Multinationals and Their Third World Customers

  I was in for a rude shock in the last week of June when I paid a routine visit to my bank, HSBC to check on something.  The guy behind the desk informed me that starting July 01, my account would short of the required minimum.  I am always very careful about things like this, and so I expressed my puzzlement.  He then informed me that the type of account I had opened, had been scrapped by the bank.  They now had new account types, and the bank had very generously upgraded me to an account type where the minimum amount I was required to have in my savings and investments was 12 times the amount that I was required to have for the original account I had previously, the one that the bank scrapped without telling me!!!  I wasn’t sure whether to be shocked or angry — and gaped at him speechlessly! Then the bank personal continued very calmly.  He suggested that if that was too much, they could downgrade me to another account type where I would need to keep only 3 times the amount that I had to for my old account!

I told him, How come I was not informed about this? [BY THE WAY I NEVER RECEIVED ANY OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION FROM MY BANK SAYING MY OLD ACCOUNT HAD BEEN SCRAPPED, OR THAT THEY HAD UPGRADED MY ACCOUNT ON THEIR OWN, OR THAT I HAD A NEW MINIMUM WHICH CARRIED A HEAVY PENALTY.  AND IF I HADN’T ACCIDENTALLY DISCOVERED IT, I WOULDN’T HAVE KNOWN!]

I think procedure requires, even if you are closing the account type, to inform the customer, and to do so well ahead of time,like say 3 months before, and give them the option of either closing their account or changing to a different type!! That’s not a decision you can make for me! When did I give you my power of attorney! Just because I kept my money in your bank, it is not for you to play with it however it is you want!” 

Another bank personal told me that the reason they changed this system was because they wanted to retain only a certain “class” of customers (yes, I’m reading the rolling-in-wealth type).  I told him, “I’m happy to be weed, and believe you me, your service does not in anyway compensate for the exorbitant fees you charge. And if you had given me enough notice, I would have weeded myself out! But now I am stuck.  If I pull out my investments I lose a lot of money, and if I don’t, then you will be charging me a hefty fine for not having the minimum.  Die if I do, and die if I don’t!”  So eventually after a lot of bitter complaining to bank officials who looked like they didn’t care one way or another, I was forced to borrow money from my mother to maintain my “new” minimum balance — just till such time my investments expire.  Then I’m getting the hell out of this bank!

But having lived in the U.S., I know that HSBC would not dare do something like this to customers there or in the U.K. or Europe! They’d have a class action law-suite! So how come they get away with it in India?

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5 Comments

  1. Anon

     /  July 13, 2011

    Actually, I bank with HSBC in London and they have pretty terrible service here too. Although the people I speak to over the phone can be quite helpful, the decisions made at the corporate level are similarly arbitrary and annoying. Unfortunately, that seems to be the standard here!

    Reply
    • Rita Banerji

       /  July 13, 2011

      It’s not about the corporate decision. That I understand can happen anywhere. But in the U.S. (I don’t know about London) they would have to inform the customer before they did any of this. I still have not received any notification from the bank that they’ve scrapped my account and upgraded me. And that there is a new minimum. Had I not stopped by the bank 5 days before the account was to change they said they would have started levying a hefty fine (all of this with me totally in the dark about what’s going on with my account).

      Reply
  2. Tapas Ray

     /  July 14, 2011

    I suppose you could approach the Banking Ombudsman at RBI – .

    Reply

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