Bank to pay if it fails to abide by RBI circular, harasses customer

Banks sometimes disregard the RBI circulars and even the pro vision of law, and overcharge consumers or harass them. An aggrieved consumer can fight for his rights and get justice under the Consumer Protection Act.


Case Study: Neelam Pansari had given premises to State Bank of India on lease for a period of five years. Against this, he had also obtained a loan of Rs15 lakh from the bank, which carried interest at 15% pa.The loan was to be repaid by depositing 87% of the rental earned each month. When the lease expired, it was renewed for another five years, but the bank hiked the interest rate on the loan to 16% pa, compounded quarterly .

Pansari wrote to the bank against this increase. The bank replied that the issue had been referred to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and a decision would be taken soon. Meanwhile, Pansari kept paying interest at the increased rate. He later came across a circular issued by the RBI which stated that there would be no change in the interest rate of loans sanctioned prior to November 16, 1990. He informed State Bank about this circular, pointing out that that the change in interest rate was not applicable to him as his loan had been sanctioned on November 5, 1990. Since the State Bank did not respond, Pansari sought a clarification from the Reserve Bank, which confirmed that the revision in interest rate was not permissible.

Pansari pointed out that he had been overcharged Rs 3,01,599.50 due to the increase in the interest rate. Pansari approached the Banking Ombudsman who partly upheld his contention. As Pansari was not happy with the Ombudsman’s decision, he approached the Bihar State Consumer Commission. The bank contested the complaint. It upheld the bank’s contention that while renewing the lease it was entitled to revise the interest rate and also calculate the interest on compound basis with quarterly rests.

Pansari appealed to the National Commission, which observed that RBI had communicated in November 1995 that banks would not be entitled to charge interest at quarterly rests in respect of loans availed for payment of rents of premises taken on lease. The reason for this is that the interest on the loan should not exceed the lease rent. If compound interest is permitted, the expense by way of interest would be more than the income from rent, leaving a landlord in perpetual debt. To prevent such a situation, the RBI has not permitted charging of compound interest for loans against leased premises.

Accordingly, by its order of May 12 delivered by M Shreesha for the bench presided over by Justice D K Jain, the National Commission held State Bank liable for deficiency in service, and ordered it to refund the excess amount of Rs 3,01,599.50 along with simple interest at 9% pa. Additionally Rs10,000 was awarded as litigation costs. Four week’s time was given for compliance of the order, else it would carry 12% interest for the period of delay .

Conclusion: Banks must be service oriented and not harass consumers.

Jehangir B Gai

ePaper, The Times of India (B’bay) May 15 2017, Page 5 :

(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt.of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is jehangir.gai.columnist@outlook.in)

BHIM UPI: NPCI says it won’t be responsible for loss or fraud, user fully takes the risk

