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Friday, February 09, 2007

Fight for your rights! - Sidenote 2

There is a common thread running through so many of the comments people have left in the previous posts... people are amazed that I'm taking the time and effort to do all this. In turn this amazes me, because I never knew that a majority of people don't do the same. So I thought I would post about some other notable "fights" I've been in over the years. It might serve to show you that something can be done about the little injustices you encounter, if only you take a little bit of trouble.

Update: I've been getting comments about the nature of issues I'm fighting for. You are missing the woods for the trees. The complains themselves are not important. The fight is. I am not persuading you to fight for the things I have. YOU fight for things YOU believe in, let me fight for things I believe in.

Camelin incident: I was probably in Class 8. I was gifted a lovely camelin fountain pen, came in its own leather case, which was in a velvet lined box and a choice of two nibs. Quite expensive. Unfortunately after a few months of use, the tip of the pen cracked, and the nib wouldn't fit. So I wrote to Camelin, lauded them for the wonderful pen and accused them of bad workmanship for such an expensive pen. Lo and behold, they actually send me a complete replacement set with their compliments. Small thing, but it made me understand the power that each one has, if only we take the trouble to complain.

Spectrum magazine incident: A few years ago I filled out the subscription form for Spectrum magazine, a Delhi based publication. I gave my credit card details, but forgot to mention whether I wanted the subscription for 1/2 or 3 years. Guess what Spectrum did? They obviously charged me for 3 years. So I wrote to them three times, by registered post, by courier, but didn't get a reply. Then I engaged a lawyer who sent them a show cause notice (I think thats what its called) on my behalf. My wife (my gf then) in Delhi took a lawyer friend with her to Spectrum office and" explained" the problem to them. A lady from Spectrum immediately called me up, oozing sympathy and apologizing. Within a few days, they had refunded my money.

HSBC Credit Card incidents: I've been charged not once but twice for making late payments. And I've gotten the late payment reversed on both these occasions. I've been a customer of HSBC for more than 6 years. I'm always very prompt in making the payment before the due date. Twice, due to forgetfulness, etc, I did forget and they slapped me with late fees. I wrote to them, complained that this was bad service, talked to some people and had the charges reversed after some effort.

Citibank Ready Credit incident: I normally do not accept *any* offers from Citibank since they have a bad reputation of employing sneaky tactics to get money out of their customers. Still, I fell for it once, a couple of years ago. Some agent of Citibank called me up and was extremely persuasive and said that I would only have to opt for the Ready Credit scheme and they would give me a gift voucher of some X amount. I would not be utilizing the ready credit account, and I would not be charged anything at all. I clearly got this last undertaking from the agent. Still, to protect myself, I signed the form but made a large cross in ink across the entire form. In the box which asked the amount of ready credit I needed, I put in "Rs. ZERO" in big, bold capital letters. Do you think that would stop Citibank. Oh no. The smart people at the bank credited me a small sum of money from Ready Credit, then debited me automatically after some time and charged me interest of Rs. 27 for the transaction!!! And I didnt get the promised gift voucher either.

So I began calling up Citibank customer care center and talked to a great many people, was passed from person to person, had to explain the same thing multiple times and this went on for a year. One year from the incident, Citibank had the gall to send me a notice saying that since I has "used" the Ready Credit facility, it was charging me (nearly Rs 1000) from the second year onwards. They told me that they had already informed me of the charges "earlier". Needless to say I hadn't been sent any such information else I would have got the Ready Credit facility canceled.

I went ballistic at this point. Till then, I was pursuing the case slowly. Then I began to look around for legal recourses available to me. I found out about the Indian Banking Ombudsman system, to which one can complaint for any kind of banking malpractices. I ready through everything on the site, read through the rules, read through all Citibank terms and conditions and then made a complaint to my "relationship manager", making a strong charge of malpractices. I also notified them that I would take the matter to the Banking Ombudsman if there was no response or unsatisfactory response from Citibank within 30 days (thats the precondition to complain to the Ombudsman). 1 month, some conversations and e-mails later, Citibank finally reversed all the charges, and I got the Ready Credit account canceled for ever.

Here's the complaint I sent to Citibank:
Citibank complaint
Citibank complaint...
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Traffic complaints: I don't know how many traffic complaints I've made till now, how many altercations I've gotten into with uncouth call center vehicle drivers who drive rashly on the roads. For instance, see this post about Bangalore Traffic, 3 parts. I've had e-mail exchanges with the Transport Commissioner, with the Deputy Comm of Traffic Police about the state of Bangalore traffic, the way in which call center vehicles drive, the abusive nature of drivers, et al.

Another associated problem: I used to call up 103 to make traffic complaints, but since a year ago, the moment I make a call somebody would disconnect it (or so I thought). I thought they knew my number by then and didn't want to hear any more complaints by me. This kept on happening to me for maybe 6 months. Finally, frustrated, I called up the Traffic Police DC office, and made a strong complaint about this. Amazingly, two officers from the police department called me back, apologized for the inconvenience, explained to me that this was a BSNL problem, that they had repeatedly complained to BSNL about this but the problem had not been rectified, and that definitely no person was disconnecting my call. They gave me three direct numbers of the Traffic Control Room to call up anytime to make any kind of complaints.
Nowadays I call up these numbers, somebody picks up immediately and listens, and I'm a happy man.

