Bank Alfalah Credit Card / bank hooliganism
Hearing our prime minister in his maiden speech made in the national assembly at the time of winning the election taking strict notice of the abuses of certain commercial banks and their staff at the time of their debt collection, a hope was generated that installation of a democratic dispensation in Islamabad will certainly bring about a positive change in the attitude of these banks and their staff who in the name of debt collection were writing the tales of suppression and cruelty against the citizenry of this country and were compelling the people to commit suicides in the face of humiliating treatment meted out to them through the hooligans especially hired by these banks to harass the people.
Keeping in view this dismal record of outrageously exploitative and oppressive behavior displayed by certain commercial banks in the past, Fair Debt Collection Guidelines to banks and DFIs for addressing customers/borrowers grievances issued on November 4, 2008 by the State Bank of Pakistan blew a breath of fresh air generating a hope that issuing of these guidelines by the SBP will go to a large extent in molding the behavior of these banks to the tune of a reasonably civic and lawful conduct. But to the sheer disappointment of the citizenry of this country, these banks and their staff who consider this state as their personal domain are neither willing nor prepared to bring in a civilized change in their anachronistically cruel attitude required under the instructions of the prime minister and in line with the guidelines issued by the State Bank of Pakistan.
It is clearly mentioned in these guidelines that an advance notice will be required to be served to the customer when bank/DFI staff picks up the payment and if it is done on customer’s request then it should be properly recorded. It is further mentioned in the same guidelines that their collection/recovery staff do not transfer or misuse any personal data of the customers/borrowers without their prior approval and that if any bank/DFI has already developed its debt collection code of conduct, the same shall appropriately be modified in line with these guidelines.
And what happened on November 17, 2008 with this scribe is a sad tale of sheer violation and derision of these guidelines at the hands of Miss.Najia Hafeez, Manager Collection, Bank Alfalah under whose instructions these guidelines were reduced to a mere mockery when an amount of Rs.193736.50 was debited forcefully from my account No.01000571 at Bank Alfalah Jaranwala branch. Not any prior notice was served nor any need was felt to take my consent. What term should we assign to this conduct if it is not a sheer hooliganism. It is a blatant mockery of the SBP guidelines and a cruel derision of the maiden speech made by the Prim Minister in the National Assembly. Under the pretext of holding a debt authority letter that I am supposed to have signed at the time of issuing a credit card in 2007, this bank in its maniac obsession of inflicting crushing misery upon its customers had traversed all bounds of business ethics and lawful conduct.
I was badly shocked and traumatized. It was really a shattering experience. One can easily imagine what amount of trust I was left with in this bank after experiencing this blatant hooliganism and forceful extortion of money from my own account and that too under the very shadow of aforementioned guidelines issued by the State Bank of Pakistan. I had already been fighting against the discriminate and arbitrary blockage of my credit card and an unjustifiable mark up imposed in the aftermath of this blockage.
I had already experienced humiliation at the hands of this bank when my credit card [protected] with the credit limit of Rs.237000 was arbitrarily blocked without producing any viable explanation and when an apology was demanded by this scribe which was my right, the card was cancelled by the white elephants of this caring bank without feeling an iota of shame or remorse while this hapless scribe had been using the card for about one year paying all of his dues including principal amounts, markups, credit cover premium, SMS and other service charges on time without causing even a single delay. As a result of transactions conducted on my credit card, I had been able to earn 14943 points over a period of one year. But then suddenly in the month of April 2008, my credit card was blocked and I was directed to visit the bank to sign a paper for unblocking it.
In a country where a micro credit facility is not appropriately provided by the government to its people, these commercial banks and their staff have become a great tool of exploitation and oppression. They have become the instrumentality of an anachronistic bureaucratic mindset inflicting upon the people an exorbitant amount of disrespect and humiliation. It happens that when a credit card is issued to a person, it is blocked after some time arbitrarily, and he or she is made to visit the bank and is humiliated under one pretext or the other.
I am greatly puzzled as to under what criteria these people, who know neither the letter nor the spirit of the service sector are hired by these organizations on attractive packages and are offered lucrative salaries, perks and other privileges. Can any one from the higher echelons of the bank ask for an explanation from Mr. Mansoor, Manager Consumer Services and Mr. Fayyas Mughal, Manager Risk Management Unit as to what does it actually constitute to be a business transaction allegedly conducted on my card for which it was blocked. Make a try to ferret out an answer and it will be a sheer non-sense and rubbish. These people do not deserve these seats. Sooner they are disposed of their services better is it for this CARING BANK.
A contract implies to be between the two parties who are equally bound by certain terms and conditions and are equally required to behave in a certain way under a certain law and it is never meant to be a one-way traffic between a sovereign and his subjects which was possible in the sixteenth and seventeenth century England and in not possible to enforce in the contemporary circumstances.
