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Sebi takes up rising investor complaints with MFs
December, 20th 2010

Market regulator Sebi met chief executives of several mutual funds last week to take stock of rising investor complaints. The regulator is upset over the complaints against some of the leading players, two industry people told ET.

That the regulator is serious was borne out by the fact that it wanted the fund houses to list the measures they were taking to address the grievances. Sebi is also learnt to have come down hard on a few fund houses that have a long list of pending complaints. Its particularly worried about systemic issues like discrepancies in account statements and delay in mailing unit certificates.

According to Amfi records, 39 mutual fund houses have more than 4.5 lakh complaints against them. UTI Mutual Fund , with over one crore folios, tops the list with 99,347 such issues. The countrys oldest fund house has received more than 30,900 complaints relating to non-receipt of dividends and another 16,700 marking non-receipt of statement of accounts. Birla Sun Life MF , which has more than 24.66 lakh investor folios, had over 95,000 complaints during 2009 and 2010. ICICI Mutual Fund has been hit by over 57,600 grievances while Reliance Mutual had about 10,200. Of the 7,600 complaints lodged against HDFC Mutual Fund , over 5,600 pertain to discrepancies in statement of accounts.

A good number of these complaints are insignificant in nature , said the CEO of a private fund house. There is no uniformity in the way these complaints are filed. Investors blame us for not getting redemption proceeds or dividend payouts; the reason for this could be a change of address by the investor, which was not reported to the fund house. Incorrect address and faulty pin codes result in statements getting lost in transit , the CEO said, requesting anonymity.

Non-receipt of dividends and redemption proceeds also rankle investors. Most fund houses send dividend cheques through ordinary post. High-value dividends cheques and redemption proceeds, however, are despatched through registered post. Discrepancies in accounts have more to do with factual errors in account statements. It is negligence on the part of investors that is resulting in such complaints. Many a time, distributors fill up the application form on behalf of investors; they tend to give wrong names, incomplete addresses and other details, said the marketing head of a bank-promoted fund house.

Though serious trespasses like overcharging investors, deviation from fund attributes or illegal fund switches are at the barest minimum, AMFI is wary of rising number of petty complaints against fund houses. The association has set up a committee under CEO HN Sinor to look into the matter. The committee is expected to categorise complaints under different heads and also introduce a system for quick redressal of complaints, sources said.

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