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Negligence & deficiency in services with respect to operation of Locker Facilities is actionable under Consumer Protection Act - SC lays down Guidelines for operation and safety of lockers till RBI frames rules   Feb 19, 2021

The Supreme Court of India laid down the following guidelines to be followed by Banks:

"12. Thus, we emphasize that irrespective of the value of the articles placed inside the locker, the bank is under a separate obligation to ensure that proper procedures are followed while allotting and operating the lockers:

(a)  This includes maintenance of a locker register and locker key register.

(b) The locker register shall be consistently updated in case of any change in allotment. 

(c)  The   bank  shall   notify  the   original   locker  holder prior to any changes in the allotment of the locker, and give them reasonable opportunity to withdraw the articles deposited by them if they so wish.

(d)   Banks   may   consider   utilizing   appropriate technologies, such as blockchain technology which is meant for creating digital ledger for this purpose.

(e)   The   custodian   of   the   bank   shall   additionally maintain a record of access to the lockers, containing details of all the parties who have accessed the lockers and the date and time on which they were opened and closed. 

(f)   The bank employees are also obligated to check whether the lockers are properly closed on a regular basis. If the same is not done, the locker must be immediately   closed   and   the  locker   holder   shall   be promptly   intimated   so   that   they   may   verify   any resulting discrepancy in the contents of the locker.

(g)   The concerned staff shall also check that the keys to the locker are in proper condition. 

(h)    In case the lockers are being operated through an electronic   system,   the   bank  shall   take   reasonable steps to ensure that the system is protected against hacking or any breach of security.

(i)   The   customers’   personal   data, including   their biometric data, cannot be shared with third parties without their consent. The relevant rules under the Information Technology Act, 2000 will be applicable in this regard.

(j)  The bank has the power to break open the locker only in accordance with the relevant laws and RBI regulations, if any. Breaking open of the locker in a manner other than that prescribed under law is an illegal act which amounts to gross deficiency of service on the part of the bank as a service provider. 

(k)  Due notice in writing shall be given to the locker holder at a reasonable time prior to the breaking open of the locker. Moreover, the locker shall be broken open only in the presence of authorized officials and an independent witness after giving due notice to the locker   holder.   The   bank   must   prepare   a   detailed inventory of any articles found inside the locker, after the locker is opened, and make a separate entry in the locker  register,  before  returning them  to   the  locker holder.  The   locker   holder’s   signature   should   be obtained upon the receipt of such inventory so as to avoid any dispute in the future. 

(l)   The bank must undertake proper verification procedures to ensure that no unauthorized party gains access to the locker. In case the locker remains inoperative for a long period of time, and the locker holder cannot be located, the banks shall transfer the contents of the locker to their nominees/legal heirs or dispose of the articles in a transparent manner, in accordance with the directions issued by the RBI in this regard.

m)   The banks shall also take necessary steps to ensure that the space in which the locker facility is located is adequately guarded at all times.

(n)   A copy of the locker hiring agreement, containing the relevant terms and conditions, shall be given to the customer at the time of allotment of the locker so that they are intimated of their rights and responsibilities.

(o)   The bank cannot contract out of the minimum standard of care with respect to maintaining the safety of the lockers as outlined."

Copy of the judgment is attached   



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