Consumer Forum Says HDFC Bank Has No Love & Respect For India; Penalizes Rs 5 Lakh
In one of the landmark decisions, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has severely criticized HDFC Bank to refusing to assist an Indian couple who were ‘trapped in Thailand and Singapore’. In fact, the forum declared that HDFC Bank has no love and respect for India, as it penalized them to the tune of Rs 5 lakh for this debacle.
This case would be one of those epic consumer right cases which would be now referenced by lawyers and consumer right activists for a long time.
In 2008, Chandigarh residents, senior advocate Mohinderjit Singh Sethi and his wife Rajmohini Sethi decided to travel to Singapore and Thailand for 10 days. Before their departure, they had deposited Rs 1.5 lakh with HDFC Bank, and had taken assurance and promise by the bank officials that their card would be operational overseas.
However, when they reached Singapore, they were not able to use the card. When the couple contacted HDFC Bank manager Rajinder Patheja, he told the couple that due to a minor issue with the name spelled in the forms, the bank is unable to deblock their ATM card.
After much inconvenience and struggle, the couple reached India back and filed a case against the bank at the district consumer forum, which awarded a fine a of Rs 50,000. Unsatisfied with the verdict, the couple approached state consumer forum which refused to enhance the compensation from Rs 50,000 to a higher amount.
Finally, the couple approached NCDRC, which overruled the previous verdicts, and ordered HDFC Bank to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh for the inconvenience caused to the couple.
The Scathing Verdict
Bench headed by Justice J M Malik minced no words in scolding HDFC Bank for this major lapse in customer service. He said, “The bank has got no love and respect for India. The reputation of India was at stake. Knowing fully well that Indians were trapped in a foreign country, it was the bounden duty of the manager to swing into action immediately.”
Ripping aware the claims and arguments made by the bank, Justice Malik said to the bank manager: “He committed an egregious mistake for taking no action for 10 days. It exposes the sloth and callousness on the part of the manager. This shows negligence, inaction and passivity on the part of the bank.”
Taking this issue forward, and linking it with the overall image of the nation, the Judge said, “”Foreigners always complain that due to procedural delays, they do not want to have business relations with this country. The lackadaisical approach by the bank is surprising. The bank manager did not make any effort to straighten out the problem,”
In fact, the consumer forum has asked HDFC Bank to punish the concerned manager, and deduct Rs 50,000 from his monthly salary.
The overall compensation to couple has been increased to Rs 5,00,000.
In their defense, the bank has issued statement that as the papers filed by the couple was not complete, the bank was not able to make their ATM card operational.
But considering that Rs 1.5 lakh was already deposited with the bank, and the account holders were stuck in a foreign location, it was indeed the duty of that manager to make sure that they are able to come back to India safely.
It seems more than learning the banking rules, managers need to understand humanity and common sense first. An excellent decision by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which should set an example for other banks.