Loan settlement? Here is what you need to be careful about

loans, borrower, loan settlement, loan repayment, ABN AMRO Bank, NOC, Dadar Police Station, Delhi Police

Seven years after he settled a loan, a borrower is being subjected to numerous calls, notices and even arrest warrant. The only mistake, he committed was not to collect the NOC and account statement from the lender after his settlement 

Mumbai-based trader Ramnik Patel (name changed) was happy and relieved when in 2007 he repaid Rs58,000 to ABN AMRO Bank as full and final settlement against his loan outstanding. Seven years down the line, he is receiving calls from recovery agents, and notices from lawyers and warrants from places located thousands of kilometres away from Mumbai. He is not only disturbed, but feels like being mentally tortured just because a small mistake committed by the bank while updating its record.

In 2005, Patel took a personal loan of Rs2.15 lakh from ABN AMRO Bank. However, during 26/7 monsoon fury, he suffered heavy loss and could not repay his loan on time. Then on 21 March 2007, he received a letter from the Bank offering him a settlement. As per the offer letter, he was asked to pay Rs58,000 in two tranches of Rs29,000 each. The Bank also promised him that it would hand over all his unused post-dated cheques (PDCs) and no-objection certificate (NOC) within seven working days of the loan being closed on its system.
After accepting the offer from the Bank, Patel, promptly paid Rs29,000 each time on 28 March 2007 and 20 April 2007 to ABN AMRO Bank as per the settlement offer.
Meanwhile, ABN AMRO Bank was sold to Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). RBS then sold all the debts of ABN AMRO to Kotak Mahindra group. Phoenix Asset Reconstruction Co Pvt Ltd, a unit of Kotak Mahindra group handles the recovery of these debts acquired from RBS.
Suddenly, in 2012, he received a phone call from somebody called as Choudhary from Patiala Parliament Police Station informing that there was a case filed against him and warrant was also issued by the Court. The warrant was sent from Delhi Police to Dadar Police station in Mumbai for execution. When Patel reached Dadar police station, he was told that a case was filed against him in 2011, which was transferred to Delhi Court. This was related with the loan he took from ABN AMRO Bank, he was told.
Here is a Checklist if you are going for a settlement with a lender…
  1. Keep copies of all your written communication with the lender
  2. Always have everything in writing (Even if you receive a phone call, send an acknowledgement mentioning points discussed during the call)
  3. Keep copies of the settlement letter, cheque/DD or pay order you submitted
  4. After the settlement, obtain a NOC and collect all your post-dated cheques, if any
  5. Do no forget to collect your loan account statement that shows zero balance

Interestingly, Patel never received any notice, memo or any warrant for his arrest from anybody until the phone call from Choudhary. Patel, then asked his lawyer to send reply to all concerned, including one lawyer called S Gupta from Delhi and police stations at both Delhi and Mumbai.

Again, in November 2013, Patel received a notice from Mumbai-based lawyer on behalf of Phoenix ARC Pvt Ltd. The lawyer, in the notice invited Patel to settle his loan in a conciliation camp (for settlement) organised by Kotak Mahindra Bank on 2 December 2013. The lawyer claimed that as on 30 April 2012, Patel had an outstanding of Rs42,811.95 that would have to be repaid along with an interest of 2% per month. Patel, then again had to reply to this notice and submit all the documents.
Next year, on 3 April 2014, Patel received a notice from the Mumbai District Legal Services Authority to be present during a hearing in the Lok Nyayalaya on 12th April. Phoenix ARC had approached the Lok Nyayalaya to take up the matter.
Patel went to the hearing and put forward his case. After looking at the documents and hearing Patel’s side, the representative of Phoenix agreed to verify his account and get back to him within seven days. They even gave an undertaking in writing.
This has been about nine months, since Patel went to the Lok Adalat and yet there is neither any response from the Bank nor any respite to him from the recovery agents.
So what went wrong with Patel? From his side, he did not collect the NOC and unused PDCs from ABN AMRO Bank, while the Bank failed to make necessary changes into its account books. This also raises big question, on how can a big lender like ABM AMRO forgets to update its loan book and record the settlement and passes on the same as dues to the buyer. In addition, since ABN AMRO no longer exists, how and where the borrower, who is being shown as defaulter, and harassed for recovery of dues that he had already paid, would go?
If you are facing similar issues, then you may want to take help from Moneylife Foundation’s free Credit Helpline  which offers free counselling to help you get out of this trap. In Mr Patel’s case, he approached the Credit Helpline and Moneylife Foundation’s trustees have also taken up this case with the Reserve Bank of India’s customer services department.
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