank on ATM/debit card operations or credit card operations
- Non-disbursement or delay in disbursement of pension to the extent the grievance can be attributed to the action on the part of the bank concerned, (but not with regard to its employees)
- Refusal to accept or delay in accepting payment towards taxes, as required by State Bank/Government
- Refusal to issue or delay in issuing, or failure to service or delay in servicing or redemption of Government securities
- Forced closure of deposit accounts without due notice or without sufficient reason
- Closure of account without customer concern.
- Refusal to close or delay in closing the accounts
- Non-adherence to the fair practices code as adopted by the bank
- Financial loss incurred to customer due to wrong information given by bank official.
- Any other matter relating to the violation of the directives issued by State Bank in relation to banking or other services.
Procedure for filing complaint before the Banking Ombudsman / Banking Mohtasib
Procedure for filing complaint before Banking Mohtasib is detailed as below:
- Person aggrieved by any act of malpractice or maladministration on hands of bank or its official may file Complaint in prescribed format and manner before Banking Ombudsman. Complaint form can be downloaded at http://www.bankingmohtasib.gov.pk/download/complaint_form2010.pdf
- Complainant under the law is first required to file Grievance petition [showing intention to approach Banking Mohtasib] to bank to resolve dispute b/w 45 days.
- Merely upon failure of the bank to resolve such dispute with time provide in intimation, a complaint within next 45 days can be filed before Banking Ombudsman.
- If the complaint could not be filed within 45 days as provided by law, Banking Ombudsman / Mohtasib can still condone the delay in its discretion, if satisfied that delay was not willful and there existed circumstances that prevented the complainant from filing the complaint within time.
- Complaint must be companies by cnic of customer / complainant
- Copy of additional documents including the Grievance Letter and other related documents must also be attached with the complaint.
- Before filing complaint it must be ensured that such dispute is not pending before any court or forum not any investigation or enquiry in such matter is pending before any court or forum. In this regard complainant is required to get attested this affirmation from office of Oath Commissioner.
Procedure adopted by Banking Ombudsman/ Banking Mohtasib
It is important to note that before the office of banking mohtasib complainant has to appear himself thus complainant is not required to appoint a lawyer. Upon receipt of complaint notice to respective bank is sent to appear in the matter and file detailed reply. Banking ombudsman has all the powers of civil court to inquire, investigate and call for record to decide the dispute and resolve the grievance of the complainant. Usually the matter is decided within 3 months from date of filing of complaint.
It is however, important to note that you cannot in all matter approach the Banking Mohtasib except in cases were loss or damage caused to you is a result of malpractice, maladministration or against act in violation of Banking laws, regulations and professional conduct and ethics.
In case if you have been aggrieved by any wrongful act of bank or its officials or you have suffered loss or damage as a result of malpractice or maladministration on hands of bank or its official, you can file complaint before Banking Ombudsman who shall try the matter in summary procedure. However, as already mentioned above, to decide whether you should file a complaint before Banking Ombudsman or before the Court of Law depends on facts and circumstances of each case. We recommend that you consult an experienced professional lawyer to know your legal rights to avoid choosing a wrong forum.