KARACHI: The number of complaints resolved through the office of Banking Mohtasib Pakistan in 2013 increased more than five times over the preceding year, thanks to the appointment of the banking ombudsman after a gap of 10 months.

Banking Mohtasib Pakistan resolved 1,637 complaints of the general public against scheduled banks in 2013, which is 400% higher than 327 complaints that the banking ombudsman’s office resolved in 2012.

Established in 2005 under the Banking Companies Ordinance (BCO), it is an independent institution that works to resolve public grievances against scheduled banks and negotiate disputes between banks. According to the BCO, the banking ombudsman is appointed by the president in consultation with the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Anisul Hassnain assumed charge of the ombudsman on March 18, 2013. The position had remained vacant from May 2, 2012, to March 17, 2013.

The ombudsman has the authority to inquire into complaints of banking malpractice, discriminatory actions, violations of banking laws, corruption and inordinate delays and inefficiency.

In 2013, the latest year for which data is available, Banking Mohtasib Pakistan received 3,147 ‘informal complaints’ and managed to address and dispose of 3,114 of them by the end of the year. Informal complaints refer to complaints submitted without adopting procedures laid down in the law, such as approaching the defendant bank in writing before contacting Banking Mohtasib Pakistan. The number of informal complaints received in 2012 was 3,026.

The monthly average of informal complaints received in 2013 was 262, which translates into an increase of 3.9% over the monthly average of 252 during 2012.

The number of formal complaints received – submitted through a prescribed complaint form and attested by an oath commissioner after a notice has already been served on the bank – was 1,091 in 2013. It reflects a monthly average of 91 formal complaints, which is a 12.2% increase over a total of 972 in 2012 with a monthly average of 81.

The number of total complaints received in 2013 increased to 4,238, up 6% compared to the preceding year. Formal complaints received witnessed an annual increase of 12.2% in 2013 while the rise in the number of informal complaints equalled 4%.

Most complaints that Banking Mohtasib Pakistan received in 2013 – 988 to be exact – were about consumer products. These were followed by complaints regarding service inefficiency/delays (939) and the advances, loans and deposits category (801).

Unusually high year-on-year increases in the number of complaints were witnessed in the categories of corruption/mala fide practice, zakat deduction and foreign currency accounts. Over 50% complaints received in 2013 under the consumer products category — the largest among 17 complaint categories – were related to credit cards alone.

According to the bank-wise resolution of 1,091 complaints received during the last year, 233 complaints were against Habib Bank, 215 against United Bank, 87 against Standard Chartered Bank Pakistan, 80 against National Bank of Pakistan, 78 against Bank Alfalah, 75 against MCB Bank, 56 against Faysal Bank and 51 against Allied Bank.

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