Mumbai, 22nd December, 2016: Think how dangerous cashless payment can be if you are a typical unwary customer. If you pay in cash, you have the assurance of knowing that nobody can reach into your wallet and take an extra buck. But if you pay online, extra money can be skimmed by your bank without your knowledge. Sanjeev Goel of Belapur, who runs a coaching academy, read his account statement and found that HDFC Bank had repeatedly made deductions that he wasn't informed about, had not permitted, and wasn't notified of by SMS alerts.
Sanjeev was charged Rs. 34.50 for each of the 32 times he paid student's fees of Rs 3000/- to Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Sanjeev immediately got an SMS alert for debit of Rs 3000/- but not for Rs 34.50. TISS denies deducting that amount, so clearly, HDFC deducted it. For what? Authorized by whom?
Geetha Priya, Manager Correspondence (PNO Desk) claimed in an email: "We take this opportunity to reiterate that the surcharge information is available on the TISS web portal.” But step-by-step analysis of the portal transaction shows that the information is not available on the TISS portal.
|HDFC Bank managers enjoy discretionary power to (a) slap various charges on their customer (b) reverse the charges if confronted and questioned, and (c) "upgrade" or "downgrade" a customer's account by applying criteria that aren't disclosed to customers.|
"This is not the only issue with HDFC Bank”, says Sanjeev. “HDFC Bank has been guilty of direct fraud. They have levied charges for a 13-month prior transaction in my bank account, of Rs. 276 towards 'BC issuance charges'. When you ask them to downgrade an account from AQB (Average Quarterly Balance) Rs. 40,000 to AQB Rs. 10,000, they say 'don't worry, we will ensure that no AQB charges will be levied, you don't need to downgrade account', and then after 6 months, they levy the AQB charges. They charge for sending SMS for banking related transactions, and this was never informed to us. Our account statement clearly shows 'charges towards sms'."
So, what ails HDFC Bank generally?
1) Marketers doing bankers' jobs. HDFC Bank appears to be run by marketing executives chasing sales targets rather than bankers following regulations. Banking discipline and stewardship of customers' wealth is compromised. Buck-passing and false verbal assurances are normal. Employees frequently say things that they don't want to put in writing.
2) Abuse of discretionary powers, carrot-and-stick approach with customers. HDFC Bank managers enjoy discretionary power to (a) slap various charges on their customer (b) reverse the charges if confronted and questioned, and (c) "upgrade" or "downgrade" a customer's account by applying criteria that aren't disclosed to customers. Generally, banking is governed by strict rules, regulations, formats and criteria… but at HDFC Bank, this isn’t the case.
3) Skimming of customers' accounts. Is imposing unverifiable charges to lakhs of customers HDFC Bank's recipe for profitability? Only a few alert customers raise objections and have the charges reversed after weeks or months of struggle; the vast majority may not even notice. Is this how the bank earns thousands of crore rupees as "other incomes", "fees", "commissions", etc? HDFC Bank's latest annual report says, "Other Income grew 19.5 per cent over that of the previous year to INR 10,751.7 crore during the year ended March 31, 2016. The largest component of Other Income was fees and commissions, which increased by 17.8 per cent to INR 7,759 crore with the primary drivers being commissions on debit and credit cards, transactional charges, fees on deposit accounts..." To the layman’s ears, this sounds suspiciously like skimming of debit and cards, and deposit accounts.
Our Prime Minister wants the gullible and unschooled masses of India to rely heavily on such banks for day-to-day transactions. Does he fully comprehend how this can play out?
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