BENGALURU: Bengaluru-based digital marketer Karthik Srinivasan has launched an online satyagraha – with a tweet a day – against HDFC bank, who he claims has been curtailing his freedom to choose.
“I received an email for their new Virtual Relationship Management Programme.
However, I was automatically enrolled in the programme and was never asked if I wish to be a part of it,” says Karthik.
The mail also has a line that states: “If you wish to opt out of the Virtual Relationship Management Programme, Click here.”
But Karthik says the font is such that the message can be easily missed.
The bank offers a free trial of this programme for a year and then charges its customer around `400 plus taxes every year.
However, the bank does not ask the customer, if he or she wants to be part of the programme and charges for the next quarter after the free trial ends.
After writing mails to the bank for over a week, Karthik took to Twitter on February 1. He started tweeting to the bank, asking them to act on his concern.
His first tweet was: “This invite-only program from @HDFC_Bank unethically assumes you are already in and are willing to pay for it”. It also carried a link to his blog post that explains his concern.
Every day since, Karthik has tweeted to the bank pressing on a response. For example one of his tweets reads: “Day 7: Good morning, @HDFC_Bank - you haven’t reverted yet. Could you please apologize to *all* your customers?”
Karthik had opened his HDFC account in Delhi in 1998. He has since had his salary account, joint account with his wife, two home loans and a car loan with the bank for over two decades.
“I don't want to close my account with a bank, but I wish to tweet to them every day of this year and if they still don’t respond, I will consider closing it,” he says.
Closing the account will be a ‘hassle’, says Karthik, in terms of extra charges and time expended on the procedures.
Meanwhile, close to 500 people, he says have responded to his satyagraha on Twitter and have thanked him for letting them know of such a programme. “They tell me they have followed my tweets and have now goneback to their mails from the bank and opted out of it,” he adds.
Every customer of the bank has been offered a free trial of this programme. “The fee becomes payable only after one year of free trial.
The customer is intimated several times through different means and given the option to opt out, if he chooses to during the period,” informs Neeraj Jha, Head, Corporate Communication, HDFC Bank Limited. Karthik notes that his freedom of choice is being compromised as he is never asked if he would wish to be charged for the service after the trial period.
Neeraj says that the bank ‘presumes’ that the customer would like to be part of the programme, unless they opt out of it. Consumer rights activist Muralidharan Y G calls it ‘an unfair trade practice’ but adds that a case cannot be filed in court unless a damage (financial or otherwise) has been suffered by either of the two parties.