Safety is sometimes illusionary. Many of you might think your valuables are safe in the bank lockers, but if you read the terms and conditions of the Banks’ agreement for a locker facility, you can’t hold the bank accountable for any damage to your belongings placed in the locker.
A typical agreement would read like this—“The Bank shall not be responsible or liable for any loss or deterioration of or damage to the contents of the Locker whether caused by rain, fire, flood, earthquake, lightening, civil commotion, war, riot or any other cause/s not in the control of the Bank and shall also not be liable or responsible for any loss, sustained by the Hirer/s by leaving any articles outside the Locker.”
As reported by Financial Express dated June 26, 2017, RBI has also noted that “banks have no liability for loss of valuables in lockers”, which, in a way, has given banks the go-ahead to shrug off their responsibilities towards providing safety for your valuables.
However, consumer activists and experts don’t agree with this and believe that since banks charge a fee to provide the locker facility, they should be held responsible for damages. In fact, some experts suggest that any loss of your valuables or property occurring due to the bank’s negligence will qualify you to knock the doors of National Consumer Redressal Commission (NCDRC). And, you are likely to get justice as well.
While speaking to Press Trust of India, Mr Bejon Misra, a consumer-rights activist and the founder of Consumer Online Foundation said, “The Government, the RBI and the banking industry cannot wash off their hands and earn money from consumers and not be made liable or accountable for quality of service for which the customers are paying rental.” He went on to add that, “It (a bank not being liable for loss of locker contents) is an anti-consumer policy.”
It seems bankers are unimpressed with this view as there is no response from any of them. On the contrary, in response to an RTI query, 19 Public Sector Banks (PSBs) had stated that they shouldn’t be held responsible for any damage to the contents contained in lockers.
However, experts are not biased against the banks as they have also highlight the need to bring transparency and accountability to the operation of the locker facility. This means that it should be mandatory for locker-holders to report the contents of lockers based on which banks can opt for group insurance policies. Unless they don’t know what’s being held in the locker, they can’t be entirely held responsible.
At the moment, bank officials are making the “non-disclosure” an excuse to dismiss their responsibility. This loophole can be easily plugged by making simple changes to the rules governing locker facilities. It seems after demonetisation, lockers have become an unattractive business for banks.
What should you do to preserve your belongings?
- If you buy gold in physical form purely from the investment perspective, you can choose an option of buying Sovereign Gold Bonds or simply invest in gold ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) instead.
- Go for a comprehensive home insurance policy when storing valuables at home.
- While you opt for a locker facility, pay attention to bank’s record in protecting lockers. If there’s any instance of burglary in a particular branch of a bank, don’t take chances. Search for a more reliable bank that takes the safety of lockers seriously.
- Report all your income and disclose all your assets, wherever required by law.
By adopting these simple measures, you can safeguard your property and valuables.
Source : Times of India and ET