If you’re a mutual fund (MF) investor who is dissatisfied with the resolution of a grievance or have an unresolved query, there’s a last-resort option available to you. The Smart ODR (online dispute resolution) portal, mandated by market regulator SEBI, is aimed at streamlining the dispute resolution process in the Indian securities market. Here’s an overview of the Smart ODR portal, including details of when and how to use it.
When to raise a ticket
Investors’ disputes in the mutual funds space revolve around non-receipt of redemption proceeds, non-receipt of or discrepancies in statement of account/unit certificate, data error in investor details, wrong/unauthorised switch between schemes, wrong or excess charges or load, delay in allotment of units, and so on.
Asset management companies (AMCs) have informed investors about the availability of this portal, which serves as a means to escalate outstanding disputes (https://smartodr.in/login).
Several market infrastructure institutions (MIIs) have jointly created this portal. Smart ODR leverages online conciliation and online arbitration to resolve disputes arising within the Indian securities market, including those related to mutual funds.
There is no registration fee for filing a complaint/dispute on the ODR portal. The fees for the conciliation process have to be borne by the market participant initiating the dispute process and not the investor/client. However, the fees will be payable at the time of initiation of arbitration by the initiator (whether it’s the investor/client or the market participant concerned) and the respondent.
According to SEBI’s circular, there are different scenarios for initiating the dispute resolution process:
- The investor/client initially lodges a complaint directly with the market participant (in this case, a mutual fund house). If the grievance isn’t satisfactorily resolved, the investor can escalate it through the SEBI Complaint Redress System or SCORES portal, following SCORES guidelines. If the investor still remains unsatisfied, they can initiate dispute resolution through the ODR portal.
- The investor can initiate dispute resolution through the ODR portal if the grievance lodged with the market participant concerned isn’t satisfactorily resolved either during the initial complaint or during subsequent escalations. The market participant (mutual fund house) can also initiate dispute resolution through the ODR portal after providing the investor at least 15 calendar days’ notice for resolution of pending dispute.
- Dispute resolution through the ODR portal can be initiated when the complaint/dispute isn’t under consideration in the first scenario, doesn’t adhere to SCORES guidelines, isn’t pending before any arbitral process, court, tribunal, or consumer forum, or isn’t arbitrable according to Indian law.
- Dispute resolution through the ODR portal can be initiated while still complying with the applicable law of limitation. In legal terms, the ‘limitation period’ specifies the timeframe during which a legal action or lawsuit can be initiated following a particular event or cause of action.
How to file a dispute
The Smart ODR portal is designed to facilitate dispute resolution by connecting investors with online dispute resolution institutions. The portal says disputes can be resolved entirely online within 90 days.
The dispute filing process involves several steps:
- Create an account and log in to the Smart ODR portal using your credentials.
- Click on the ‘File a New Dispute’ option in the sidebar (on the website) or the 3-dash menu (on mobile). Provide information about the dispute, including the date of lodging the primary dispute and its reference number. Ensure that you’ve already filed the dispute directly with the intermediary (mutual fund).
- Select the intermediary (choose the mutual funds option) against whom you wish to file the dispute.
- Enter dispute details, including the name of the mutual fund, dispute description, mode of holding, and claim amount (if applicable). Be specific and ensure your dispute description is detailed and accurate. You can attach documents, images, and other relevant files for each sub-issue, with a limit of 20MB per attachment.
After completing the above steps, you can track the progress of resolution under the ‘dispute timeline’ using the dispute ID.