NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgement, Consumer Commission Gondia directed SBI to reverse a disputed transaction of Rs 18.36 lakh which was withdrawn by online fraudsters from an elderly couple’s account.
The judgement came as a relief to many bank customers who are falling prey to online banking scams. The judgement dealt with various issues like what amounts to negligence on the backdrop of growing digital transactions, whether various guidelines issued by RBI for the protection of customers money are diligently followed by banks, what is the responsibility of banks when fraud is reported to them.
The incident took place on November 20, 2019 when the victims – Suresh Bholeshwar Katre and Minakshi Suresh Katre received a link on their mobile phone asking to update their KYC.
“Your SBI account will be suspended today 20/11/19 due to the wrong date of birth verified in your bank account. For reactive upgrade Fully KYC, immediately by online visiting click link below.”
Thinking that the SMS was from the bank as the couple clicked the link as they had submitted the documents for KYC verification on the same day to the bank. After responding to the link they lost Rs 18,36,400 from two savings bank accounts. The couple immediately reported the matter to the bank as well as to the police but did not get any affirmative response from both the agencies. Getting no response, the couple approached Consumer Forum through their counsel Dr Mahendra Limaye.
Limaye in his argument highlighted that the information about submission of KYC verification was only with the bank and there was no reason to disbelieve that this message could have been sent by any other person and hence there is no fault of the complainant
He also said that the bank was unable to provide any information of the beneficiary and this non-providence of beneficiary accounts information as well as not initiating quick action of recalling the amount from customers’ accounts by the bank is a deficiency in service.
Commission presided over by Sarita B Raipure and Bhaskar B Yogi held that there is no negligence on part of the elderly couple and the bank has committed deficiency in service and hence directed it to pay Rs 18,36,400 along with simple interest of 6% pa from the date of report of fraud and also Rs 25,000 towards mental harassment and Rs 10,000 towards litigation expenses.
“This judgement establishes that even if police have not fully investigated in the matter of cyber-crime, victims should not feel remediless and can avail the option of civil remedy to fight for their rights in cyberspace and can get the lost amount back,” said Dr Mahendra Limaye.