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Credit Card Bullies

Niveidta Mukherjee writing in The Week in a Cover Story titled, 'Plastic Pitfalls' talks about how Credit Card companies have been resorting to 'thug like' tactics to recover money from Credit Card users.

She writes, ' The credit card debt trap has customers crying foul about unfair trade practices If you are an aspirational Indian for whom a wallet full of credit cards is an indispensable accessory, there could be trouble ahead. If banks are all too ready to shower you with silver, gold or platinum strips of plastic that fit snugly in your wallet, the momentary feeling of elation at the swipe should be that… fleeting… short-lived. For, the crux is in the details, in the fine print that banks sanctimoniously say is written in the acceptance form that comes to your doorstep, signed and delivered. Miss scanning the document carefully and you could get drawn into a debt trap. A vicious cycle of harassment for recovery ensues; shame follows indignation, and sometimes even a stroke!

Clearly, the Indian consumer remains at the mercy of financial institutions despite a regulator and a plethora of laws. In November 2005, the RBI issued instructions to commercial banks on credit card operations, stipulating that agents should not resort to intimidation of any kind, either verbal or physical, against any person in their debt collection efforts. The Code of Bank's Commitment to Customers, released by the Banking Codes and Standards Board of India in July 2006, provides that the collection policy of the bank be built on courtesy, fair treatment and persuasion, and that the bank follows a security repossession policy in accordance with the law.'

Consumer rights bodies and courts have stepped in to counter the menace. Mishra's Consumer Online has launched the web site, where complaints can be registered. "Consumer courts have stepped in as a messiah for the common cause. They negotiate with banks to expedite complaints of customers without going into litigation. We are trying to bring in an element of arbitration and mutual resolution," he said. The Credit Card Holders' Association of India is planning to set up control rooms in state capitals to address card holders' troubles. It will organise open forums where banks and card holders can settle billing disputes, or other issues, amicably.'


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