Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Whether IDFC Bank resorting to collection of Deposits in Fastag by adapting to unfair business practices and whether their consumer grievance system meets the aspirations of Consumers?

National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has come out with a Fastag to enable motorist to cross the toll plaza barriers without stopping at any of the toll plaza. The toll fee as applicable to the particular toll plaza gets automatically deducted from the prepaid balance in the card. Three Banks have been nominated for such fastag cards namely IDFC Bank, State Bank of India (SBI) and ICICI Bank. The main terms of the financial cost in the Tags have been specified by NHAI for the car as:

1. Cost of the Tag           : Rs. 200/-
2. Security Deposit         : Rs. 200/-
3. Minimum balance       : Rs. 100/-

The term Minimum Balance has been specified as
"Minimum Balance is the minimum recharge amount to be done at the time of RFID tag activation"

The plain reading of these costs indicates that the Tag would be costing you Rs. 500/- which will be having Rs. 100/- as minimum balance and the tag would be an active one i.e useable. 
Incidentally I had a chance to visit IDFC extension counter at DFD Skyway at Badarpur/Faridabad on 15/06/2017 to purchase a Fast Tag along with monthly rates as applicable to DFD Skyway. The rates as specified by DF Skyway on monthly basis for a car is Rs. 737/- which enables the motorists to cross toll plaza 'n' number of times in a period of one month.
However, while discussing with the counter executive of the IDFC Bank, I had noticed certain arbitrarily terms and condition which neither are transparent nor are logical which suggest for some unethical business practices of the IDFC Bank as explained herein. 
The cost of the tag was being informed as Rs. 500/- which includes ( a copy of the snap was taken at the counter and is pasted here for ready reference):
1. Tag Price              : Rs. 200/-
2. Deposit                 : Rs. 200/-
3. Minimum Balance   : Rs. 100/- 

The monthly charges for the toll usage at DFD Sky way was intimated to me as Rs. 737/- . As far as the things stand here, I had absolutely no issue and requested for the issue of the card with monthly recharge of Rs. 737/- after complying with all requisite documentation. It was also stated that the card is required to be used only at DFD Skyway against a monthly fee of Rs. 737/- as applicable.

The above terms and conditions are perfectly un-disputable. However​, as I was interested in buying the card with a monthly recharge of Rs. 737/-,  I was being told that I have to also recharge for another Rs. 200/- (surprisingly the figure of Rs. 200/- was kept on changing from Rs. 200/- to Re1/- during the course of discussion with the counter executive on 15/06/2017 and next day with their representative). It was rather surprising for such arbitrarily terms and I was being told that the Card with Monthly charge of Rs.737/- without any additional recharge for Rs. 1/- to Rs. 200/- shall remain blocked and it will not work as the terms of the purchase of the tag clearly states that the card with a minimum balance of Rs. 100/- would remain active. It seems that either there is some technology issue or some element of unethical business practices as the consumers are being pressurized for additional recharging and keeping the consumers money with the bank for unethical gains. Why the figure of recharge kept on change from Re1/- to Rs. 200/- is beyond my understanding and the plain thinking would be that IDFC Bank is unauthorized in collecting deposits without paying any interest. It was specifically stated that if the same card is to be used at other toll roads, the card would be recharged in advance before use depending upon the toll charges. But even in this scenario, it was being intimated that card would not get activated even with recharge of Rs. 737/- as monthly fee payable at DFD Skyway.

When the card with a minimum balance of Rs. 100/- is being  purchased and the card is being recharged with monthly fee of Rs. 737/- why the tag remain as blocked is not understood. Why the consumers are being asked to recharge for additional values (in an arbitrarily manner) is not understandable. When the consumers is duly complying with the requirement as published, the blocking of the card unless additionally charged seems to be unethical and requires the necessary intervention for the system correction. 
An email was sent to IDFC Bank stating above points clearly. However, the response as received from IDFC Bank is not less shocking reflecting unprofessionalism, careless attitude towards consumers substantiating my statement of their unethical business practices. The communications from their Bank and my responses are reproduced below:

Response of IDFC Bank dtd. 28/06/2017 (that too after lot of reminders and followup)   to my email dtd. 16/06/2017
"Dear Mr. Virmani,
With reference to your appended email, we wish to inform you that our official has spoken to customer and appraised the concern.
Please feel free to write to us at or call us at 1800 419 2332 for any further assistance required on the subject matter. We are available 24 X 7 at your discretion.
We thank you for banking with us and look forward to your continued patronage.
Regards, Hitesh Jethwa , Customer Relations Unit, IDFC Bank"