National Payments Corp of India (NPCI), which is set up as a Section 25 company under the Companies Act 1956 (now Section 8 of Companies Act 2013), and is seen promoting its Unified Payments Interface (UPI)- based Bharat Interface for Money application (BHIM) app, says it should not held responsible for any loss, claim or damage suffered by the user. What is more shocking are the terms and conditions (T&C) for the UPI BHIM app from NPCI, which are one sided and affords no protection whatsoever to the end user or consumer.
In its terms and conditions for use of the BHIM UPI app, the company, promoted by 10 banks, says, “NPCI does not hold out any warranty and makes no representation about the quality of the UPI services or BHIM application. The user agrees and acknowledges that NPCI shall not be liable and shall in no way be held responsible for any damages whatsoever whether such damages are direct, indirect, incidental or consequential and irrespective of whether any claim is based on loss of revenue, interruption of business, transaction carried out by the user, information provided or disclosed by issuer bank regarding user’s account(s) or any loss of any character or nature whatsoever and whether sustained by the User or by any other person. While NPCI shall endeavour to promptly execute and process the transactions as instructed to be made by the user, NPCI shall not be responsible for any interruptions, non-response or delay in responding due to any reason whatsoever, including due to failure of operational systems or any requirement of law.”
The T&C of NPCI are not easily available and one needs to search for it. But whatever is stated in the T&C documents, appears completely one-sided. Take for example point 6.2 in the T&C documents, which emphasises that only the user is responsible for any failed transaction or any loss and neither NPCI nor the bank can be held responsible. It says, “NPCI shall not be liable for any loss, claim or damage suffered by the User and/or any other third party arising out of or resulting from failure of any transaction initiated via BHIM App on account of time out transaction i.e. where no response is received from NPCI or the beneficiary bank to the transaction request. NPCI or the beneficiary Bank shall also not be liable for any loss, damage and/or claim arising out of or resulting from wrong beneficiary details, mobile number and/or account details being provided by the User.”
This means, even if NPCI or the bank fails to send the necessary response, it is the user who is liable for the loss. Therefore, NPCI, the developer and promoter of this UPI BHIM app, and banks on its platform, are under no obligation to send responses to these transactions within time. “NPCI shall not be responsible for any electronic or mechanical defect, data failure or corruption, viruses and bugs or related problems that may be attributable to User telecommunication equipment and/ or the Services provided by any Service Provider,” NPCI says.
Remember the Bank of Maharashtra case, where fraudsters siphoned off Rs25 crore from the lender, using a bug in its UPI app? For such kind of misuse, too, NPCI says the payer is responsible. It states, “The Payer is solely responsible for the accuracy and authenticity of the payment instructions issued via BHIM App. Once a payment instruction is issued, the same cannot be subsequently revoked by the Payer. NPCI accepts no liability for any consequences arising from erroneous information provided by Payer in payment instructions.”
Now, let us see what happened in the Bank of Maharashtra case (Read: UPI bug costs Bank of Maharashtra about Rs25 crore). P Hota, Managing Director and Chief Executive of NPCI, told the Economic Times that the Pune-based bank had procured an UPI solution from a vendor (reported to be city-based InfrasoftTech), which had a bug that resulted in the fund moving out of the accounts without the sender’s account having the necessary funds.
As per the procedure, when the UPI app receives such a request, it sends a query to the other party (customer) and, after obtaining acceptance, it checks fund availability in the UPI-linked bank account. However, the UPI app used by Bank of Maharashtra sent two messages to NPCI, one as ‘success’ and other as ‘error:insufficient funds’. In these fraudulent transactions, NPCI only read the first message and cleared the payment.
This is an interesting situation because the money was taken from accounts which did not have necessary funds. So, who will bear the loss? As per NPCI’s T&C, it cannot be the company or the bank, but the user. However, in this case, the user was not even aware about this fund transfer. In addition, NPCI is not under any obligation to keep a record of instructions, making the job of the investigation agencies difficult.
In its T&C documents, NPCI states that it has no liability or obligation to keep a record of the instructions to provide information to the user or for verifying the instructions. “All instructions, requests, directives, orders, directions, carried out by the User via BHIM App, are based upon the User’s decisions and are the sole responsibility of the User,” it says.
After making claims that over one crore users have downloaded the BHIM app from Google Play Store, the government is now trying to boost its actual use. The government has come out with a customer referral scheme, which promises to pay Rs10 per reference to the referrer and Rs25 for the new user for downloading and transacting from BHIM app. But this will happen only on completion of three unique transactions of Rs50 in total to any three unique customers or merchants.

Attorney general tells Supreme Court: Modi’s words don’t matter as much as the fine print

Should citizens be expected to read the fine print every time the prime minister makes a public promise?

The Indian government’s top legal officer told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promises made in an address to the nation don’t matter if his government doesn’t stick to them in the legal notification that follows. The court was questioning the government’s decision to close the window allowing all people to swap older Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in the aftermath of Modi’s demonetisation announcement on November 8, 2016.

“If the PM has made the announcement in television that deposit can be done till March-end next year [2017] but subsequent law says one can’t do so, the law will prevail but not PM’s statement,” said attorney general Mukul Rohatgi in court, according to LiveLaw.in.

U-turn

Modi, in his November 8 announcement, said that everyone would be free to deposit their old notes in local banks until December 30, 2016. Following this, those who are not able to deposit their old notes for whatever reason “can go to specified offices of the Reserve Bank of India up to 31st March 2017”.

When the government issued an ordinance, however, it prohibited most Indians from being able to deposit their older notes after December 30. The only people permitted to still do so until March 31 are Non-Resident Indians and citizens who were abroad between November 8 and December 30, 2016.

This left a number of people in the lurch, prompting the filing of several Public Interest Litigation suits asking how the government could go back on its decision after the prime minister promised the window would remain open. The Supreme Court has now given the government until April 11 to submit a detailed explanation of why it decided to shut the note-swap window ahead of time.

Click Here for the full story from Scroll.in

An Indian bank appears to be scamming its customers; here’s how an alert citizen discovered it

Karthik Srinivasan, a Digital Marketer from Bangalore was going through his email when he discovered that HDFC Bank had been charging him Rs 100 per quarter for a program he never signed up for.

On delving deeper, he discovered that the service was an opt-out program that had been activate for his account without his express consent. Worse still, the opting out requires a member to actually read their spam-like banking emails, from top to bottom, discover the fine print that states that the offer is an opt-out one and then click on a link to opt-out of the service.

@beastoftraal write to banking ombudsman, an opt out program is not permitted I think @kalyansury @HDFC_Bank@HDFCBank_Cares

@MystiqueWanderr Planning to. Meanwhile, plan to tweet it *every single day* till end 2017 or till @HDFC_Bank apologizes to all. @kalyansury

But what’s Rs 400, right? That still doesn’t equate to hundreds of crores of rupees.

Rashmi R. Padhy took to Medium to break down why the money is real and why this is indeed a scam.

Pointing to VAS (Value-Added-Service) fraud that was prevalent some years ago, Padhy notes that telcos used to offer VAS as “free” trials. After the trial was over, these telcos would charge you for the service and keep doing so until you opted out.

