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Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has recently issued the (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) (Second Amendment) Regulations, 2023. These amendments aim to enhance the grievance redressal framework for subscribers under the National Pension System and other regulated pension schemes.

Detailed Analysis:

1. Scope Expansion:

  • Explanation (iii) broadens the definition of entities covered, including non-government sector employers under the National Pension System.

2. Grievance Redressal Policy:

  • Intermediaries must follow a two-level grievance redressal policy.
  • National Pension System Trust to provide guidelines and procedures, ensuring an effective grievance management system.

3. Policy Filings and Transparency:

  • All grievance redressal policies must be filed with the Authority and the National Pension System Trust.
  • Detailed policies must be made public, including website display in multiple languages.

4. Turnaround Times and Details:

  • Two-level grievance policies must specify turnaround times for grievance resolution.
  • Comprehensive details of policies, including timeframes, filed with the Authority and Trust.

5. Escalation Process:

  • If not satisfied with intermediary resolution, subscribers can escalate to the National Pension System Trust.
  • Further appeal to the Ombudsman if grievances remain unresolved.

6. Ombudsman Role and Powers:

  • Ombudsman appointed by the Authority to facilitate resolution and adjudicate complaints.
  • Powers include receiving, considering, and adjudicating complaints against intermediaries or entities.

7. System Requirements:

  • Grievance redressal policy should incorporate automated systems for online registration, tracking, and reporting.

8. Regulation Amendments:

  • Changes in regulations 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, and 31.

Conclusion: The PFRDA’s Second Amendment brings a comprehensive overhaul to the grievance redressal mechanism, emphasizing transparency, accountability, and efficiency. These changes strengthen subscriber protection and ensure a robust framework for addressing grievances within the pension sector. Subscribers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the updated regulations to make informed decisions and safeguard their interests.

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PENSION FUND REGULATORY AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
NOTIFICATION
New Delhi, the 21st February, 2024

PENSION FUND REGULATORY AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (REDRESSAL OF SUBSCRIBER GRIEVANCE) (SECOND AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS, 2023

No. PFRDA/12/RGL/139/1—In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of section 52 read with clause (d) of sub-section (2) thereof and clause (f) of sub-section (2) of section 14 of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 2013 (23 of 2013), the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority hereby makes the following regulations to amend the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) Regulations, 2015, namely: –

1. These regulations may be called the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) (Second Amendment) Regulations, 2023.

2. These shall come into force on the date of their publication in the official gazette

3. In the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) Regulations, 2015, as amended from time to time (hereinafter referred to as ‘the principal regulations’), the following amendments are made.

I. In clause (i) of sub-regulation (1) of regulation 2 of the principal regulations, a new explanation (iii) shall be inserted immediately after explanation (ii) as follows:

“(iii) any other employer or entity in the non-government sector which has covered its employees under National Pension system;”

II. Sub-regulation (1) of regulation 3 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“3. Grievance redressal policy.—(1) Every intermediary under the National Pension System and any other pension scheme regulated by the Authority shall follow the grievance redressal policy as laid down under these regulations. In case of National Pension System, the National Pension System Trust shall lay down detailed guidelines and procedures for a two level grievance redressal policy for intermediaries and other entities with minimum conditions as referred to in regulation 4 and shall be responsible for the overall grievance management system. Every intermediary shall have in place a board approved policy, for redressal of subscriber grievances. It shall have two levels for the grievance redressal of subscribers and shall comprise a senior management level officer to be designated as Grievance Redressal Officer for compliance of the requirements laid down in such policy. In addition, every branch or authorized office or centre other than the central office, head office, corporate office or principal office of the intermediary dealing with National Pension System shall also have an officer nominated as the Grievance Redressal Officer for that office or centre.”

III. Sub-regulation (3) of regulation 3 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(3) All such grievance redressal policies for National Pension System and for other pension schemes regulated by the Authority shall be filed with the Authority and the National Pension System Trust as the case may be, by the intermediary or entity or person governed by the provisions of the Act and details of internal grievance redressal mechanism, along with the address and contact details of Ombudsman shall be placed prominently in public domain.”

IV. Clause (e) of regulation 4 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(e) details of turnaround times shall be clearly laid down in the two level grievance redressal policy to be filed with the Authority and the National Pension System Trust by the intermediaries or respective Government or any other entity governed by the provisions of the Act;”

V. Clause (f) of regulation 4 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(f) every two level grievance redressal policy to be filed with the Authority and the National Pension System Trust, shall be placed in public domain, including its website and displayed in Hindi, English and other applicable regional languages by each intermediary under the National Pension System and other pension schemes regulated by the Authority.”

VI. Sub-regulation (7) of regulation 6 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(7) If the complainant is not satisfied with the redressal of his grievances or if it has not been resolved by the intermediary by the end of thirty days of the filing of the complaint, he may escalate the grievance to the National Pension System Trust in accordance with the provisions contained in regulation 10. If the grievance remains unresolved after its receipt at the National Pension System Trust, on the expiry of a period of twenty one days from the receipt thereof, the complainant may file an appeal with the Ombudsman for redressal of the grievances of the complainant, within such period as has been specified for the purpose.