My response dtd. 30/06/2016 to Head Customer Service in response to their above stated email dtd. 28/06/2017
"Dear Sir,
We are shocked to see the content of the response received from you and such kind of response is not expected from a Bank like yours. 
We have raised an issue of public interest and need point by point response in writing. Merely just saying that the representative has spoken is not sufficient and does not look like a business response. 
We shall appreciate receiving a  better business response clarifying your stand on the stated issues.

With regards "

Email from IDFC Bank dtd. 09/07/2017:

"Dear Mr. Virmani,
Writing to you in continuation to the query you had raised and the subsequent discussions and clarifications given by the Bank’s team regarding the FASTAG pricing.
We would like to clarify again that
(a)    Price of the TAG is INR 200 inclusive of all taxes.
(b)    The Monthly pass amount of INR 737 is fixed by the plaza as per the NHAI guidelines. This amount is paid to the Toll Plaza directly while you purchase the Tag. This means the FASTAG would not carry the balance. Customers are offered FASTAG to experience cash less travel across all NHAI plazas and the FASTAG is issued by multiple banks as per the guidelines issued by RBI. The issuing banks have stipulated the balances to be maintained in each classification of FASTAG. For  instance, if the vehicle is a CAR/JEEP the tag should always have a credit balance of  any amount above INR 100.

The Monthly pass is valid for the respective plaza which has issued the pass and could be used independently of FASTAG. Hence it is not mandatory to link the FASTAG with Monthly passes. Details of linking FASTAG with the monthly passes is given in the NHAI website under the FAQ section.
Trust this clarifies your queries

Regards, Hitesh Jethwa, Customer Relations Unit, IDFC Bank"

My email dtd. 09/07/2017

"Dear Mr. Hitesh,
Thanks for your response. While responding /communicating on the subject, I would request you not to kindly remove any of the mail id listed in my emails. 
While on above issue, it seems your response is still avoiding the main points as brought out  in my email. I have never questioned on the following charges:

1. Tag Price              : Rs. 200/-
2. Deposit                : Rs. 200/-
3. Minimum Balance : Rs. 100/-

The above amounts to Rs. 500/- which is fine up to this point. This is the amount being charged at the time of issue of Fastag. Thus, it already includes a minimum balance of Rs. 100/- as mandated by NHAI. The problem arises when the customer is asked to recharge above this balance to avoid "blacklisting". When the card is having a minimum balance of Rs. 100/-  as above, why the customer is being compelled to charge for another Rs. 200/- (of course this figure kept on changing during the conversation).

As and when there is a minimum balance of Rs. 100/- (which is included in the Rs 500 paid at the time of issue of Fastag) the card should remain active meeting the terms and conditions of NHAI. Your representative told it will get blocked even at Rs. 100/- minimum balance. Now the question is when the card is having a minimum balance of Rs. 100/- and the same is recharged with the monthly amount of Rs. 737/- being the charges at DF Skyway toll plaza it should work. Please confirm categorically whether it will work or not at DF Skyway Toll Plaza under this situation in yes or no form. Please be informed that NHAI condition stipulates the tag to be active with minimum balance of Rs. 100/- 

1. Tag Price of Rs. 200/- + Security deposits of Rs. 200/- plus and minimum balance of Rs. 100/- with the monthly recharge of Rs. 737/-. No additional conditions.  
2. Whether the tag would remain active with a minimum balance of Rs. 100/- or not. (yes or no)
I would request you to kindly bring the matter to its logical conclusion immediately.
Your confirmation be return mail shall be highly appreciated."
However, IDFC Bank has not been able to respond in an explicit manner till the time of writing this post on 19/07/2017 and the logical derivatives could be that the IDFC Bank in an unauthorised manner is collecting the deposits from the consumers and as no interest is payable on such deposits therefore the business operations of IDFC Banks seems to be Unfair Business Practices. The author of the bog has also visited some other public domains and was amazed at their poor communications. In fact one of the public domain has indicated of 8% issues reported by the consumers are being responded by IDFC Bank. 

(A link of this article is being emailed to IDFC Bank for their reference, review and comment if any)

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