The value of the transactions was small, but scaled up, the telcos likely earned in hundreds, if not thousands of crores. The rising number of complaints caught the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) attention and the practice was halted.

Day 16: Why Day 16? And why I’ll be tweeting this to @HDFCBank_Cares *every single day* till the end of 2017: http://bit.ly/2jW2NeJ 

Day 17: I’m not tired @HDFC_Bank! Just very disappointed. That a bank could be this brazen with customers’ money http://bit.ly/2jW2NeJ 

HDFC Bank appears to be doing the same thing. The bank essentially upgrades you to a free Classic / Preferred Banking trial program without your consent and then charges you Rs 100 — plus service tax — per quarter till you opt out.

Since most people would not read the mailer that explains all this and since the price isn’t placed up front, most people will not opt-out because they simply don’t know.

Padhy breaks down the calculations as follows. Charging 1.2 Cr customers a fee of Rs 400 a year, HDFC is set to earn upwards of Rs 400 Cr a year. For free, without the explicit consent of its members.

The calculation may not be as cut and dried as Padhy puts it and the numbers might be much lower. This doesn’t, however, change the fact that the program is inherently fraudulent. And other banks might soon follow suit, if they haven’t already.

As heinous as the practice might seem, it is currently perfectly legal for it to do what it’s doing.

Day 49: Invite-only, they said.
You’ll be charged, they said.
‘Here’s opt-out link’, they hid in email.
If not…! http://bit.ly/UnethicalHDFC 

Most people may not even be aware of the service or the charge. A charge of Rs 400 a year can easily get lost in the tens of thousands of transactions that we perform every year. And how many of us actually peruse through our monthly bank statements in that much detail anyway? Many more of us probably delete bank mails the moment they arrive in the first place.

Srinivasan did not take this charge laying down. On discovering the charge, an average person might simply have opted out, vented a bit on social media and left it at that. Srinivasan is, however made of more Gandhian stuff. As Office Chai puts it, Srinivasan is now on an online ‘satyagraha’ to get HDFC Bank to apologise for trying to scam its customers in such a way.

Click Here for the detailed full story

Banks cannot insist on ID proof to cash bearer cheque

Overturning an order of the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) last week termed the refusal of HDFC Bank to hand over cash to a bearer of a cheque, after verifying his credentials through the account holder, as “a clear case of deficiency in service”.
The order from NCDRC, issued on 15 March 2017, states, “No doubt the complainant had not furnished his ID, but the fact remains that admittedly not only the cashier but also the Bank Manager separately rang up the account holder on his mobile number, who verified having issued the subject cheque and gave clearance for encashment. The bank officials, however, declined to encash the cheque. This, in our view, is a clear deficiency in service.”
The order relates to a consumer complaint filed by Mumbai resident Prakash Sheth against HDFC Bank. Sheth required Rs3 lakh to be deposited in the hospital for treatment of his ailing mother, in 2010. He requested his nephew, Chirag, for the money. Chirag gave a bearer cheque to Sheth, who then presented the bearer cheque on 7 May 2010 at HDFC Bank. The cashier in the bank asked him to come back at 4pm because of insufficiency of funds. When he returned at 4pm, the cashier asked for his photo ID, which Sheth was not carrying. The cashier then called up Chirag to seek verification of issuance of the bearer cheque. Chirag confirmed it, but the cashier refused to honour the cheque and Sheth was asked to meet the branch manager. The branch manager too checked with Chirag to confirm that he indeed had issued the cheque. Despite that, the manger insisted that Chirag should personally come to the bank, which the latter was unable to. The branch manager then refused to honour the cheque.
Claiming this to be deficiency in customer service, Sheth filed a complaint in the Consumer Forum at South Mumbai District, seeking compensation to the tune of Rs1 lakh towards mental agony and physical harassment. Sheth also appealed for a directive to the bank to stop this practice. The bank was served a notice, but it claimed that it had rightly not honoured the cheque as per guidelines from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The District Forum therefore dismissed the complaint. Subsequently, the Maharashtra State Commission too dismissed Sheth’s petition, stating that the bank had rightfully adhered to RBI guidelines.
As per RBI guidelines, banks have been advised that “in case of transactions carried out by a non-account based customer, that is a walk-in customer, where the amount of transaction is equal to or exceeds Rs50,000, whether conducted as a single transaction or several transactions that appear to be connected, the customer’s identity and address should be verified”.
However, Sheth’s contention was that two officials of HDFC Bank had personally cross-checked with the account holder, which proved that it was a clear case of harassment.
In this case, while the State Commission dismissed Sheth’s petition, it upheld that although Sheth was not an account holder of HDFC Bank, he still was a consumer. The Commission observed “…the consumer is not only the person who hires or avails the services of the service provider but the beneficiary also. It is argued that once the account holder had issued a cheque in favour of someone, he automatically becomes the beneficiary and therefore he is a consumer”.
Sheth then approached the National Commission. In its order on 15 March 2017, the Commission stated “…from the affidavits of Chirag Natvarlal Sheth and Prakash Sheth (the complainant), it is amply proved that the bank telephonically contacted Chirag Sheth twice to verify whether or not he has given bearer cheque to the complainant and the account holder Chirag Sheth confirmed the said fact. From the above, it is clear that the bank officials were categorically informed by the account holder that he had issued the cheque and given it to Prakash Sheth. Therefore, he, in our view, was the beneficiary of the cheque and as such he is covered under the definition of consumer, which includes the beneficiary of the service hired or availed. Thus, the complaint is maintained.”
The NCDRC also pointed out that in response to an application under Right to Information (RTI) filed by the bank, a part of the response clearly states that, “the bank should not ordinarily insist on the presence of account holder for making cash withdrawals in case of ‘self’ or ‘bearer’ cheques unless the circumstances so warrant. The banks should pay self or bearer cheques taking usual precautions.”
“From this it is evident that Reserve Bank has cautioned banks in the country to be careful while encashing the bearer cheques if the amount exceeds Rs50,000 and insist on the verification of ID, as also the address. No doubt, the complainant had not furnished his ID, but the fact remains that admittedly not only the cashier but also the bank manager separately rang up the account holder on his mobile number, who verified having issued the subject cheque and gave clearance for encashment. The bank officials, however, declined to encash the cheque. This, in our view, is a clear deficiency in service.”
Another rule from RBI states, “In the event the individual tendering the instrument is not carrying the identity, and there is urgency to pay, the transaction to be referred to the branch manager. The branch manager shall make appropriate enquiries as deemed fit and shall use his discretion to allow the transaction. Such discretion to be used judiciously as strict one- off cases, only upon satisfactory confirmation of the bonafides of the transactions.”
The National Commission declared HDFC Bank’s stance in not honouring Sheth’s cheque as ‘deficiency of service’ and asked it to pay compensation of Rs10,000 to him for harassment and humiliation.
Prakash Sheth says, “Most banks harass such non-account holders who come with bearer cheques. Mine was perhaps the first challenge before a legal forum. This case will spread literacy amongst consumers or bearer cheque holders, and will hopefully be a lesson to similar banks who adopt this malpractice.”