Noise Pollution: A few months ago, I decided to take on a temple in my neighborhood for noise pollution. This temple had been playing loud music, songs, chanting, etc all day (from 6am to 9:30pm) and causing us great disturbance. So I started doing research on the net about Indian noise pollution laws and judgements. As usual, I found a wealth of information. I found out who is responsible for preventing noise pollution: in most cases it is the police and if it involves industry then the Pollution Control Board can also step in. I found out about the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, about permitted decibel levels, about how to go about filing a complaint, about previous judgments made by High Courts and the Supreme Court, esp against religious institutions.

I'd spoken with the temple authorities many times, told them politely at first, then rudely after that. After I learnt about the law, I threatened them with a police complaint, and finally with a court case. Still no avail... for a few days after I would complain, the temple would reduce the volume and then back it would be to normal. I even made a few complaints to the Police Control Room, the police came, the volume was reduced and then a few days later it went up again.

Finally, it was time for action. I wrote out a complaint and went to the nearest police station. It took them quite a while to digest what the complaint was about and one fellow had the gall to tell me to change my house. The junior officers were quite flummoxed, and asked me to speak directly with the Inspector. So thats just what I did. Well, the problem is quite under control now. The loudspeaker volume is fairly less. They play between 6 and 10am, and then between 6 and 9pm. We've been enjoying a month of heavenly peace and quiet.

Here's the police complaint I filed:

Sound Pollution upload
Sound Pollution up...
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15 comments:

Space Bar said...

not sure how to put this any other way, but you remind me of my father! he's another one dashing off letters of complaint for anythign from a courier delivered one day later than promised by their service, to consumer forums for god knows what, but he still receives notices to appear after 12 years!

:D

Ashish said...

Hi Hawkeye! You have given quite impressive list and courage for someone else to try and believe that things do get changed. I am also sure that there are instances where your complaint didn't get resolved due to usual problems of corruption/connection. Can you give some lists of those? In any case, you come of as no person I ever knew. Thanks you.

shyam said...

Well , Iam impressed by your patience and courage in taking up all these issues.It is not that others have not tried , it's just that You need lots of time to attend to all these matters and in this age Iam not sure how many of us have that sort of commitment.I applaud you for your spirit.

However I would request you to kindly in future weigh in the costs and efforts vis a vis the desired results and then Fight.In the recent case I appreciate what you have done to protect the dignity and self respect of your wife but a Rupee more for a litre of Milk, does it really matter.
What the vendor did was Wrong but Iam sure most of us pay up fancy amounts in Hotels for a litre of Mineral water / any other commodity which has a MRP.The water in a Five star hotel costs Rs 150 ??? though the MRP is
Rs 12.Similar with other intoxicating drinks.

Why bicker over a Rupee and that too when it is a one off thing.His insults and threating acts have to be booked though.

Shyam : [email protected]

Christina said...

I guess the problem is that too many people don't take the trouble to report or try to correct the things that are wrong with the world.

An incident comes to mind... There was a time when the cashier at PVR Cinema did not return the change after I paid for 2 tickets with a 500 rs note... I realized after I had left the counter... I went back to the counter and also spoke to the Manager... They checked their collections for the day and returned the money... I add this incident to the ones that you have mentioned only for others to know that this is also possible.

BTW... what number does one dial if one wants to make a traffic related complaint? I have wanted to do this very often.

Christina said...

Another thought... As I posted my comment, I read Shyam's comment. I just want to express another opinion on this and say that I don't agree :-)

Hawkeye said...

@shyam: It does matter to me. It doesnt to you. We agree to disagree and let the matter rest. To me, it is unbelievable that you would pay more without a protest. [Rant on] Why don't you write to KMF that B'lore is full of affluent people who believe that Rs 7 for a 1/2 litre of milk is less and that they should increase the price by say Rs 2? Oh, and while you are at it, perhaps all the vegetable sellers should start charging Rs 1 extra per KG? Hey, its only Rs 1, remember? Perhaps even write to the petroleum ministry that they increase the price of petrol by only 75p per litre. Pay a bit here, pay a bit there, watch the CPI hit the roof, watch inflation do double digits.[Rant off]

And as for the 5 star thing water thing: It gets my gall, believe me it does. But right now they are able to get away with it by saying that its establishment/ambiance cost. Someday someday...

Hawkeye said...

@christina: you dont agree with me or shyam? :D

Numbers: 103, if that doesnt work then 22943131 & 22943030

Anonymous said...

Hawkeye,

MRP does not distinguish based on Ambience and Establishment cost.
A Bar of soap/biscuit packet/chocolate / noodles in any SUPER MARKET in India ( whether air conditioned or not ) and a ordinary grocer store costs the same.

Hawkeye said...

