9th October, 2016: A lot of HDFC Bank customers are having a bad experience. Some are even having nightmarish experiences... and it's all thanks to the fine art of glibly selling them financial instruments and other stuff they don't need. One friend who wrote to me after reading my recent article about how HDFC Bank routinely abuses it's customer's trust and fiduciary relationship, saying, "Krish, your gripe about HDFC Bank exceeding the limits of fiduciary relationship is absolutely correct. But why pick on HDFC alone? I get similar spam mails from ICICI, Kotak, etc. Upon complaining, I was told to read the last line of these mails and unsubscribe if I did not want to receive such mails."
My reply to his query: "I picked HDFC because I have experience of its activities at first hand. But I also wrote about SBI Mutual and ICICI Bank in that article."
And then my friend wrote: "Here's a promo mail from AXIS Bank."
What we can see is, Axis Bank, while promoting its own credit card business, simultaneously markets multiple third-party brands. Such marketing emails violate Section 8 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 (Amended in 2013), which says: "Prohibition of trading... No banking company shall directly or indirectly deal in the buying or selling or bartering of goods... or engage in any trade, or buy, sell or barter goods for others..." Section 6 of the Act lists what kind of businesses banks may engage in. Promoting apparels, malls, superstores etc. is not permissible.
Axis Bank's promotional email is followed by a lengthy disclaimer that threatens you and denies everything.
The bank's customer feels helpless to click "Unsubscribe" or mark such emails as spam, as they are bundled with emailed accounts statements. Saying no to spam means saying no to email statements.
HDFC Bank branches are sales points for a lot of stuff. They surround you with posters, standees, pamphlets and young relationship managers chasing monthly targets. Ask anyone for your account balance --- and you lay yourself wide open to HDFC's hardsell. Give someone your customer id and you give him access to find out how much money you have in fixed deposits, and when they mature.
HDFC Bank markets Gold Loans as an impulse purchase. "45 minutes, no paperwork" is HDFC Bank's promise. So if you are a market speculator with an itch to invest in some hot scrip, you need a few lakhs to fund this impulse purchase, and you need it now. HDFC Bank says, "Psst, psst. Raid your wife's jewelry cupboard and pawn her gold. WE WON'T ASK YOU ANY QUESTIONS! DO IT NOW. Zero accountability, man!"
Or, you are a housewife who has the urge to splurge without consulting her family. To her, HDFC Bank is saying, "Just go ahead, honey, pledge your gold. DON'T THINK, JUST DO IT NOW! Live for the moment!"
Having pawned off their gold, HDFC Bank's customers discover that the bank personnel can armtwist, blackmail and extort. Read this complaint from an aggrieved customer in Mumbai: "I the undersigned holding Gold Loan A/c. No. 21114 with your esteemed HDFC Bank, Yogi Nagar Branch for Rs. 130,200/-. Last week I visited your Yogi Nagar Branch for renewal of my Gold Loan. I meet Lady Officer (name unknown) and informed her to renew the same and asked about details for the same. She refused to provide any details and filled one cash deposit slip with account number details and amount and told me to pay Rs.11680/- to the Teller. I paid the same at the Teller and given the Counterslip to that lady. She cross/cutted the account number mentioned on it and given it to me back. The said renewal charges are not accounted to my loan account but deposited in her personal account... She has also not given the Renewal documents for Gold Loan and refused to provide the same."
Since documentation is minimized, so are safeguards. Relationship managers and other para-banking employees can abuse the blind faith that customers have. There are sad stories unfolding all over the country due to such gold loans, which are taken in haste and repented at leisure. We will soon narrate a few of those stories.
ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY