Bank Locker Rent Rules: What happens when someone fails to pay bank locker rent? Banks have framed rules that allow them to break open the locker in case the customer fails to make the payment in time
Bank Locker Rent Rules: What happens when someone fails to pay bank locker rent? Banks have framed rules that allow them to break open the locker in case the customer fails to make the payment in time. However, the bank needs to inform the customer well in advance before taking any action on his locker. The bank may end up paying penalty to the customer in case it breaks open the locker before informing the customer. Recently, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) allowed a State Commission’s order which had penalised a bank for breaking open a customer’s locker without exhausting all its options to inform the customer.
The appellant (Punjab National Bank) had leased out a locker to a customer on a yearly rent of Rs 800, sometime in 1994. Initially, the rent was debited from the saving bank account and after some time, the customer started to deposit locker rent by cash in the bank account. However, due to some unavoidable circumstances, he defaulted in payment of rent for locker. Responding to the bank’s notice (dated 28.06.2013), the customer deposited the rent as demanded. However, the bank broke open the locker on 30.02.2015, prepared an inventory and sealed it along with the articles in a separate locker under the control of the Bank. When the customer came to know about the action of the bank, he lodged a police complaint. He also filed a complaint before the State Commission alleging that “the act of the Bank amounts to deficiency in service”. He also claimed compensation from the Bank for this act and the loss of his articles.
Bank vs Customer: What they claimed
The bank claimed that the customer had defaulted in paying the rent for two years. After giving notice to him, the locker was broke open and it had not committed any deficiency in service. It also said that three notices were sent but they were returned to the bank on account of “incomplete address”. However, the customer claimed that no such notices were ever served upon him. He also pleaded that if the bank had sent him any notice, he would have received those notices like the earlier one, which he had received on the same address.
What State Commission said
The State Commission concluded that once the Bank was satisfied that the notices were not served upon the customer, it should have got it served by publication through newspaper to ensure that it was acting as per the laid procedure. The State Commission found that the act of the Bank violated the rules and regulations which required the service of notice upon the customer before taking any such action. The State Commission ordered the bank to pay Rs 5 lakh in compensation, along with Rs 10,000 as litigation charges, to the customer. Further, the commission said that the customer was entitled to 9 per cent annual interest on the aforesaid amount from the date of decision till actual payment from the opposite party.
The NCDRC held that there was no illegality or infirmity in the State Commission’s order. It said the bank’s appeal against the State Commission’s order “has no merits and the same is dismissed in limine.”
“The fact, however, remains that none of the three notices was served upon the Complainant. In such a situation, the only course open to the Bank was to give a public notice to the Complainant informing him about the clearance of arrears and in case of failure to clear such arrears his locker would be broken open. In such circumstances, the act of the Bank without due service of notice upon the Complainant, certainly amounts to deficiency in service,” NCDRC said.