Have WiseTechie.com email ?
Login Wisetechie.com email


Jan 11

In a bizarre move HDFC Bank has decided to charge its preferred customers Rs.100 quarterly fee just for having the preferred status. The move seems bizarre since preferred customers must already put a lot of money in the bank to qualify in the preferred program. Moreover according to the website Preferred customers enjoy service fee waivers for common charges like money orders and extra statements etc. Its referred to as Program Management Fee from HDFC Bank.

To become a preferred customer you must satisfy the following criteria :

You are eligible for the HDFC Bank Preferred Programme ** if you:

  • Hold at least one Savings or Current account, sole or joint, with HDFC Bank.
  • Maintain a minimum Average Monthly balance of Rs. 15 Lakhs across all your accounts (Savings, Current and Fixed Deposits*)
    OR
  • Maintain an Average Quarterly Balance of Rs. 2 Lakhs in your Savings account.
    OR
  • Maintain an Average Quarterly Balance of Rs. 5 Lakhs in your Current account.

So despite having lakhs of rupees in your HDFC bank account, they still want to charge Rs.400 + tax to you every year in the name of program management fee.

Programme(sic) Management fee : A nominal Programme Management fee of Rs.100, per quarter is applicable per customer ID, on the Imperia (probably a typo) Banking Programme for Savings and Current Account holders, effective from Jan’16 . Services tax applicable. T&C Apply

So how does this move of charging your most loyal customers make sense ? Beats us. Some MBA probably decided that lets take our richest customers for a ride and extract even more money from them. Despite amazing profits the bank’s move to milk its best customers seems like a pretty counter intuitive move to me. I for one am going to close my NRO account the next time I visit India.

So do you have a HDFC Bank preferred account ? What do you feel about them charging you Rs.400 per year (+tax) extra ?


Dec 29

Lets start from the beginning of the timeline. Its October first week, I am in the US. Out of OCD and habit I check my Indian credit card by Standard Chartered. I see that there is a charge of almost 30000 rupees which I don’t recognize. I immediately call their call center and after going through a tedious IVRS system I finally get to talk to a real person. My call disconnects twice before I can complete the dispute. I send in a dispute declaration form to the bank for further processing the dispute. If I were in the US, this would be the end of it, the merchant would be penalized. That was not to be. Since we were in the beautiful land of India, everyone was just hoping to take customers for a ride. Standard Chartered and as I found Bank of Baroda later which was the payment processor for the merchant were pushing for the same.

After submitting the dispute form, I received a temporary credit and the online customer service advised me to pay the disputed money otherwise they would charge finance charges. I was shocked and flabbergasted at this. This is directly in contravention of any rule or guideline concerning the dispute process. I wrote off a letter to the RBI ombudsman after this highlighting that not only is Standard Chartered not assisting me properly, they are trying to arm twist me into payment. I also highlighted other procedural lapses by the bank. Here is a relevant portion of my letter to the RBI copied to standard chartered bank :

image

I sent the letters and promptly got busy in worklife. Pretty soon the dispute was closed in the merchant’s favor. I got to know this in standard chartered bank’s response to the RBI. It was full of half truths, but the most fascinating thing was the proof the merchant had submitted.

image

They claimed that a chargeslip was the proof of the transaction as submitted by the merchant. Its ridiculous that Indian banks think their customers are so dumb and illiterate. And this too in response to the RBI ombudsman. A chargeslip is generated in every transaction, it cannot be proof that someone committed the transaction. It’s common sense one would argue, however Standard Chartered bank had the audacity to attach the chargeslip as proof to the RBI. Thankfully, I still had my card and the signature on the chargeslip was just swiggly lines. They also claim this is industry standard, wow and yikes at the same time. If our CC industry believes that a chargeslip is proof enough for a transaction then I can safely say no fraud has even been committed using credit cards offline in India. Is this really the industry standard ?

