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Digital Payments Problem? Ombudsman Is Here To Help.

In recent times, online payments have exploded. And so have the complaints against the companies conducting such digital transactions.

Hence, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced the The Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions, 2019.

Ombudsman is a senior official appointed by the RBI, with the specific mandate to address customer complaints against online digital payment companies. The objective of the scheme is to provide "cost-free" and "speedy" mechanism to resolve complaints related to digital transactions of non-bank entities regulated by the RBI.

Presently, 21 such officials have been appointed who will operate mainly from various state capitals and have defined territorial jurisdiction.

Key aspects of the Scheme are discussed below.

1. Following kinds of complaints can be referred to the Ombudsman
a. Prepaid Payment Instruments
- Merchant's account is not credited within a reasonable time
- Funds are not loaded in the wallet / cards within a reasonable time
- Any unauthorized electronic fund transfer
- Failure / refusal / unreasonable delay in transferring the balance in the Prepaid Payment Instrument to the holder's account upon closure or expiry of validity period
- Failure / refusal / unreasonable delay in refunding the amount in case of unsuccessful / returned / rejected / cancelled / transactions
- Promotion offer(s) not credited to the account of the Prepaid Payment Instrument holder or unreasonably delayed

b. Mobile / Electronic Fund Transfers
- Online payments / fund transfers not effected within a reasonable time
- Any unauthorized electronic fund transfer
- Stop-payment instructions not acted upon within the specified timeline
- Amount debited from customer account not reversed within prescribed timeline in case of failed payment transaction

c. Payments thru' Unified Payments Interface (UPI) / Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) / Bharat QR Code / UPI QR Code
- Not crediting the funds to beneficiaries’ account
- Unreasonable delay in returning the amount to the originating member in case of failure to credit the funds to the beneficiary's account
- Unreasonable delay in refunding the amount in case of failed transactions

d. Any other violation of RBI directives including fees / charges levied.

(Note: For digital transactions on third-party platforms, the Payment Service Provider is responsible to handle the customer's grievances and complaints.)

Digital transactions ombudsman to solve your complaints regarding online payments.

2. When to file the complaint with Ombudsman
You have to first approach your Payment Service Provider.

If (a) the company does not reply to you within a month or (b) rejects the complaint or (c) you are not satisfied with the reply, you can take up the matter with the Ombudsman.

3. Procedure for filing the complaint
- Complaint written on a plain paper is sufficient
- You can even email your complaint to the Ombudsman
- Or you can also fill up the Complaint Form provided (this is not mandatory)

4. Details to be furnished
Following details need to be provided:
- Your name and address
- The Payment Service Provider's name and address
- Facts of the case with documents, if any
- Extent of the loss incurred by you
- The relief you are seeking
- Declaration that the complaint is maintainable under Clause 9(3) of the Scheme.

5. Where to lodge the compliant
- You have to write to the Office of the Ombudsman for Digital Transactions within whose jurisdiction the branch or office of the Payment Service Provider complained against, is located.
- For centralized operations, you have to refer the complaint to the Ombudsman within whose jurisdiction your billing address is located. 

6. Fees
There are no fees or charges for filing / resolving customers’ complaints.

7. Limit on the compensation amount
An Ombudsman is empowered to award compensation to the complainant for the actual loss suffered or Rs.20 lakhs, whichever is lower.

Further, the Ombudsman can award compensation for mental agony and harassment suffered by the complainant for an amount not exceeding Rs.1 lakh. In this regards, the loss of time and expenses incurred by the complainant will be considered.

8. Process of complaint resolution
The Ombudsman would try and resolve the complaint through conciliation / mediation between the two parties.

If there is no agreement, but the Ombudsman is of the opinion that the Payment Service Provider is at fault, he can pass the necessary Award. But, before doing so, he will give both the parties an opportunity to present their case. Complainant can accept this Award as full and final settlement or even reject it.

Upon rejection, the complainant can approach the Appellate Authority, which is vested with a Deputy Governor-in-Charge of the department of the RBI implementing the Scheme.

9. Appeal to Appellate Authority
You will have to file the appeal within 30 days of the date of receipt of communication of Award or rejection of the complaint (Additional 30 days may be granted if there is a genuine reason for delay).

The appellate authority may:
- Dismiss the appeal
- Allow the appeal and set aside the Award
- Remand the matter to the Ombudsman for review
- Modify the Award
- Pass any other order as it may deem fit.

10. Complaints not admissible or rejected
- If you haven't first referred the matter to the Payment Service Provider for redressal
- If the subject matter of the complaint is not among the specified problems
- If you haven't filed your complaint within one year from the date of receipt of reply from the Payment Service Provider. (Or if no reply is received, the compliant is filed after the lapse of more than one year and one month from the date of complaint to the Payment Service Provider)
- If the matter has already been dealt with at any other forum like court of law, consumer court etc.
- If the complaint is frivolous or vexatious
- If the complaint pertains to dispute arising from a transaction between customers
- If the compensation claimed is beyond the limit prescribed
- Without any sufficient cause
- Complaint not pursued with reasonable diligence
- In the opinion of the Ombudsman there is no loss or damage or inconvenience caused
- It requires consideration of elaborate documentary and oral evidence, and the proceedings before the Ombudsman are not appropriate for adjudication of such a complaint

(Note : Complaints where the banks carry out such 'problematic' transactions, will be handled under the Banking Ombudsman Scheme.)

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