Karthik Srinivasan, who has started a Twitter ‘satyagraha’ with HDFC Bank says that he doesn’t expect the bank to apologise, but hopes that his online protest reaches the right people, so that the bank doesn’t continue ‘deceiving people’.
“If HDFC does apologise, it will become a legal issue. They should, however, address this privilege customer fees that has cheated thousands and resolve it soon,” he tells DNA over the phone.
Karthik began his Twitter drive because he was unhappy with the bank for charging what he felt was a hidden fee through its emails. The bank had been sending its users an email welcoming them into its virtual relationship manager programme, which is supposed to give them additional benefits. The programme costs Rs 400, but this is only mentioned in the fine print. Furthermore, the bank signed users by default and asked those who didn’t want to join to manually opt out through a small link.
Karthik felt that people who didn’t read the mail or see the fine print would have been signed up for a programme that they didn’t want. He even contacted HDFC, who told him that it had been ‘fair and transparent’ by providing an opt-out facility, which was in compliance with regulatory requirements. That’s when Srinivasan, on February 1, resolved to tweet about the issue “every single day till the end of 2017” until HDFC Bank apologised.
In a blog that he wrote on February 1 before he began his Twitter campaign, Karthik wrote that HDFC’s move was ‘clearly unethical and disingenuous’. “Back in 2012, when Flipkart launched the ‘save credit card’ feature (where customers have an option of saving their credit card details for easy payment in the future) after getting a PCI-DSS certification, they rolled out the feature where the check-box for saving the card is checked, by default. This is a classic opt-out tactic that is known to increase sign-ups/uptake of whatever programme you are running,” he wrote.
While speaking to DNA, Karthik, who worked at the online retail giant at that time said that Flipkart had pre-decided that customers wanted that feature, which resulted in a lot of backlash. “Flipkart not only acknowledged this error in judgement and set right the process (to opt-in; that is, give customers an unchecked box and let them exercise the option to be a part of this program, or not), but they also blogged about both the error and the reason why they changed it,” he added.
Karthik added that what HDFC is doing is more dangerous. “Flipkart saved your card details, but the bank is going to take money from people who may have either ignored the mail, or forgotten to see the message about opting out in the mail. I’m fairly sure there are RBI guidelines that determine that any charge levied on the customer should be done after seeking explicit permission to do so,” he said, adding that he has already written to the Reserve Bank of India and all the top management at HDFC Bank.
Karthik, a Twitter influencer, with over 25,000 followers, has in the process started a ‘satyagraha’ of sorts on the site. It’s been over 50 days since he began tweeting to HDFC to apologise. Although the bank is yet to release a statement, several individuals have noticed the drive and have written about it. "I've received over 500 responses with screenshots of how the bank has made individuals privileged users without their knowledge. At least through this drive, they know that they can opt out of this service," he added.
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) February 1, 2017
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) February 2, 2017
Day 3: Got calls from HDFC Head Office. They explained the same thing to me. I insisted that they kindly apologise to all customers. 1/2
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) February 3, 2017
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) February 9, 2017
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) February 22, 2017
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) March 3, 2017
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) March 18, 2017
While his campaign hasn’t yet reached its desired goal, Karthik is showing no signs of letting up. His campaign is slowly gathering steam; someone has blogged about how this could be a Rs. 400 crore scam by the bank.
Karthik has also shared the story on Facebook.