Here is the fraudulent chageslip in all its glory, notice that the name looks like Waseem, maybe its fake or maybe the thief signed his real name :

image

What was interesting in Standard Chartered’s response to the RBI was that they agreed to reopen the dispute after initially deciding against me only due to the fact that I was abroad. I cringe at what would happen if I was in India, then the chargeslip with fake signature would have ensured that Standard Chartered would hold me responsible for the charge ? They also cleverly asked the RBI to close the complaint. At this point, I asked dad to prepare filing a case in consumer court, there was no way I was going to pay the fraudulent charges.

image

So post this drama, I shot off a response to RBI and Standard Chartered bank again questioning the shoddy proof and also asking the RBI to not close the complaint since the essence of the complaint was infact the charge itself and not whether they were allowing me to dispute it. Here is a copy of some of my points in the letter :

However to get to the pertinent points regarding the dispute:

1. I was not present in the country when the said transaction happened, and I have the card in my possession.

2. The signature shared by the merchant bank doesn’t even look like my name and just seems like scribbling. This is the signature on the back of my card for reference. As you can see as a security measure I had even scratched off the 3 digit CVV and always used the card carefully.

The merchant has obviously done a poor job of matching the signature for such a high value transaction or checking the identity.

3. I have also filed a case with the Navi Mumbai Police’s cyber cell

<complaint numbers here>

4. Given the facts of the case, I am able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the transaction is fraudulent and not committed by me and I have the card in my possession so there is no negligence on my part. I reported the fraud transaction as soon as I got to know about it.

Question to Bank:

I fail to understand how the charge slip is any kind of ‘proof’ that I had committed the transaction. It’s not evidence, it’s a fact that anytime a transaction happens, a chargeslip is generated. How is that even pertinent to the case at hand?

What is evidence is that the signature is a complete mismatch and scribble and since I did not sign that chargeslip, I am not the one who entered into the contract to pay for that charge.

Since the bank claims the dispute is currently in investigation, I accept their submission to wait for an outcome.

I would request RBI to keep the complaint open till a decision is reached by the bank in the matter. The crux of my complaint is that the transaction is obviously not done by me and I should not be responsible for the fraud and that matter is not yet resolved by the bank.

Thanks

Wisetechie

Copy to :

Nodal Officer, Standard Chartered Bank

After waiting for another month and a half, today I finally seem to have gotten confirmation that the disputed charge is finally reversed from my account. I hope this is the end of it. There is an important lesson in all of this especially if you use credit products in India. the protections to consumers seem to be very flimsy. If you use a credit product in India, insist on a chip card and if you use your card at restaurants, insist to go along with the waiter to swipe the card. Scratch off the CVV from the back of the card and most importantly flex your rights. My blood still boils thinking of how the chargeslip was meant to be proof of me committing the transaction. In my opinion it was only because I was in the US that the dispute was decided in my favor  (it still took 2.5 months).


Oct 10

Ok, so its no news to people that most banks in India are pathetic to customers. I think I am going to see some of that first hand. I woke one October morning seeing an abnormally high balance on my Standard Chartered India credit card. I was here sitting in the US so wondered why the large balance, I sent out a mail, soon there was a charge on my statement which I didn’t recognize. The charge was in Navi Mumbai, a city I have not visited for more than 5 years I think. So I call up Standard Chartered bank in India, went through their ancient and archaic phone banking system, and somehow managed to reach someone on phonebanking.

Suspiciously, I got disconnected twice on telling them about the dispute. Third time was a charm, I was told my card is blocked and I was told to send across a dispute form to them. I was also told I would get a temporary credit to my account. Awesome ! , yeah right, they are just complying with the law here. Note that I reported the fraud as soon as I could humanly, I didn’t get an alert on the transaction on my phone and even before the transaction had posted to my account, I had filed a dispute. I had my phone from India here and didn’t receive a call or SMS regarding the transaction worth half my credit limit in a city thousands of kilometers away from where I stay. so much for Standard Chartered’s automatic fraud detection. If I ever interview someone who has worked for them, I will ask about their algos or lack of algos to detect fraud.

Here is where things do downhill however, they are doing the above just to comply with the law, the real shrewdness of the bank comes in now. This is the dispute process outlined by the bank in a response to my netbanking message :

1) With regard to Dispute:

We are in receipt of the Dispute Declaration Form and have forwarded the same to the concerned department to investigate the disputed transactions.

We inform you that, we had provided temporary credit to your card account for the disputed transaction and the same will reflect in your next statement.   
As the process involves the concerned Merchant Establishment, his Banker and us, we will need a minimum of 45-50 days to complete the investigation. Formal correspondence will be sent to you with regard to the outcome of investigation.

We request you to contact us after 14 November 2015 to update with you the dispute status.

