Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

When will grahak Kumbhakarna wake up!

A network glitch at the State Bank of India on October 1, on the eve of the Pujas, inconvenienced thousands of customers across India. This set me wondering - either we Indians are all fools who cannot fight these banks, or the banking law of this country is such that it allows the banks to get away scot free by giving the middle finger to the customers.
What sort of a business culture we Indians have to put up with - gas agencies don't pick up phones; mobile companies activate services and charge customers without their knowledge or consent; ATMs often behave like `automatic terror machines' by not dispensing cash which is debited from the account; most of the movers and packers mishandle consignments and refuse to pay damages; courier packets vanish into thin air and so on.
We all know how the big daddies of banking world charge us interest and late fee for payment of credit card bills that we don't receive on time and for no fault of ours. Yet we can do little to seek effective redressal of our grievances. The Indian grahak (customer) is in a slumber - like the Kumbhakarna. I wonder when will grahak Kumbhakarna wake up.
We have the mindset that things don't work in Government machinery but the fact is that private companies can be even worse.
About a week back I received a statement of account from the American Express in the name of my mother who expired few years ago. When she was alive, she had written to the American Express Bank surrendering her credit card as she was not happy with their services. Many phone calls to the call center, faxes and letters sent by registered post failed to elicit any response from the Bank and all while it kept sending us statement of accounts (picture) for paying minimum yearly charges.
After my mother passed away, I faxed her death certificate and also got a confirmation from the call centre that they were in receipt of it. However, even till today, I continue to receive the statement of accounts and each time the dues get a tad bigger. As per the latest statement the total dues stand at Rs 8,017.46. This, according to the Bank, has accumulated over the last many years even though my mother had duly surrendered her card.
Like so many others, I do not have that much time and energy to communicate with the bank on a closed issue. The easiest thing to do is to junk the junk. Though we keep getting the account statement with unfailing regularity, we haven't received a single phone call from the Bank asking us to pay up.
My knowledge of banks and banking system is very limited but I do have a fair idea about the ways and means they employ. I must say I am simply stunned by the fact how a multinational bank, despite being informed, is hell bent on keeping someone alive on their records in 2011 when in reality the actual person passed away and even death certificate send to bank .
In order to get a broader perspective, I visited a grahak seva website and found the customers' narratives posted there read like horror stories. Well, incredible things happen in incredible India because its incredible people know not how to react.
ess bee

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