 

On the Digital Highway without a Seat Belt

jet282
Prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s mega campaign to go cashless may, in the long run, lead to transformation like his much-needed Swachh Bharat initiative. We are a cash-based economy; over 68% of transactions happen in cash and the push to get, at least, urban, educated Indians to switch to cashless payments is necessary and long overdue. Starting with his radio talk (Maan ki Baat), the PM’s slogan of ‘My Mobile, My Wallet, My Bank’ has been amplified by leading bankers, e-payment companies, Union ministers, NITI Aayog officials and high-profile bureaucrats. But people won’t change just by being shoved in a particular direction. Moreover, in the short run, the pain in accessing one’s own money is very real. The government needs to work harder to make the switchover easier, by providing adequate infrastructure (telecom coverage, Internet connectivity), safety and ease of transactions and proper grievance redress. Unfortunately, the effort to push e-payments seems driven by the need to hastily correct the massive failure of currency management after demonetisation, rather than a genuine desire to bring about a paradigm shift. Let’s look at a few decisions that are urgently needed to ensure that the switch to cashless transactions is both, safe and permanent.
1. Beneficiaries Must Pay: The first step is to encourage and incentivise e-payments by scrapping ‘convenience’ charges and transaction charges. So far, it has been a sellers’ market. So ticket booking agents (makemytrip, cleartrip, etc, or Bookmyshow) and even principals (Jet Airways) conveniently turned the logic on its head and decided that we, the consumers, must pay for the ‘convenience’ of getting tickets online. Airlines used to offer hefty commissions to travel agents who did the hard work of selecting the best route and the lowest fare option; the customer did not pay. Today, there are no travel agents; the consumer does all the hard work of searching and selecting; and also pays for the alleged convenience. We need to ensure that beneficiary companies, at least, share the convenience. But what about movie theatres and airlines which are able to save on ticketing and box-office costs? This is the best time to do it because they need our business at a time when discretionary spending has dried up substantially.
2. Regulation of E-wallet Companies: Information technology experts will tell you that most apps and e-wallets collect a lot of sensitive customer data by seeking omnibus permissions from not-so-savvy users. According to a report by medianama.com, leading payment apps get access to your Internet history, bookmarks, and even really sensitive data such as IMEI number, saved Wi-Fi network info and the MacID. They record audio info, modify contacts and even use call logs to make calls. Many e-wallets will save  credit/debit card details used to transfer money to the wallet without your permission.
This increases the security risks for users, without their knowledge. If the data is hacked, we, as individuals, are in no position to track the source of the leak and we have no access to easy grievance redress either. We need to have clear rules on what information can be collated by apps and their liability spelt out, in case there is a large-scale data breach or even if an individual consumer has a complaint. Will every minister of the NDA government, who is dutifully promoting e-wallets, take up the issue of regulation as well?
3. Grievance Redress: This is an issue that we have been agitating for several years through Moneylife Foundation, our not-for-profit entity involved in advocacy and financial literacy. At a social gathering, recently, a leading industrialist and a retired police chief were narrating interesting stories about how their domestic helpers and cooks had adapted to technology, using it to transfer money to their village in Bihar and Odisha through ATMs.
While this is, indeed, very heartening, it is also a fact that ATM PINs are easily shared with the family because of ignorance. In one case, a domestic helper’s account, which had her precious savings of over Rs70,000, was hacked. The hacker, pretending to be a banker, claimed that the account was being tested to ensure that a link to her mobile phone was working effectively and she should read out the number received in an ATM. The unsuspecting woman ended up giving her OTP (one-time password) six times, until the bank itself noticed something amiss and blocked her account. A well-known consumer activist, who is helping the lady recover her money, related this story to me; how many are so lucky?
As Dr KC Chakrabarty, former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), told me in a recent interview, “You may push a person to do digital transaction; but once a person has lost money at an ATM or in a digital transaction, he will stay away for 10 years. All over the world, unless the bank can prove that the customer is at fault, his money should first be credited to his account. That is a global rule. This is not yet implemented in India.” The reason for not notifying consumer protection regulations is rather perplexing, especially when RBI deputy governor,
SS Mundra has publicly acknowledged that the increase in online transactions has led to a manifold surge in customer complaints. Addressing a public meeting on 23rd May, he had said that these complaints relate to electronic transactions, unauthorised fund transfers, fraudulent ATM withdrawals using duplicate cards, phishing, vishing, etc. And yet, on 31st August, RBI only issued a draft regulation proposing to limit customer liability instead of notifying formal rules. These regulations propose to shift the onus of proving wrongdoing or carelessness on the part of the customer to the bank. They will also ensure that the money lost is immediately credited back to customer accounts pending investigation. Isn’t it strange that RBI has not been asked to notify these regulations even while a nationwide campaign to go cashless has been launched from the highest office in the land? RBI must also be asked to notify its much-touted consumer charter and take responsibility for its implementation. The charter must prescribe clear penalties for banks’ lapses and amend the banking ombudsman regulations to empower it to initiate stringent action. Instead, an unworkable consumer charter has been put out in the public domain and RBI seems to have no intention of holding banks strictly accountable for treating customers fairly.
4. Financial Literacy: The buck for spreading financial literacy also stops at RBI’s doors. The central bank, as is its style, works at an excruciatingly slow pace on most issues;  it is probably the slowest on consumer protection. Two years ago, RBI took charge of over Rs3,500 crore of unclaimed cash deposits that were lying with banks and set up the Depositor Education and Awareness Fund (DEAF). This money could have been put to excellent use today to spread financial literacy using modern tools to spread the message.
Two years later, DEAF has little to show. It took a year to grant accreditation to a few NGOs and another year to sanction small sums to be spent on workshops to a few of them. Worse, DEAF will simply not engage with people in the field. Another effort to reach out to rural consumers under the aegis of RBI and with support from banks is similarly chugging at a snail’s speed. This is not the pace at which the PM operates; but then, why doesn’t someone push RBI to act, or take away these responsibilities and allow it to remain India’s monetary authority? At a time when people are going through enormous hardship to access their own hard-earned money, being pushed into driving along the digital highway without a safety belt will be even more insensitive.
by Sucheta Dalal

Customers not liable for e-frauds, if reported in time

Onus Now On Banks To Make Good Losses

Concerned over the rise in complaints about unauthorized electronic transactions, the Reserve Bank of India has introduced a policy of `zero liability’ for customers in third-party frauds if they are reported within three days. This means banks will have to make good the losses suffered by customers.In cases where the victim notifies the fraud between 4 and 7 days after coming to know about it, the customer’s liability will be capped at Rs 5,000.

In a draft notification issued on Thursday , the RBI said that if a bank employee is responsible for the fraud, the customer must get his money back irrespective of whether it is reported in time or not.

The three-day time limit for reporting a fraud will start from the day the customer receives an intimation about the transaction from the bank. This can be either by way or an SMS, email or statement. This directive puts the onus on the bank to notify the customer of the transaction as soon as possible. The proposed rules will apply to all electronic transactions, including payments made remotely using net banking or cards and payments made in shops using cards or mobile wallets.

If a customer has shared his password or other payment credentials, he will be responsible for any transaction that takes place until the time he informs the bank of his indiscretion. Once he informs the bank, the bank will be liable for any loss that takes place subsequently .

Banks have been told that all complaints have to be resolved within 90 days from the date of reporting and to ensure that customer does not bear any interest cost or late payment fee in credit cards. If there is a reversal of a debit card fraud or net banking fraud, banks have to make good the loss of interest income.