2) With regard to Dispute payment process:

Please note that you have the following two options regarding the repayment towards your account while the disputed charge is being investigated at our end.

a) You can pay the total outstanding (including the amount disputed), to ensure no financial charges are billed to your card account in the subsequent statements, while the investigations are in progress.

b) You have the option of paying the outstanding in your account less the transaction disputed by you. Your subsequent statements will incur financial charges due to short payment towards your outstanding amount.

Upon completion of the investigation at our end;

1) If we find that you have incurred the charges based on the supporting documents, the amount would be debited to your card account and you would be liable to pay the same, along with the financial charges accrued.

2) If we find that you have not incurred the charges (in the absence of any supporting documents provided to us by the Merchant), the permanent credit will be provided to your card account.

If the dispute resolves in customer’s favour, the financial charges will be reversed to their card account along with the disputed transaction.

 

This is the WTF part to me. Why am I responsible for these finance charges while the dispute is being processed. What’s the point of a temporary credit, only to appease RBI gods ? And why do I need to contact them after Nov 14th ? , shouldn’t they call me and let me know, they owe it to me when I have an annual fee of Rs.999 on the card. It’s a Manhattan Platinum, their most premier card. Well obviously, the disregard for the customer is uniform. There is a nice article on RBI around credit card disputes, apparently in 2013 RBI had asked banks to install chip and pin machines and to give chip and pin cards. The lazy cheap folks at Standard Chartered bank didn’t bother to issue a chip and pin card to me to save a little money. Compare that to HDFC and Citibank who had both issued chip and pin cards to me. Quoting from the article :

Pointing out that banks were told that there would be no further extensions, the RBI said, “It has been decided not to grant any further extension of time. Accordingly, banks not complying with the requirements shall compensate loss, if any, incurred by the cardholder using card at POS terminals not adhering to the mandated standards.”

There are usually two banks in every credit card transaction. One that issued the credit card and the other that has installed the swipe machine. The RBI has said that the card issuing bank should ascertain in three days whether the fraud has taken in a non-compliant machine and within seven days refund the money to the cardholder. The card issuing bank will in turn recover the money from the bank which has installed the swipe machine.

Not sure if it was even legal as per RBI for Stan Chart to not update my card to a chip and pin one.

There is also an onus now on banks to prove the credit card owner acted fraudulently, again, good luck proving that in court :

This has resulted in banks levying late-payment penalty. The new rule is announced by the Banking Cdes and Standard Board of India (BCSBI) that works to protect customer rights. It makes banks responsible to find evidence that the customer had authorised and was responsible for the disputed transactions.

I really hope I don’t have to go to court for this since I don’t want to waste time, but seeing Stan Chart’s response (finance charges making my blood boil), this may go down south pretty soon. To be fair, they haven’t yet decided the dispute. Lets see what information the merchant presents.


Apr 12

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, chances are that you may have heard of this bank called Homestreet Bank, well in all probability you haven’t and neither had I. They did however offer something called a Seahawks checking account and I was intrigued. Being a hawks fan and seeing a decent bonus with the account I decided to apply. This is where things went downhill.

I had often heard about elitist banks who would turn down customers for checking or savings accounts, but never understood the concept. It makes sense to refuse credit to customers but why would you turn down someone’s deposit . This is my first experience with it. I for one have nice credit, never missed a payment, the only black mark on my credit/Chex is maybe too many recent accounts which none of the other biggies like Chase, WF, BofA etc. ever cared for.

I applied online with a large deposit and all seemed to be well, my deposit was accepted and I was asked to sign over some papers and send for a signature record. I don’t hear anything for a few days, no welcome or courtesy phone call, no other communication on email. A few days later I receive a small letter from them telling me that due to my Chex report I have been denied for the account.

Yowsa ! Apparently me not having assets makes me ineligible for having a checking account (it listed a few other reasons also, 5 if I remember correctly). Someone was making good use of their analyst position and justifying their pay check I see.

Anyway, they said my deposit would be refunded. I sent them a letter few times, it was only when I threatened a complaint with the regulators that they actually became serious about the returning money part and involved their higher ups. They claim they had refunded my money long ago.

I got my money back around 2 weeks after my initial deposit. So someone was earning sweet interest on money they didn’t want for 2 weeks. When I sent them a mail telling them that my money is with me, not even a thank you for letting them know. This after apparently their higher ups in customer service were personally looking at my request. Wow, arrogance personified.

Personally I have decided never to transact with Homestreet bank in my life and to dissuade all friends and family from doing so. Only slight problem is that none of my family and co-workers have ever heard of Homestreet bank. Oh well, job half done then !