Provided that provisions of this sub-regulation, shall not apply where the complaint is directly in relation to a grievance against the National Pension System Trust and no other intermediary.

Provided further that where the complaint is directly against the National Pension System Trust and no other intermediary, the National Pension Trust shall resolve the grievance of the subscriber in the manner and within the period of twenty one days and if the grievance remains unresolved, the complainant may file an appeal with the Ombudsman to be appointed by the Authority under these regulations for redressal of the grievances of the complainant, within such period as has been specified for the purpose.”

VII. Clause (a) of regulation 7 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(a) when the intermediary or entity regulated by the Authority has resolved all the grievance(s) of the complainant;”

VIII. Clause (f) of regulation 7 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(f) where the decision of the Ombudsman on appeal has been communicated to such complainant:

Provided that the closure shall not be applicable where the Ombudsman or the designated member, has allowed filing of the appeal or revision, as the case may be, beyond the specified period.”

IX. Regulation 9 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

9. System requirements.– The grievance redressal policy shall provide for automated systems to enable online registration, tracking of status of grievances by the complainant(s) and generation of periodical reports as may be determined by the Authority. The system shall also be designed to ensure that it can integrate seamlessly with the system of the Authority and the National Pension System Trust in the manner as may be determined by the Authority from time to time.”

X. Regulation 10 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

10. Escalation of Grievance to National Pension System Trust.- (1) Any subscriber whose grievance has not been resolved within thirty days from the date of receipt of the grievance by the intermediary, or who is not satisfied with the resolution provided by any intermediary (other than National Pension System Trust) may register a grievance with the National Pension System Trust, against such intermediary. The National Pension System Trust shall follow up the grievance with the concerned intermediary for redressal of the raised subscriber grievance. The National Pension System Trust shall seek the resolution of the subscriber grievance in accordance with the provisions of the Act, rules, regulations and applicable guidelines and respond appropriately to the subscriber within twenty one days from the date of receipt of the grievance under this sub-regulation.

(2) The subscriber whose grievance has not been resolved by the intermediary within twenty one days from the date of submission of the grievance to the National Pension System Trust, or who is not satisfied with the resolution provided by the National Pension System Trust may prefer an appeal to the Ombudsman against the concerned intermediary or entity.

(3) Nothing contained in sub- regulation (1) shall apply to a grievance which is directly against the National Pension System Trust, and it shall be resolved by the National Pension System Trust in accordance with the provisions of regulation 6.”

XI. Clause (ii) of sub-regulation (3) of regulation 12 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(ii) a person having special knowledge and experience in the field of law, finance, economics, or pension, to be nominated by the chairperson;”

XII. Sub-clause (iii) of Clause (d) of regulation 13 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(iii) having special knowledge and experience in the field of law, finance, corporate matters, economics, pension, management or administration for a period of not less than ten years.”

XIII. Clause (ii) of regulation 14 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(ii) has been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude or economic offences or in respect of whom any adverse order has been passed by a court, regulator or any other authority involving professional lapses or who has been discharged from services;”

XIV. Clause (iv) of regulation 14 of the principal regulations shall be deleted;

XV Clause (v) of regulation 14 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(v) has been a whole-time director in the office of an intermediary under the National Pension System or any other pension scheme regulated by the Authority and a period of two years has not elapsed from the date of his cessation as such director.”

XVI. Sub-regulation (2) of regulation 15 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-regulation (1), the Authority may dispense with the services of the Ombudsman by giving him notice of not less than three months in writing or remuneration payable in lieu thereof.

Provided that the Ombudsman shall also have the right to relinquish his office, at any time, before the expiry of period specified under sub-regulation (1), by giving to the Authority a notice of not less than three months in writing or compensation in lieu thereof.

Provided further that chairperson of the Authority shall have the powers to dispense with services of Ombudsman if he is not fit to hold the position or he is found to have incurred any of the disqualifications, as provided in Regulation 14, pursuant to an opportunity granted to him. There shall be no obligation on the Authority to provide any remuneration to the Ombudsman, after issuance of notice to him and the Authority may forthwith appoint another Ombudsman in his place, in the interest of the subscribers.”

XVII. Sub-regulation (3) of regulation 17 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(3) Save as otherwise specified by the Authority, the Stipendiary Ombudsman shall exercise all powers and functions as are vested in an Ombudsman under these regulations.”

XVIII. Regulation 20 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

20. General powers and functions of Ombudsman.- The Ombudsman shall have the following powers and functions-

(a) receive complaints as specified in these regulations against any intermediary or entity and to consider such complaints and facilitate resolution thereof through amicable settlement in accordance with the applicable regulation(s); and

(b) adjudicate such complaints in the event of failure of settlement.”

