Banking Ombudsman of Pakistan Anisul Hasnain has disclosed that his institution addressed over 5,000 complaints and directed the banks to pay Rs60 to Rs70 million to the complainants as the complaints were genuine.

During a meeting, he added that his office received over 16,000 complaints till 2015-16 out of which about 80 percent were addressed within due time while and 98 percent decisions were implemented. He pointed out that in majority of cases, the banks accepted the recommendations and the dispute was resolved. However, where the issue is not resolved then an opportunity of hearing is provided for the parties in terms of Section 82 D of the Banking Companies Ordinance 1962 after which an appropriate formal Order is passed.

He said that the banks had become increasingly conscious of their responsibilities as service providers and of the need to satisfy and meet customer demands professionally and efficiently. He added that with the rapid expansion of products and services particularly in the field of consumer credit over the past few years, there is a proportionate increase in the volume of associated complaints from the general public.

He said that merger of banks and privatization momentum coupled with the process of liberalization in Pakistan encouraged banks to rapidly expand products and services during the recent past, resulting into manifold increase in the banking population within the country.

He made it clear that the Banking Mohtasib was not an industry watchdog, a regulator or a policeman. He pointed out that the financial system in Pakistan had undergone major reform and liberalisation during the recent past.

“The banks have adapted to the new and open environment exceptionally well and have responded by upgrading and transforming service delivery capability and by offering a range of new and innovative products to the market,” he said. Shedding light on the Mohtasib’s role, he said that it was basically to mediate between parties so that an amicable and acceptable solution could be found and generally speaking, complaints minimized over time. He expressed his inability to intervene in the debt servicing, mark-up plus hidden charges, CIB reports, refusal to advance loan, rate of interest etc.

He was of the opinion that his department could overcome tough challenges by upgrading internal IT systems called Banking Ombudsman Complaint Tracking System (BOCTS) and bringing in better human resource to operate it effectively.

“All these measures will go a long way in making our services much more compatible with potential demand of our stakeholders i.e. the Customers and the Banking Industry,” he hoped.

He told the members of MCCI that dealing with a formal complaint required a triangular exercise between the complainant, the bank and the adjudicator and requiring responses from each for an expeditious decision. “Although we strive to offer a speedy resolution of customer’s grievances, it is not always possible to do so owing to complexities in some cases of the facts, the law, and statutory rules involved,” he added. In his welcome address MCCI President Fareed Mughis Sheikh raised different issues regarding the jurisdiction of banking ombudsman.