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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 ?


Jan 03

Update : Working with MyProtein management, we have been able to resolve the issue.

This is not a Myprotein.com review, this is my horror story with this so called store with an extreme lack of customer service. I had placed on order with these guys on October 3rd 2015 (or so). For 2 months I heard nothing about my order, no shipment was sent. Then suddenly on 6th December (or so), they charge my credit card and tell me my order is processing. What the hell ?

So I write them a polite letter to cancel the order, I don’t like receiving items 2 months late. They say its shipped and sure enough I need to reship it back and they tell me that they would pay return shipping upto a certain value. Not wanting to pay out of pocket, I refuse the delivery with Fedex and send the package back. The package is processed by Fedex and sent back to them.

image

Its received by someone named Aschultz on 18th December 2015.

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Since then they have been playing email tag with me. First they told me that the refund would be processed once they got their package back. It was strange that I had refused delivery but still they wanted me to wait, but I went ahead. After receiving the package back on 18th, they are just pretending to have not received it. Waiting for confirmation from their warehouse they say. Sending emails or trying to reason with them is like banging your head against a brick wall. The customer care just keeps responding with the same shit.

Please be advised that this refused delivery will now be returned to sender, once it has successfully been processed back we can issue you your refund.

I am sorry to advised that we are unable to process a refund or a replacement as the order is showing as not being returned, the details have now been passed to our warehouse to get this checked and someone will be in touch shortly.

Once we do get this order processed back at our Warehouse a full refund will be issued for you.

I am sorry for any frustration you are feeling, however we have not yet received confirmation from our warehouse that this order has been returned to us, therefore we would be unable to process a refund for you just yet.

Even after the order was received, they lied that its in transit to them :

Plesae (sic) be advised that this order is still showing as in transit to back to us. As soon as this has been back processed we will initiate your refund.

So I am writing this post with 2 objectives, one is to force them to do the right thing and refund my money and the second is to warn people about doing new business with them. Like I said, I havent met a more customer unfriendly business in the United States ever.

I have tried everything from writing a review on their linked website Trustpilot to tryng to escalate to tryng to reason. This company is shameless and possibly the most customer unfriendly company I have ever encountered in the US.


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 18

I am a hardcore Amazon fan. I don’t mind paying for prime to get the free shipping and the awesome service I receive. So when Amazon opened up its subsidiary in India, I expected similar stellar service and regard for customer from them in India too. Till now I hadn’t had a chance to test Amazon India’s website. This Saturday was going to change all that. Dad wanted to me buy a mixer grinder for the maid and Amazon apparently had a good deal. A maharaja mixer grinder for Rs. 899. Nice deal I thought. Except when I started to search for the item on their website, I couldn’t find it. No matter how hard I searched, I just couldn’t locate it. Here is the ad in question, 100 points to you if you can locate this on amazon.in. I had heard of Flipkart’s infamous billion day sale disaster, but this was new.

Amazon.in fake sale ad

 

I started a chat session with customer care, the session in all its glory is below. As you can see the chat person was polite but really couldn’t do anything to help me out. She tried to search at her end and then just told me to keep checking for it every 30 minutes. As if I don’t have anything better to do than to keep refreshing Amazon.in’s site.

amazon fake sale

 

Well screw you Amazon India, I just went to Infibeam.com and got another deal at a decent price, slightly more than what Amazon had promised though. I also gave feedback at the end of the session asking to be contacted, well no one ever contacted me, strike 2 for amazon.in. For a company that prides itself on customer service, this is a really bad way to start an international subsidiary. Hoping the folks at Seattle take note.


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.


Sep 21

We woke up yesterday to some very unsettling news, a hedge fund manager starts a pharma company, takes over the rights for a drug and then jacks up the price. In a perfect world this wouldn’t happen, even in an imperfect world this wouldn’t happen, however in this world this just happened. Turing Pharma’s wannabee CEO Martin Shkreli has done the humanly unthinkable. He raised the price of an essential AIDS drug by over 5000%. The price of Daraprim tablet was raised from $13.50 to $750 overnight by this company which just bought some rights to the medicine and had invested nada in its R&D.

The smug CEO who should probably be running playgroups instead of deciding the fate of millions of people started an all out war on twitter, responding arrogantly with the (non)-elegance of a baboon. The price gouging as expected was criticised not only by the general public and doctors but many in the pharma industry itself. By evening the twitter war took a much graver turn for the CEO, when Kurt Eichenwald on his twitter feed suggested that the feds may soon go after him. From tax violations to stock manipulation, he seemed to suggest that Martin would be the subject of a legal witchhunt and lets be real, no jury is selecting non-guilty. At the end it looked like that Kurt had found some sort of a whistleblower :

My view is very simple on this, I love capitalism, its one of the things that makes American super great. however there needs to be a balance of forces. Just like Nestle cannot take over all the water on earth, you cannot just raise the price of a life saving drug by 5000% and think that the world wouldn’t care. If your company isn’t profitable, fix it honestly keeping your greed in check, don’t buy drugs and try to exploit a monopoly.