The proposed norms place much more responsibility on the banks than in the past.Existing norms require banks to compensate customer only up to a limit. Also, this limit is left to the bank based on a board-approved customer relations policy .

To make it possible for the customer to report frauds on time, banks have been asked to provide multiple option in cluding website, SMS, interactive voice response systems, a dedicated toll-free helpline and a reporting option at home branch. Banks have also been asked to put in place systems acknowledging receipt of the complaint.

The tightening of norms comes at a ti me when online and mobile payments are growing at 100% and banks and payment companies are lobby ing with the regulator to relax two-factor authentication for low-value payments.

The RBI has been re sisting any relaxation on the two-factor aut hentication (usually a PIN or a password in addition to the card details) on the grounds that the present dispute resolution mechanism was not very robust. By reducing liability of the customer, RBI expects banks to put more robust systems in place.

 Mayur Shetty, Mumbai:

The Real Cost of Gold Loans

Indians love gold and even the poorest Indian tries to acquire the smallest trinket that doubles up as jewellery and long-term savings. Naturally, television advertisements featuring movie superstars who tell you how easy it is to borrow money against that carefully accumulated gold, touch an emotional cord.
Watching an Akshay Kumar slipping gold across the counter and getting a wad of cash back in a minute to finance a child’s education or to buy a tractor is so appealing that people across the economic spectrum look at gold loans as their first borrowing option, when they are in a tight spot. In almost every case, the gold that is pledged is not even a family heirloom of great emotional value and borrowers are clueless about the high interest they are forking out against an asset which fetches no return—one where although price appreciation has worked for Indians, over the decades, it is not guaranteed.
This emotional reaction and poor numeracy also makes lending against gold a very lucrative business. Allow us to explain why borrowing against gold is a mistake for most people, except those who own heirlooms of antique value far beyond the intrinsic value of gold in the jewellery.
Some Basics about Gold Loans 
Borrowing against gold is attractive because few questions are asked. The lender does not ask you to disclose your income, produce a salary-slip or worry about your credit score or credit report. But think about it; why should the lender worry? It has your valuable gold in its possession and the actual loan disbursed is just 75% or less than the market value of gold. The lender is in trouble only if the gold price crashes by 30%+. But past data shows that a sudden crash in gold is a remote possibility, if not impossible, and when the price falls, lenders immediately begin to pressure the borrower to either pay back a part of the loan or bring more gold/jewellery as collateral.
In most cases, only the interest is charged on a monthly basis, and the principal can be repaid at the end of the tenure to release the gold. The borrower can opt to repay both the interest and principal at the end of the tenure as well. However, the latter will prove to be costlier as the interest gets compounded. If a person defaults on interest payments, the penalty can be huge. Like every other loan, lenders may charge a processing fee, valuation charge, late payment penalty and pre-payment penalty, all of which add to the costs. Each lender has a different set of charges. Unlike equated monthly instalments (EMI), both repayment options involve pressure on the borrower to come up with a big chunk of money for repayment, to have the gold released. If you can, indeed, come up with such a sum, wouldn’t it be better to sell the gold and buy when you have the money? We will come to the arithmetic of this later.
Faster Process but Not Transparent
Most non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) claim that they offer a loan of 70%-75% of the market value of gold item. However, when we asked for the exact amount, we were told that only once they see the jewellery, they would be able to give the exact loan to value that can be availed. Even a RBI working group found that the borrower is generally not clear about the gold price used for valuing the ornaments.
The RBI working group found that the format and content of documentation followed by each NBFC appear to be different, although each one of them claims to be giving a pawn ticket and loan agreement copy to the borrower. But when they spoke to complaining borrowers, they found that the pawn tickets do not contain the specific details of the jewels pawned, their weight in grams and the assessed value of the jewels. It does not contain complete details of the annualised rate of interest, maturity period of loan, details of auction procedure in case of default, any other charges, or the maturity period of the loan, etc.
The procedure relating to auctioning of jewels is not transparently explained to the borrower. Even though the borrower is informed by the NBFCs about the auctioning of their jewels, the borrower is not informed where and when the jewels are auctioned.
In one complaint received by RBI, the borrower was neither informed about the auctioning of his jewels nor called for repaying his loan. Above all, though the market value of ornaments in this case was much above the total dues outstanding, the difference on the sale of ornaments was not given to the borrower. But let’s us now come to the simple math of why borrowing against your gold makes little sense.
The Actual Cost of Gold Loans
When you borrow against gold jewellery, you are paying a very high interest as well as documentation, processing and valuation charges on an asset that you already own. Further, since people only borrow against gold in an extreme emergency, the chances of paying back within a year are low, which means that the interest mounts and the risk of default is also higher. Let’s look at a few possible scenarios to check if taking a gold loan is worthwhile.