XIX. Clause (a) of Sub-regulation (1) of regulation 21 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(a) draw up an annual budget for his office in consultation with the Authority and incur expenditure within and in accordance with the provisions of the approved budget;”

XX. Clause (a) of sub-regulation (1) of regulation 22 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(a) by a complainant whose grievance has not been resolved within twenty one days from the escalation of grievance with the National Pension System Trust under regulation 10;”

XXI. Clause (b) of sub-regulation (1) of regulation 22 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(b) by a complainant, where a complaint has been made directly against the National Pension System Trust and is unresolved within twenty one days; or”

XXII. Clause (a) of sub-regulation (3) of regulation 22 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(3)(a) unless the complainant had, before making an appeal to the Ombudsman concerned, made a written complaint to the concerned entity (viz. intermediary or entity under National Pension System or any other pension scheme regulated by the Authority) named in the complaint and the concerned entity has rejected the complaint or the complainant has not received any reply within a period of thirty days after the concerned entity received his complaint or the complainant is not satisfied with the reply given to him by the concerned entity and thereafter the grievance has been raised to the National Pension System Trust and the complainant has not received any reply within period of twenty one days from National Pension System Trust or where the complaint has been made directly against the National Pension System Trust and no other intermediary, and remains unresolved within the period of twenty one days, or is not satisfied with the reply given to him as the case may be;”

XXIII. Clause (b) of sub-regulation (3) of regulation 22 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(b) unless the appeal is made within forty-five days from the date of receipt of response of the National Pension System Trust under regulation 10 or under regulation 6, as the case may be, or within next forty-five days, following the date of expiry of twenty one days from the date of filing a representation or complaint with the National Pension System Trust, as the case may be, and no reply having been received to such representation or complaint.

Provided that the Ombudsman may entertain any appeal beyond the specified time limit for filing of appeal, for sufficient cause or reasons thereof, provided by the complainant. The Ombudsman may reject any appeal where he feels that such delay is not justifiable, for reasons to be recorded in writing;”

XXIV. Clause (c) of sub-regulation (3) of regulation 22 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(c) if the appeal is in respect of the same subject-matter which was settled or decided by the designated member or Ombudsman concerned in any previous proceedings, whether or not received from the same complainant or along with any other complainants or any other parties concerned with the subject matter under issue;”

XXV. Second proviso to sub-regulation (2) of regulation 23 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“Provided further that the provisions of this sub-regulation shall not apply in relation to the disclosures made or information furnished by the Ombudsman to the Authority or to the publication of Ombudsman’s award in

any journal or newspaper, including website or filing thereof before any court, forum or Authority.”

XXVI. Sub-regulation (2) of regulation 24 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(2) If any amicable settlement or mutual agreement is arrived at between the parties, as permitted within the provisions of applicable regulations, the Ombudsman shall pass an award in terms of such settlement or agreement, within thirty days from the date thereof and direct the parties to perform their obligations, in accordance with the terms recorded in the award.”

XXVII. Sub-regulation (3) of regulation 25 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(3) Where the award by the Ombudsman, including compensation and interest, if any, exceeds a sum of rupees ten lakh, such award shall be sent to the Authority for confirmation. The designated member may confirm or vary the award, after hearing the parties concerned. In such a case, there shall be no revision as provided in regulation 28 and an appeal may be made to Securities Appellate Tribunal, against the order passed of the order passed.”

XXVIII. Sub-regulation (4) of regulation 25 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(4) The Ombudsman shall send his award to the parties, to perform their respective obligations under the award.”

XXIX. Tile to regulation 27 shall be substituted as follows:
“27. Proceedings before Ombudsman.-”

XXX. Sub-regulation (2) of regulation 27 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“(2) The Ombudsman shall decide whether to hold oral hearings for the presentation of facts and evidence or whether the proceeding shall be conducted on the basis of documents and other materials on record, including electronic and digital medium.

Provided that it shall not be necessary for a complainant to be present in the oral proceedings and the Ombudsman may decide on the basis of documents and other materials on record.”

XXXI. Proviso to Sub-regulation (2) of regulation 28 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

“Provided that the designated member of the Authority may entertain any revision beyond the specified time limit, for sufficient cause or reasons thereof, provided by the party seeking such revision. However, no revision shall be entertained where a period of one hundred and eighty days has elapsed from the communication of the order passed.”

XXXII. Sub-regulation (1) of regulation 31 of the principal regulations shall be substituted as follows:

31. Display of the particulars of the ombudsman in office premises and documents.- (1) Every intermediary or entity under the National Pension System and any other pension scheme regulated by the Authority shall display the name, address and contact details of the Grievance Redressal Officer within such intermediaries or entities and also the name, address and contact details of Ombudsman as specified by the Authority to whom the complaints are to be made by any aggrieved person in public domain including its website and office premises in such manner and at such place, so that it is put to sufficient notice of the subscribers visiting its office premises.”

Dr. DEEPAK MOHANTY, Chairperson
[ADVT.-III/4/Exty./762/2023-24]

Footnote:

1. The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) Regulations, 2015 were published in the Gazette of India on 29th January, 2015 vide notification No. PFRDA/12/ RGL/139/1.

2. The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 were published in the Gazette of India on 24th May, 2022 vide notification No. PFRDA/12/ RGL/139/1.

3. The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) (Amendment) Regulations, 2023 were published in the Gazette of India on 27th March, 2023 vide notification No. PFRDA/12/ RGL/139/1.

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