@anon: Of course it doesn't. Which is why when hotels serve you, they serve you in a glass/plate and discard the original packaging in the kitchen. By doing this, they are charging you the extra for the "service" which is the establishment/ambiance cost.

adithya sharma said...

Based on your comments it looks like you have an axe to grind aginst a ordinary milkman who has charged you a rupee extra on a specific day.the problem with the educated indians is that we revel in taking on those who can be bulldozed and accept our viewpoint.how can can you explain your justification for the five star stuff.would you create a scene in a five star hotel.iam sure you would be thrown out and no complaints entertained since the owners would be powerful. people wont mind paying rs 300 for a bottle of beer in a hotel on a week day or rs 500 on new year eve party ( which costs rs 50 in a wine shop ) but when it comes to one rupee we cerate a scene .

Hawkeye said...

@adithya: Oh, please. Do you know the difference between a good and a service? Why is there so much competition in retailing? Why does a Subhiksha sell below MRP? You go to a hotel/restaurant not just to drink the packaged water/liquor, you go for the ambiance, you go for the service, and thats what you pay for. Why don't you go to FoodWorld and ask them to charge you more on every item since you are used to paying more in hotels and restaurants.

Hawkeye said...

@adithya: Some more points ;)
1. One wrong does not condone another. This is a flawed argument, and an escapist one. Imagine if the courts were to say, hey we've got big crimes happening in India, we will not look into petty problems. Say your pocket gets picked and you lose Rs.500. Will you say, it doesn't matter?? Will you say that there are scams of crores of rupees in India, politicians are picking the country's pocket. Will be magnanimous and say "let me not go after this bechaara guy, its only Rs 500, I spend that on a single drink on the last new year, we've got bigger crimes occurring, let those get solved first"? Bah.
2. India is not full of rich people like you. You can spend Rs 500 on a new year party. To half of India, that might be a month's salary. Who goes to parties? 0.1% of India's population. Who buys milk, vegetables? 50% of India's population. Who does overcharging hit the most? The lower middle class, not you. But what happens when prices of essential commodities rise? The WPI rises, the inflation rises and that has effects on the entire economy, and then that hits you and me.
3. I think I posted this earlier, the consumer court complaint is to make the main case stronger, its not an end by itself.

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Your complaints prove that you feel that you are always right and that attitude is the heart of the problem.Just as the MRP rule the Bank has the right to charge fine for late payment .In case you have slept over your dues you are liable to pay.We are bound to follow the rules laid down.By reversing the Fine You have not acheived anything.You have only Lost your moral respect and your RIGHT to preach.


HSBC Credit Card incidents: I've been charged not once but twice for making late payments. And I've gotten the late payment reversed on both these occasions. I've been a customer of HSBC for more than 6 years. I'm always very prompt in making the payment before the due date. Twice, due to forgetfulness, etc, I did forget and they slapped me with late fees. I wrote to them, complained that this was bad service, talked to some people and had the charges reversed after some effort.

Hawkeye said...

@anon: Hey, I'm not preaching. I posted these for just one purpose. To show you that you can get things done if you want to. At no point am I taking a moral stand, where does morality enter into it? Its a matter of fighting for what you think is right. Sure, the bank has a right to charge a fine for late payment. How much should they charge? Rs 100, Rs 1000, Rs 10000? Will you accept any kind of late payment? Banking is a service, keeping customers happy is the most essential aspect of customer service. Don't you think that the bank can give you a call, drop you an email to inform you that you have missed a payment? They can call up 8 times a day to offer a loan, they can send you spam after spam announcing new products, they can have their agents pestering you outside your office to take their products. But they cant give you a call or send an e-mail reminder. Wow, what fun. You must work for HSBC.

If YOU think that YOU don't have a right to do something, please don't. I'm not starting a cult, you don't even know who I am. I am not extolling you to do the things I did. I've just posted examples from different fields to show that you need not take things lying down. If you have a problem, take it up, follow it up, try to get it corrected. The problem is not important, the fight is.

And next time, please leave your name and/or blog link. Its not shameful to have an opinion and I respect yours.

Noisy blues said...

WHy does one constrcut a house with the utmost details on the ventilation? Cos one wants to enjoy sitting in the Verandah and open the windows to let the fresh air in. After constructing a beautiful house in Bangalore taking huge amounts of loan, we are uinable to enjoy these little joys of life. The problem: our neighbor who runs not one but two machines that make some kind of printing balls( in a residential area!). We have tried to reason with him saying that we need our peace for atleast Sundays and if his livelihood depends on the Machine running, then he should do so between 10 and 5 pm. T othis the man takes huge offence and brags about the heft bribes he has paid to get his'licence'!
My spouse says that since we both work,come back at odd hours, have a little girl and our house is made of a lot of glass, we should not take "panga" with the neighbour and let his "factory" die a natural death( he is an alcoholic and often gets drunk and abuses everone around- so my spouse assumes that he is self destructive too!).
Everyday life is becoming touger with the volume from his factory/house increasing. what can we do?