Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Money goes from Shiti bank in De most mysterious way

When's the last time you got pickpocketed? I lost a phone (two in fact) in Namibia a little over a year ago. I remember getting back with lunch in hand not really realising that there were two phones with all my contacts somewhere on the streets of Windhoek. I realised when I wanted to make a call that I couldn't find my phones... either of them... it's not like the person who pulled them out of my pocket was kind enough to stick around and acknowledge the fact, inform me or even leave me a note to tell me that he or she had grown richer at my expense.

Things have changed in the last year it seems. Technology is much better and theft being more polite now comes with intimation - LOTS of intimation.

I'm usually pretty scared of signing stuff, so make sure I read whatever's been put before me before I think about signing it (one exception was a housing loan agreement that didn't really come through - I put two signatures per page on some 60 pages that time). I'm such a worrier that I read all correspondence that looks even remotely legal. That includes incidentally credit card terms and conditions that were sent along with my "pre-approved Gold card" that was offered to me on the basis of my "Excellent transactions in your savings account".

I'm also quite finicky about looking at bills before I pay them (ever since a slight issue with Airtel where they were charging me a monthly roaming fee every time I got out of the city - that got sorted pretty quick though). Because of all this I've never thought of setting up a direct debit from my account for anything really. If there's a mistake on your bill it's easier to withhold payment till the matter's resolved rather than get the money back right?

For this reason I was quite concerned when I noticed a transaction on my savings account one day debiting some Rs. 2000+ from my account in favour of "SI" or some other such transaction. Not sure why, but this amount looked kind of familiar. I called up the bank and they confirmed that it was a "Standing Instruction" transaction to debit the minimum due on my credit card bill.

I eventually wrote to the Head of customer care... but waitaminit... why'm I telling you this? I'll paste the "slightly modified" (removed references to the bank and account mail below - read away:

My name is Sunil De. I've been through a little bit of mental torture over the last few weeks so thought I'd share my experience in the hope that at least some action will be taken to prevent this from happening to anyone else. I have a (type removed) Gold card which was provided to me based on my "excellent transactions" on my savings account (no. xxxxxxxxxx)

It's a long mail, but please ensure that you read it - after such an experience I do expect some action to be taken and will publish the same (minus the account and card info) on as many blogs as I can put it on if I find that it's done no good.

The following resources in terms of time and mental stress have been consumed to cause the cancellation of an illegal (no request was made or acknowledged for the same) standing instruction to debit my savings account of the minimum balance irrespective of amount paid by the due date (in my case well in excess of the total DUE amount):

40 minutes of phone calls with customer care representatives who STILL maintain that the standing instruction can not be cancelled as the card was provided to me on the basis of my "excellent savings account transactions"

2 requests logged on the net banking system - the first was a polite request to cancel the standing instruction - the response to this was "this is a standing instruction" followed by a 10 line explanation of what a standing instruction is. The second request was a little more impolite - an eventuality I would prefer not to resort to. The conversation in its entirety is attached for your reference at the end of this mail.

One call back from a "Supervisor" who made the same claim as the two customer care representatives offering me the choice of "take it or I'll transfer you to the cancellation department", which he did.

28 days after the first request I get the second response confirming that the instruction has been cancelled. The threat of legal action possibly did the trick (as in the second net banking query). Why should I have to make such threats? The bank officers I spoke with all told me to "check the terms and conditions sent to you". I've been through them with a special eye out for anything that may tell me that you'll take the minimum balance from my savings account yet found nothing. In fact, the letter that was sent says "If you have given us a standing instruction for payment towards the balance on your Card, it would be valid for reissue/swap to a new Card."

Add a few minutes to type this mail complaining about the pathetic levels of service that make your old (bankname removed) service look good (was pathetic before, but is scraping the bottom of the barrel now - at least there were ill informed people who were willing to admit their ignorance rather than haughty supervisors willing to allow the bank to get into a legal wrangle)

Incidentally, I'm assuming my issues with this card have been resolved. I'd suggest you check with whoever you need to to ensure that they are.

First attempt:

Your Query

There appears to be a standing instruction to pay my credit card bill on the 14th of each month. I did not set or authorize this standing instruction. Please cancel it immediately.

Our Message

Dear Mr. Kumar, This is with reference to your query dated Augus

t 22, 2006. Your credit card # xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx is given to you

based on your (savings) account. Standing instruction is maintaine

d in your account towards payment of minimum amount due in your c

redit card. Hence, Rs. 2633.81 has been debited from your accou

nt on August 14, 2006. We wish to clarify that the Standing Instr

uction towards payment to card will be executed irrespective of w

hether the payment is done by you or not. Kindly note that it is

a automated process. The excess payments made towards the card wi

ll be adjusted towards future bills. We assure you of our best a

ttention at all times. Thank you for accessing (bankname removed) Online. W

arm Regards, Officer - Customer Care

Second Attempt:

Your Query

CANCEL THE UNAUTHORISED STANDING INSTRUCTION WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. I have neither authorized nor accepted this. I would appreciate that such service be discontinued to avoid legal action.

Our Message

Dear Mr. De, This is with reference to your query dated September

09, 2006. As stated earlier, your card # xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx has

been issued to you in appreciation of your (savings) account held

with us. As requested, we have deregistered the Standing Instruct

ion to debit the Minimum Amount Due from your (savings) account. H

ence, October 2006 onwards your (savings) account will not get debi

ted towards Minimum Amount Due for your card # xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

Thank you for accessing (bankname removed) online. Warm Regards Officer -

Customer Care

The joke was on me... I got a call 15 working days after sending that mail (the bank says they'll get back to youwithin the next 14 working days in an autoresponse) asking me if I wanted to cancel the standing instruction.

Needless to say I've blogged it...

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