Fine of Rs. 55 Lakhs slapped on ICICI Bank for using goons
By Neelima Shankar
Nov 6, 2007
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New Delhi: The largest private sector bank in India, ICICI Bank has been taken to the task by Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Delhi. It has slapped a whopping Rs. 55 Lakhs as fine on the apex bank for employing goons to recover the loan amount from a customer.

The Commission took this drastic step after receiving complaints from one Tapan Bose and his friend's son Vinod Choudhary. Vinod was beaten up by the recovery agents black and blue and a loaned car was snatched from him. He was admitted to the hospital in a serious condition. The consumer court found ICICI Bank guilty of 'unfair trade practice' and instructed the Delhi Police to register FIR against all such complaints.

Commission's President Justice JD Kapoor said, "No civilized society governed by rule of law can tolerate such kind of conduct." Such unruly method of loan recovery was also termed as 'human right violation' and the commission took strong exception of the reckless and brutal ways adopted by the recovery agents while showing utter disregard for any law of the land.

ICICI Bank tried to hush up the matter by claiming that the recovery agents were not its direct employees and the whole process had been 'outsourced' hence it can't be held directly responsible for the act. However, the commission quashed the bank's argument and said, "For every illegal acts of the collection agency, the bank is directly liable. The consumer had no concern with the internal agreement between the bank and any other agency and they could not be made to pay the price for it. There is a civil legal remedy for recovering loans and employing goons for this was a beyond the parameter of the law."

This judgment came few days after the RBI had expressed its dissatisfaction regarding the loan recovery methods and had warned the banks to behave. Of late there have been many incidents of borrowers being harassment by loan recovery agents. These have led to many suicides, the most notable being that of Prakash Sarvankar, which had forced the ICICI Bank to announce an ex-gratia payment of 15 Lakhs to the victims relatives.

RBI is going to announce comprehensive guidelines to banks regarding the recruitment and conduct of loan recovery agents. The steps expected are extensive background checks for such agents, making recovery calls from a single number, police verification of the recovery agents, prominent display of recovery agent used by banks on their websites and quick registration of complaints against any harassment by loan recovery agents. Keeping in view the strict stand of RBI, State Bank of India (SBI), the largest public sector bank in India has decided to recruit around 3000 loan recovery officers.

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