Even then Mr. Fayyas Mughal through a number of telephonic conversations and correspondence which took place between him and this scribe was bent upon bringing me round that this bank holds an absolute authority over both the ownership and use of the credit card and that it can be blocked or cancelled at any time without giving any reason or accepting any liability of any kind. What a Hobbesian concept of law. Had this seventeenth century English writer been alive, he would certainly have embraced Mr. Fayyas Mughal for this brilliant interpretation of law. So far as I have been able to make a reading of the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1969 constitution, no citizen of this country can either be denied a free access to a product or service available to a common citizenry in the country nor can it be discontinued if provided earlier without a lawful reason or cause if he or she still agrees to avail himself or herself of it while fulfilling all the obligations stipulated by the relevant law.
Trust is the essence of banking. There is always a relationship between a bank and its customers purely based upon an unbreakable bound of trust. If there is a breach of this trust, no such relation can even be thought to exist and no banking activity of any sort can be imagined to take place.
On November 22, 2008 I was phoned by Mr.Bilal from the regional office Faisal Abad and after consulting with his country head he accepted all of my three demands of unblocking my credit card, removing the extra mark-up being charged since the blocking and sending me a written apology for experiencing an inconvenience and that too within one week only. I was also directed by him to immediately deposit Rs.7700 against my credit card account so that the above-mentioned commitments could be fulfilled and the facility could be restored. I made the payment then and there in response to this call. But to sheer disappointment of mine, none of the commitments was fulfilled even after the lapse of one month. When I myself phoned Mr. Bilal again to remind him of this breach, he told me to off the call as his country head himself would call me up within a few minutes. However neither the country head nor Mr. Bilal turned up again.
In all the civilized countries, banks and other organizations working especially in the service sector are supposed to know the true essence of their services they promise to provide to their customers. Moreover they, being the part of their deal, never hesitate to render an apology if an inconvenience is caused to any customer or a blunder committed by any official or an employee of the bank. Their true motto is always to serve their customers always in a state-of-the-art fashion. Moreover to protect the interests of the consumers, in such countries laws are enacted, institutions are constituted under these laws and are strengthened further with the help of the state.
But what kind of polity we are? What kind of a banking it is? And what kind of a state and its institutions these are which are supposedly there to protect the consumer rights and interests? These monstrous multinationals once allowed to enter the state boundaries, sooner than later, turn into colonial powers and start behaving like masters unleashing untold humiliation and suffering upon their subjects. Once on the payroll of these multinationals, these so called managers and executive officers are rendered loyal neither to their own state nor to these very organizations. Perhaps it is a universal truth that the heart at one’s bosom turns into a stone the moment one joins a bank.
It is one thing to make a law or issue guidelines and it is quite another to implement them in true letter and spirit. I firmly believe that even if one, for one reason or another gets defaulted of a bank, it does not snatch from him or her the right to live or self-respect. This is exactly what I have been able to make out of the readings of a number of constitutions of the world that I was able to do over a period of time.
On October 28, 2008 an off-court settlement plan was thrust upon me by this bank and I was also directed to submit my first installment on October 30 otherwise the same will be cancelled. First of all it was not a properly negotiated deal as none of my proposals was accommodated in it. In the second place installments were too large for me to pay and last but not the least I was given only two days to make the first installment which was not possible for me due to financial constraints. Summarily I needed further negotiation with the bank to reach the final settlement.
How is it possible for one under a law to authorize another person or organization to secretly and forcefully pick up an amount from his or her account without taking his or her prior approval. It is ridiculous because it implies that I am authorizing you with my own free will to commit an extortion or fraud against myself when and where it pleases you. Even if there exists such a law or any such document signed by my ‘FREE WILL, ’ under what business ethics or SBP guidelines, this rogue bank under the auspices of Miss Najia Hafeez Manager Collection has run away with Rs.193736 from my Account Number 01000571 at Bank Alfalah Jaranwala Branch while my statement of account shows a payment of Rs.8200 made on November 01 2008? Who will bring to book Mr. Ahsan Ijaz Manager Jaranwala Branch for a breach of my trust and a committing of misappropriation of my account. An FIR must be registered against Miss. Najia Hafeez for both violating these SBP guidelines and perpetrating this fraudulent extortion and brutal hooliganism against this hapless person.
People when forced against the wall like this, either commit suicide or become suicide bombers under the irresistible duress of the circumstances. Although it was not my fault yet I was prepared for a negotiated settlement and was also in a position to pay my dues in small installments. Yet I was not allowed any such option and was forced against the wall by the very bank that had been earning exorbitant amounts of markups and other service charges in the past. The amount taken by the bank did not belong to me and to settle it later, I had to sell the ornament of my daughter to save my honor and self-respect.
At the international airports we are made to form separate queues and stand denuded on the pretext of a frisk. At home we are shoe-beaten by these multinationals like this only to commit suicide or turn into a suicide bomber in the face of these humiliating treatments.
In view of the facts mentioned above, I make an appeal to concerned authorities to initiate necessary action against this bank and those of its officials responsible for perpetrating this extortion and hooliganism thus inflicting untold agony, misery and suffering upon this hapless person. Such an action will go a long way to restore the trust and confidence of the people both upon themselves and in the state badly lost over the past few years or so.
P-53, water works road, jaranwala pakistan
A copy of this plaint is being sent to the following dignitaries and institutions for a redress.
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