Edited By: Namit Singh Sengar
Last Updated: January 10, 2023, 11:49 IST
Customers availing bank lockers facilities have been asked to sign a revised locker agreement with their bank. The mandate from the Reserve Bank of India states that the new locker agreement must not have clauses which are unfair to the bank locker customers.
The August 18, 2021 notification by RBI stated that “Banks shall have a Board approved agreement for safe deposit lockers. For this purpose, banks may adopt the model locker agreement to be framed by IBA. This agreement shall be in conformity with these revised instructions and the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in this regard.”
“Banks shall ensure that any unfair terms or conditions are not incorporated in their locker agreements. Further, the terms of the contract shall not be more onerous than required in ordinary course of business to safeguard the interests of the bank. Banks shall renew their locker agreements with existing locker customers by January 1, 2023.”
Even as the guidelines are clear from the RBI, however, there is confusion among some customers as many received the communication from their respective bank in the last week of December and some are still receiving the same without mentioning the last date.
Senior citizen customers from north India have another challenge to go out in the cold and get the agreement signed when they received the January 1 deadline message in the last week of December.
The revised rules were applicable to existing customers from January 2023 and were already in force for new customers from January 2022.
Reportedly, some customers have claimed that their bank has asked them to bring the stamp paper from the market. Some are unaware of the cost of the paper to be used for the agreement. Some customers did not receive any communication from the bank about the January 1, 2023 deadline and some existing users are receiving the messages now.
“Dear customer, you are requested to visit your branch and execute the revised locker agreement at the earliest. Please ignore if already done,” a SMS from a leading public sector bank stated to the customer.
In the interest of customers, the RBI has clearly stated that the banks shall put in place a detailed Board approved policy outlining the responsibility owed by them for any loss or damage to the contents of the lockers due to their negligence as banks owe a separate duty of care to exercise due diligence in maintaining and operating their locker or safety deposit systems.
The duty of care includes ensuring proper functioning of the locker system, guarding against unauthorised access to the lockers and providing appropriate safeguards against theft and robbery.
It also underlined where the banks have no liability. The notification added that the bank shall not be liable for any damage and/or loss of contents of locker arising from natural calamities or Acts of God like earthquake, floods, lightning and thunderstorm or any act that is attributable to the sole fault or negligence of the customer.
Banks shall, however, exercise appropriate care to their locker systems to protect their premises from such catastrophes.
It is the responsibility of banks to take all steps for the safety and security of the premises in which the safe deposit vaults are housed. It has the responsibility to ensure that incidents like fire, theft/ burglary/ robbery, dacoity, building collapse do not occur in the bank’s premises due to its own shortcomings, negligence and by any act of omission/commission.
As banks cannot claim that they bear no liability towards their customers for loss of contents of the locker, in instances where loss of contents of locker are due to incidents mentioned above or attributable to fraud committed by its employee(s), the banks’ liability shall be for an amount equivalent to one hundred times the prevailing annual rent of the safe deposit locker.
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