We have based our study on the cost of a gold loan from Mannapuram Finance. We were told that the interest rate will be 2% per month(pm) and the loan-to-value (LTV) will be around 70%. There are tenures of maximum three months; hence, at the end of each quarterly period, if only the interest is paid, the loan can be extended for another three months. This can go on until the entire principal is paid back. However, as the contract is renewed every three months, the borrower may need to pledge additional gold, if the price of gold falls and does not meet the LTV criteria.
Using the above information, let’s say Ramesh pledges 50gm of gold to avail a loan of Rs1 lakh at an interest of 2% per month. The market value of the gold is Rs1.44 lakh at the rate of Rs2,880/gm.
Now let’s analyse what Ramesh will actually pay under different repayment options and when gold prices are rising or falling. We will then compare this to whether selling the gold and buying it back in small lots every month would have been a better option for Ramesh.
Scenario 1: Gold Rates Remain Steady
The interest on a gold loan of Rs1 lakh works out to Rs2,000 per month. We assume Ramesh is capable of repaying Rs3,000 every month which includes interest and principal. At this rate, it will take him almost 56 months, or five years, to pay up the money and get his gold back. If Ramesh chooses to reduce the monthly payment by Rs500 to Rs2,500, it would take him nearly seven years to pay back the loan.
On the other hand, if he had chosen to sell the gold, instead of borrowing against it, he would have needed to sell only 35gm of gold to raise Rs1 lakh. Now, if he starts buying back gold worth Rs3,000 (equal to his repayment of principal plus interest in the above-mentioned scenario), he would have recovered his 35gm of gold in just 33 months or under three years.
Even if he bought back gold worth just Rs2,500 every month, he would have his gold back in 39 months. And he would not have paid heavy interest and processing charges to a gold loan company. But one may argue that gold prices may not remain the same and they could rise sharply, making a loan option more attractive. Or, as has happened recently, gold prices could fall too. Let us look at what would happen to Ramesh’s borrowing under these two scenarios.
Scenario 2: Gold Rate Rises
Suppose Ramesh sold 35gm of gold (as mentioned above), but gold prices began to rise by say, 6%-10% every year. Even in this situation, if he buys gold worth Rs2,500-Rs3,000 every month, he would still be able to buyback the entire amount of gold in four years. If the gold price rises more sharply, at 12%pa, it will take Ramesh about 50 months (a little over four years) to buy back the gold. In effect, even when gold prices rise, it makes better sense to sell the gold you have and buy it back, rather than borrow against it.
Scenario 3: Gold Rates Fall
If Ramesh has pledged gold to raise Rs1 lakh and gold prices fall, then he could be in serious trouble. On the other hand, if he sold gold to raise emergency funds and is buying it back, he is a real winner. Consider what happens if Ramesh had borrowed against his gold. If the price of gold declines significantly, he will need to pledge additional gold to maintain the loan to value ratio or repay a chunk of the money. Our analysis shows that Ramesh will need to pledge additional gold only if gold prices decline by 15%-20% on an annual basis. Also, if the LTV increases, the financier can charge a higher interest.
In the above scenario, a 12% decline in gold prices may not impact the value of gold pledged, if the amount repaid is Rs3,000 every month and includes a portion of the principal. However, Ramesh is capable of repaying only Rs2,500pm, with a very little part of the principal being repaid, he will need to increase the gold pledged amount by one gram at the end of the first year itself. By the end of the tenure, he would need to pledge an additional 3.25gm of gold, or pay a higher interest, in which case, his repayment period increases.
There is a also a good chance that he will not be able to keep up with this high interest cycle and end up losing the gold altogether or end up in a payment-trap, if he wants the same gold back.
On the other hand, if he had sold the gold and raised money and bought back even Rs2,500 worth of gold every month (using the money saved on interest), he would be able to buy more gold every month, as prices fall and get his gold back in less than three years.
The Reality
Clearly, liquidating gold to generate cash and buying it back at regular intervals is a much better option. It is foolish to pay a fat interest on an asset that you already own and take the risk of a penalty or losing the gold if you are unable to repay it in time. What is important is to avoid the emotional trap involved in wanting to retain the very same gold ornaments. Apart from a few gold ornaments, like a wedding or engagement ring, a mangalsutra, or a traditional piece of jewellery that has been handed down a few generations, there should be really no emotional attachment to an inert metal object. Also, most sensible women actually like to save carefully and make newer and better ornaments by melting down old ones. And many women also own jewellery that is gifted or handed down to them that they would be happy to sell and buy something new, contemporary and modern. It is far smarter to trade soppy sentimentality for good financial sense. So, the next time you hear of someone caught in a financial jam, tell them to switch off the gold loan advertisements and do some hard number-crunching.
Your Real Interest Cost and Terms
We contacted two of the biggest lenders to find out what a borrower would actually pay on a gold loan. We were told that the interest rate depends on: who is the customer, type of ornament, size and tenure of loan. This translates to a simple interest of anywhere between 12%-24% per annum. However, an RBI report of a working group published in February 2013 found that the interest charged was ‘not transparent’ and it was not clear whether the “maximum interest rate is limited to 24% or it sometimes could go up to 30% or more.”

