Thursday, November 23, 2006

Protection racket

Those awfully nice people from the Red Triangles Bank wrote to me today with a new offer for credit cards. They have decided that I need protection against death or permanent total disability. After two months of this unsolicited free insurance, the brochure says, I'll be charged 0.2% of my credit card balance per month.

I wonder how Red Triangles' claims lawyers define 'permanent total'? "Sorry Mr Goat, you can voluntarily move your left eyelid. Your disability isn't total."

And as for the list of exclusions, I trotted along to and learned that the list of non-approved activities includes scuba diving, and also participation in any sport that involves an engine. Note that: 'participation'. Not 'competing'.

So if I go diving and travel to the dive site in a motor boat, I'd not get my credit card balance annulled if I died. Similarly if I were squashed by Carlos Sainz whilst photographing the Desert Challenge. And I suspect the loss adjustors would take a very dim view if I permanently totally disabled myself whilst chainsaw juggling.

I rang the Bank, as instructed in the leaflet, and asked to opt out of the feature. "Certainly Mr Goat. Just fax us a letter and..."

"No, I don't think so. You have given notice that you intend to charge me for a feature that I don't want. I have complied fully with your instructions by telephoning you. Please cancel the Credit Cover."

I shall watch my card statements. I have absolutely no intention of paying any Credit Cover premiums, nor interest accrued through their non-payment.


Gnomad said...

This kind of thing is illegal in most civilised countries. Anything that can be charged for must be opted into, not out of, anywhere in the world where there is any tradition of ethical business practice. Red triangles bank would certainly not be allowed to do this in the UK or Europe. It's appalling that they will get away with it in the lands of sand.

Non payment of debt is a criminal offence under Sharia law, not a matter for the civil courts. If the bank has something in writing that says you owe them money (ie their leaflet saying you have to opt out and your signature on the credit card application from years ago) and you do not have anything in writing to demonstrate that you do not (the transmission sheet for and a copy of your fax to the bank opting out) then as far as the law is concerned you owe them and can go to jail for not paying. And then still have to pay.

I'd say fax them the letter, even if you have the name and employee number of the person you spoke to on the phone. Red triangles bank will have no record of your opting out unless you fax the letter in at least three times and insist on a reply.

In general its always a good idea to write to any financial institution confirming any telephone arrangement, just to be safe. The letter should include details of who was spoken to, on which number and at what time on which date.

This is especially true in the Gulf.
In my experience you can't expect an Arabic bank to follow any verbal instruction given to them, nor to abide by any verbal assurances given to you, regardless of how many witnesses may or may not have been present at the time. If its not in writing it doesn't count. It'll be a lot less hassle and less costly in the end just to send the fax.

When you come to cancel your credit card and have paid off any outstanding balance you will almost certainly have to deposit 115% of your credit limit with the bank. The bank will hold onto this - or freeze your bank accout if you havent made the deposit, for 45 days after the card is cancelled just in case there are any further transactions they hadn't noticed.

Arabic credit cards are not worth the hassle. get one from a reputable bank elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

Red triangles is not an Arabic bank. Or is it?One thing for sure they are the most greedy.I was recently duped into believing I was getting a loan for the Lowest interest rate of 7% and it turned out that the it was a flat rate. It was a sales guy named Amit.I wouldnt have bothered if he gave me the truth because I needed the loan anyway.But I felt cheated when I came to know later.The thing is that the previous loans I took ( one for 13% and the other for 9% interest rate) the sales guy had given me the depriciating rate.SO I believed that the bank was giving me a good rate because of my credit history(This guy even said so) . After the loan went through he called me again and said I got an even reduced Interest rate of 5.9%. It was only later I came to know that I was actually paying 11%.

Grumpy Goat said...

I took the Gnomad's suggestions to Red Triangles Bank today. Explaining my concern that I had no proof that I'd cancelled the Bank's credit card insurance, I asked that I be given a piece of headed paper stating that I'd opted out and that no premiums would be payable. I do not believe that sending a fax or letter to the bank is sufficient. It does not prove receipt, and certainly is not evidence that the bank has accepted the instruction.

The Bank's intranet FAQ, aimed at bank employees, states that no written confirmation of a customer's opting out is issued.

The FAQ goes on to advise how Red Triangles should deal with customers who were charged insurance premiums that they weren't expecting (or presumably those who'd had their instructions to cancel ignored). Essentially this is to offer a refund, or to kick the problem upstairs to an official with an incomprehensible acronym instead of a job title.

So RTB is already anticipating hordes of disgruntled customers complaining about being unexpectedly charged for something they neither desired nor requested.

Further on-screen enquiries revealed that the Red Triangles call centre failed to log my call to opt out of the insurance. In other words, despite promises to record customers' telephone conversations there is no record of my telephoning the bank earlier this week.

Pointing out that I desired neither to pay for insurance that I didn't want nor had asked for, nor wished to go to jail for non-payment of debts, I insisted on evidence in writing from the Bank that my opt-out had been acknowledged and actioned. I have been promised that a request for this will be forwarded to Head Office. This is as yet hardly the piece of paper I'm expecting.

I think I need a new bank. Unfortunately, 'least crap bank in the middle east' is faint praise indeed.

Gnomad said...

To answer anonymous, red triangles bank worldwide is a group of banks. They have the same name in most countries, with a few variations. Red triangles banks in the various Gulf states are wholey owned subsidiaries of the parent company, not an integral part of it. The rules governing financial institutions are very different in the Gulf to those in Europe and the West.

It was not possible for me to transfer from Red Triangles Bank in Peninsular Gulf State to Red Triangles Bank in the Magic Kingdom, I had to completely close all accounts in one and then re-open in another. They are in reality completely different companies.

Mr Goat, it probably isnt worth changing banks, in my expereince and from what I can gather from others Red Triangles, for all its faults (which are manyfold), is still the least bad option.

I would advise getting your credit card from elsewhere though. Somewhere outside the Gulf.



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