Ah, The sweet smell of putting someone in their place. Customer care is one thing that definitely falls under the category of providing exactly the opposite of what they promise. Be it any commodity or service. As if life isn’t tough already, the things one buys, ensure that ones hands are full with the associated PITA’s (pain in the a$$ for the uninitiated) that come totally “free”. I finally got some respite from ICICI’s customer care. I have been their customer now for more than 7 years now – savings account, home loan, demat account, bonds and what not. Or it could have been even earlier by virtue of my parents having bought some bonds in my name when I was a kid. Anyhow in this particular episode, the problem was that I had tried to make some partial prepayment towards my home loan sometime last year. Since I wasn’t in the country, I had asked my parents to make the payments using the cheques from our joint account. My mom signed a cheque and went through the formalities of partial prepayment. ICICI quietly rejected the cheque without even informing us that it had bounced. When substantial time passed, we realised that the amount had not been deducted from the account and found that the cheque had been supposedly bounced due to signature mismatch. This was most ridiculous. My mother’s signatures were on the postdated EMI cheques too and they had no problem whatsover. Moreover everyone in our family is ultra careful about such procedures. I asked my parents to try again. This time my dad signed a cheque from the joint account and went through the formalities of partial prepayment. Again, ICICI repeated the same saga and rejected the cheque (quietly again) with no reason. No one bothered to inform us that it had bounced in the first place. I went around asking my savings account branch what was the reason for dishonouring the cheque, which they were able to provide to me much later after personal intervention. Again it happened to be “signature mismatch” which was most ridiculous.
Finally I went to the Jhandewalan branch of ICICI to discuss the issue with them. Due to two cheques having bounced, they wouldn’t even entertain any loan prepayments till a fine was paid for them both. I paid an exhorbitant fine of 757/- for 3 cheques (one was dishonoured many many years back and we didnt even know about it). I told the customer care that I just didn’t believe that the cheques would have bounced due to a signature mismatch and this seemed just a strategy to mint money on the side, more so because I didn’t have any proof of the cheques with me and I was just expected to take their word for it! After paying the fine for the bounced cheques, I made a 3rd payment which fortunately ICICI’s signature matching officials didn’t have anything against this time. I also lodged a complaint with them, demanding to see the bounced cheques and really confirming how the signatures on those didn’t match the counter signatures stored with the bank. As expected this was a lengthy process (god damn their mumbai headquarters). The cheques and everything had been sent to the mumbai branch and would take some time procuring. Even before this I had already been harassed enough to shuttle between their home loan branch in Jhandewalan, New Delhi and my savings account branch in Gurgaon – with both of them putting the onus of producing cheques on the other! Eventually I managed to put in the complaint and I was told that I would be called when the cheques come in. 4 months passed and no cheques ever came in. I eventually visited the bank again and told them off. I showed them the receipt I had of the complaint and the signatures of the employee who was to get back to me. She tried selling me some crap like “I forgot it that day and then my machine got some virus so I lost all the data of that day’s customers”. I gave her a piece of my mind about how she could be that non-serious and how she even expected me to believe that her machine, belonging to one of the biggest banks here, dealing with precious data like people’s money and finances, had some local data which was not even backed up?!! That was utterly preposterous. To top it all, the cheques could not be procured at all, since 6 months old cheques were purged anyway. So there was supposedly no way I could have even set my eyes on the cheques to actually see whether the signatures mismatched or not. I made yet another complaint and demanded that they refund me the money which was charged as fine, emphasising at the same time, that the amount they owed me was much more due to the additional loss incurred with my partial prepayment not being made on time due to some supposition that had been imposed on me. This time I wrote to the customer care of ICICI through the web and escalated this issue. I was told that scanned copies would be made available to me. But after some days I was told that since they were not able to get scanned copies either, they would refund me the extra fine charged. Finally I got back the fine that I was charged. And I decided to forget the losses incurred due to late partial prepayment (something to the amount of 6K or so), since the judicial system here can not really help me quickly. Had this bank done something like this in maybe US of A they would have been sued left, right and centre.
My tips to other grieving customers – as far as possible, make sure that you are told/given everything within your right and as long as you are not losing your sanity trying to get it. A lot of companies have such bad customer care that they just get away due to the sheer ignorance of the customer. But if they continue getting used to this, we will never be able to improve the seriousness that’s required in providing good customer care.