 

The RBI also found that a major proportion of the gold loan portfolio of NBFCs covers an average interest rate of 24%-26% and only 2% of their portfolio comprises loan at an interest rate of 12%. It is always said that the poor in India pay much more and the RBI report confirms this. It found that those in the unorganised sector pay 30%pa (per annum) and higher penalties and there was less transparency in the transactions. Even otherwise, the RBI report found that a majority of the gold loans are for borrowing of Rs30,000 to Rs50,000 and the quantity of gold pledged on an average is 40 grams.

 

This really means that gold loan companies are thriving because Indians in the lower income groups are rushing to borrow against gold without understanding how much they are paying out, or exploring more sensible options. In most cases, you will find that they are carried away by advertisements featuring mega film stars and none of the advertisements breathes a word about risk factors such as high penalty clauses or transparency in interest charges. The RBI, as the regulator of gold loan companies, ought to have insisted on this, like the capital market regulator does with mutual funds.

 

As we said earlier, a gold loan requires the borrower to estimate her ability to pay interest, fees and charges and then a lump-sum to release the gold. But when borrowers are unable to work out the ridiculously high cost of borrowing against a valuable asset that they already own, what is the chance that they will accurately estimate their ability to repay the loan? If a borrower is unable to repay the loan, the lender gets possession of it.

 

How Popular Are Gold Loans?
India is a gold-loving nation and accounts for about 10% of the total world gold stock. Of this, rural India accounts for nearly 65% of gold owned, probably because it is seen as the safest asset. Most people have an emotional attachment to gold and will not sell it except in times of extreme financial distress. This is what makes gold loans such an attractive business for lenders. While the unorganised sector accounts for 75% of gold loans, the remaining 25% of the market, with organised sector institutions and banks, is also growing rapidly. According to the World Gold Council, out of the national gold stock of around 22,000 tonnes, about 600 tonnes is monetised through loans because they are easy to obtain and processed within hours, if not minutes, as claimed by the advertisements. It is clearly time to be less emotional and more sensible about gold.

 

The Great Indian Circus: Rs. 1.14 Lakh Crore Of Bad Debts Written Off Using Public Money

rbi

Public Sector Banks are more strained than ever before, going by the recent Indian Express exclusive which talks on the stressed assets of Public Sector Banks. Public Sector Banks (PSBs) are banks where a majority stake (i.e. more than 50%) is held by the government.


Take the following statistics:

  • Public sector banks are sitting on over Rs 7 Lakh crore stressed assets.
  • Bad loans written off by them between 2004 and 2015 amount to more than Rs 2.11 lakh crore. More than half such loans (Rs 1,14,182 crore) have been waived off between 2013 and 2015.
  • Bank-wise break-up shows State Bank of India, India’s largest bank, is way ahead of others in declaring loans as unrecoverable, with its bad debts shooting up almost four times since 2013 — from Rs 5,594 crore in 2013 to Rs 21,313 crore in 2015. In fact, SBI’s bad debts made up 40 per cent of the total amount written off by all banks in 2015 and were more than what 20 other banks wrote off.

The Public Sector Banks have been suffering due to many reasons but some of the important reasons includes:

1.) Lack of Accountability – The decision making board contains representatives of the government and the banks among other stake holders. The decisions are taken arbitrarily without any accountability for the bad decisions taken. Take for instance King Fisher Airlines, SBI who had the biggest exposure among the public sector banks could recover only Rs 155 crore out of the Rs 1,623 crore. The money lost is the money deposited by individuals in SBI among others. There are many other examples where banks have lost money hastily with no one held accountable.

2.) Collusion – A CBI investigation into the Kingfisher debt revealed IDBI had extended loans up to 700 crores despite board members warning them otherwise. Besides IDBI, many of the banks have reached a dead end, total of 7,000 crores have vanished to thin air with no body being held accountable for the same.

What is evident from the above Kingfisher example is that the people who are availing the debts simply wash their hands off besides pocketing a handful from the loans taken themselves. The Banks do their best to recover a part of the bad debt but in vain. The ultimate loss is of the depositor and the government. Since the government has majority stake in many of the banks, it becomes an obligation to re-infuse these banks with funds which in-turn are the tax payers money. What is evident is a structural siphoning off of public money with little or no accountability.

The Most Generous :

cr


The Logical Indian thanks The Indian Express for filing RTI and bringing this information to the public sphere. The Logical Indian is appalled by the spike in NPA (Non Performing assets) and bad debts of the public sector banks. We appeal to the government to make the public sector banks structurally incorruptible and accountable. We appeal to the RBI to set up an investigative body to look into all the bad loans and bring to books the people who had colluded for their own benefits at the cost of public money.

http://thelogicalindian.com/news/the-great-indian-circus-rs-1-14-lakh-crore-of-bad-debts-written-off-using-public-money/