Jehangir Gai | July 12, 2015 Last Updated at 22:06 IST | Business Standard
Customer cannot fault the bank to cover up his own default
Pradeep Bhupendrabhai Desai, a businessman, had an account with Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). The bank issued him a credit card. Later, a second credit card, too, was issued.
According to Desai, he used to make timely payment of all credit card bills. His record was so clear that the bank even sent a letter offering him a pre-approved personal of Rs 5 lakh at an interest rate of 14.95 per cent and one per cent processing fee. The loan would be repayable in 48 monthly instalments of Rs 13,903, payable by the 15th of each month.
The bank deposited the EMI cheques three to four days prior to the due date of the 15th of each month. There were occasions when the EMI instalment was credited two days prior to the due date. The bank also added one extra instalment of Rs 3,346.37 as the 49th instalment. Desai felt aggrieved as his financial planning got upset when the bank deposited the cheque before the due date. Some cheques also got dishonoured due to shortage of funds as he had not made the provision for payment prior to the due date. The bank also penalised him for the dishonour. This continued to happen in spite of his complaints to the bank. Consequently, he was branded a defaulted and his credit rating with the Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited also suffered.
Aggrieved, Desai filed a complaint before the Gujarat State Commission, claiming Rs 25 lakh as compensation for deficiency in service along with 35 per cent interest. He claimed another loan of Rs 25 lakh that had been sanctioned by ICICI Bank was not disbursed as his credit rating had suffered. He also lost his reputation because of the financial problems created by HSBC due to advance deposit of the EMI cheques.
The bank contested the complaint, claiming Desai had been explained the system in vogue by which the cheque would be deposited around the 10th of the month so that the EMI would be realised by the bank by the 15th. Accordingly, cheques were deposited a few days in advance to take care to the time it took for clearing. The bank also pointed out that Desai had filed the complaint to avoid his liability to repay the loan amount. The bank explained that the additional instalment of Rs 3,346.37 was towards charges for the overdue payment.
The bank pointed out that ICICI Bank had offered to advance a loan to Desai subject to his submitting certain documents and fulfilling certain conditions. The loan had never been sanctioned. Desai had lost his credit rating because he had defaulted on payment, for which he was not entitled to blame the bank. Refuting the allegation of any deficiency in service on its part, the bank sought a dismissal of the complaint.
The State Commission observed that Desai was academically well qualified and a businessman. He had signed the documents undertaking to repay the loan, but had defaulted. The Commission concluded that there was no substance in Desai’s complaint and that it was devoid of merit. It upheld the bank’s contentions and dismissed the complaint. Desai challenged the order in appeal.
The National Commission noted that Desai had admitted having defaulted on repayment of the loan, but had attributed this to be due to the bank’s action of upsetting his financial planning by depositing the EMI cheques in advance of the due date. The Commission observed that the entire dispute revolved around the question whether the bank was entitled to deposit the EMI cheque three or four days prior to the due date of 15th of every month. The Commission found that the documentary evidence on record showed that the bank had acted according to customary norms and practice and in accordance with the terms and conditions of loan repayment. The Commission indicted Desai for wanting to avoid making payment till the last minute.
By its order dated July 8, 2015 delivered by Suresh Chandra for the Bench along with V B Gupta, the National Commission concurred with the view taken by the State Commission that there was no deficiency in service on the part of the bank. Accordingly, Desai’s appeal was also dismissed.
A customer cannot fault the bank to cover up his own default.
The writer is a consumer activist