Are bank lockers as safe as you think?

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has held that the customers opting locker facility at banks should not be viewed solely as tenants and those banks should have some onus towards their loss. But, it is the customer, who has to prove that their contents have been robbed and list down the amount of loss.

Jan 22, 2016 08:01 IST India Infoline News Service

Until now bank lockers were considered as the safest way to prevent valuables from getting robbed or stolen. However, such assumptions came to an end since instances such as Punjab National Bank robbery came into light. Those involved in the bank heist had dug an 84-long tunnel just underneath the locker room and took away the prized possessions of a number of bank’s customers.
 
Banks responsibilities
More shocking is the fact that the bank is not responsible for paying the damages if the contents of the locker get stolen or robbed. As per the guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India, banks cannot be held liable for the loss of contents. Since bank act as a lessor and rents its locker space to the customer as a lessee, therefore, it has no role in taking responsibility of the contents. Moreover, the bank is unaware of the contents held in a locker, which also favours this stance. However, banks have the liability to follow precautions so as to ensure safety and protection of its locker room.
 
Another peculiar fact attached with the storing of valuables with locker room is that many customers do not insure these contents as they consider banks lockers as the safest place. Thus, in the absence of insurance, a customer loses any opportunity to make any claim for the lost contents.
 
Some relief to the customers
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has held that the customers opting locker facility at banks should not be viewed solely as tenants and those banks should have some onus towards their loss. But, it is the customer, who has to prove that their contents have been robbed and list down the amount of loss.
 
Compensation from banks can be claimed only when it is proved that the robbery or theft was due to bank’s negligence, or any or few of the bank’s employees were involved in the crime. Still, it is likely that the compensation may not be full, and customers are left to approach consumer courts. In views of the above facts, it is appropriate to conclude that the customer should do the due diligence before entrusting their valuables with the banks. 

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