HDFC Bank Remains Defiant, Says Its Opt-In Schemes Comply With All Regulations

It’ll take more than an online Satyagraha to get HDFC Bank to realize that customers aren’t happy with its opt-in schemes.

A day after there was widespread online condemnation of its policies which signed up to paid schemes by default, and provided users with only small links at the bottom of emails in case they wanted to opt out, HDFC has defended its stand. “The Bank has been fair and transparent with respect to this programme management fee,” said a statement by Neeraj Jha, who’s the Head of Corporate Communications at HDFC.

“I have been dismayed by words like ‘deceitful’, ‘unethical’ and ‘cheating’ being used in a section of the social media to describe our conduct pertaining to a certain Programme Management Fee,” his statement began. He then argues that the bank was giving customers the opportunity to experience its schemes before levying any charges, and also communicating the charges to its customers several times.

Customers, though, had remained skeptical of the bank’s explanation, arguing that even though HDFC might be following regulatory norms, it wasn’t being ethical in its dealings. Jha ran into some criticism on his own Facebook post.

The whole issue had been brought to light by Karthik Srinivasan, a Bangalore-based digital marketer. He’d discovered that HDFC had been sending its users emails welcoming them into its value-add programs, but hiding the program fee and an option to unsubscribe at the very bottom. Worse, it was signing up users by default, meaning that anyone who didn’t open their mails, or missed the fine-print at the bottom, was being automatically charged for a program they never signed up for.

Srinivasan wrote a blogpost about the issue, but was ignored by the bank, which told him that its program was well within the law. That’s when he’d launched an online Satyagraha, tweeting every day to his 25,000 followers about what he deemed HDFC’s unethical practices. His vigil had reached its 50th day on Tuesday.

His protest has then gone viral, and users across social media had criticized the bank. Several hundred users had tweeted back to him, saying how they’d discovered that they were being charged as well without their knowledge, and thanked him for his efforts. Many others brought up other issues they had with the bank’s services.

But in spite of the furore, the bank seems to think that its schemes are above board. It appears that HDFC Bank users will have no choice but to carefully scan each email they receive from the bank, to check if they’ve being billed for services they never signed up for.