Facts of the case:
- The complainant, Vibhu Bhakru, had taken a credit card from the Opposite Party, Standard Chartered Bank in 1999 and had been very regular and prompt at payments.
- On 24.02.2004 an invoice was sent to the complainant demanding payment of Rs.750/- charged on account of renewal. The complainant requested redemption on the points accumulated under the reward scheme by the bank against the renewal charges of which he was assured.
- The credit card duly expired in February 2004 but he was not issued the renewed card. He made several calls to customer care which were unhelpful.
- In May 2004, he was shocked by a telephonic call from an agent of the bank demanding payment of Rs. 28,000/-. Any explanation that he had not used the card after Jan 2004 had fallen on deaf ears after which he was visited by agents who demanded payment towards credit card usage.
- He filed another complaint with customer care but was again demanded payment of Rs. 28,000/-. After a dispute declaration by the Bank in March/April 2004, the complainant started receiving threatening calls. Despite several attempts to mediate the misunderstanding, he once again received a threat on 11.12.2004 for the collection of a levy of 20% on the outstanding if the payment was not made within 20 days.
- The bank claimed the complainant as frivolous who was filed with intentions of unjustly enriching himself at the expense of the OP Bank.
The Commission imposed punitive damages of Rs.10 lacs deposited in favor of state consumer welfare fund and Rs.20, 000/- as compensation towards the complainant for trauma, mental agony, and harassment, loss of reputation and loss of creditworthiness.
Learnings from the case
Banks and financial institutions that provide loans and credit cards are not to resort to methods that have no legal back up. They are not to use abusive and threatening languages on the telephone and are most certainly not to visit the residence of consumers. They should keep a record of all the transactions between them and the customer and not demand unfair compensation.