Monday, January 30, 2006

Why I don't sign standing instructions

I got a couple of forms from Airtel today. One was a Standing Instruction form that would allow Airtel to charge my Credit Card for all future bills. And in the form is this clause:

I therefore, undertake to unconditionally honour and pay without demure and contestation all the said charges, including interim charge when I am billed for the same by the aforementioned bank.

(splutter, cough) What? You can charge any amount to my credit card, and I can't contest it? Do I look like I was born yesterday?

To those of you who don't know: interim charge refers to a charge made without a bill. They want to charge your card without a bill, and you can't do any-fucking-thing, because you've signed a form that allows them to charge even *their* underwear to your account.

I don't know what without demure and contestation means. What it does mean is that they hired a lawyer who's a fuckhead at english. Or, if this *is* a legally valid term, the entire bloody legal system is screwed up.

Okay, so we're not signing that form. We're referring to ourselves in the plural, but that doesn't mean we weigh enough for more than one person.

The other form is the ECS form - that allows them to automatically charge my Bank Account. That contains:

I/We hereby unconditionally and irrevocably authorize Bharti Tele-Ventures Limited, to raise debits on such regular payments as referred to above against the above mentioned Bank Account two days earlier to my bill due date.

I am disturbed by the phrase unconditionally and irrevocably. Because in the notes section, they write:

Maximum ceiling can be specified.

There's no entry in the form for "Maximum ceiling". And the word unconditionally indicates the lack of such a ceiling.

I have to say though, that this form is not as bad as the Credit card instruction, and does not mention anything about interim payments.

(Additionally, Banks have been known to not honour ECS mandate withdrawal unless you also get the consent of the other party. Meaning, if Airtel service is lousy and I decide to get rid of them, I have to ask their permission to withdraw the ECS mandate. What incentive does Airtel have, if I'm exiting their service? They can stall for a few months for some free money!

Note: The RBI has published a notification that specifically bars banks from requesting the other party's consent. If you're the bank account holder, the bank must respect your wishes if you withdraw the ECS instruction.)

I don't think I'll sign these forms - am quite happy if I'm in the know BEFORE money goes out of my pocket. If I signed, I'll probably never know how much money's going where, and when - meaning increased blood pressure each time I look at my online bank statement and see an unknown item in there! Also, I can plan for a contingency by staggering payments if I'm short - and choose to pay by Credit card on a particularly bad month. (Gives me another month free credit)


Anonymous Priya Rao said...

Not signing those forms was an excellent decision Deepak. As a lawyer and a friend I would advise you not to sign one of them for telecom operators in India. My personal experience has been that each one is worse than the other in terms of customer service and accountability. When I returned to India in April 2004, I got myself a Hutch prepaid card, which i have since cancelled. The company was obliged to return my Rs.500 security deposit, but even now, 2 yrs later, they haven't returned it. So I would be very careful about giving my telecom service providers access to my bank account or credit cards!

I now use Airtel and pay them by cheque every month.


4:29 PM, May 18, 2006  

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