During the past decade or so the private banks in Pakistan have been aggressively pursuing retail and consumer banking. One of the products of this business is issuance of credit cards to the people, mostly from low income groups. For this purpose, banks have hired contract employees and commission agents who allure needy people to accept credit cards. They call people to their office or visit their businesses to sell these credit cards with catchy offers. What few realize is that this is a deep abyss from which it is hard to get out.

They never reveal the hidden clauses about the large markups and other terms and conditions , even if they mention them they are all sugar coated. As long as the customers are paying their bills on time there is no problem. Banks normally encourage clients to make minimum payment to earn markups. The real trouble starts when a client makes late payment and defaults. My experience is that they charge rupees Five hundred (Rs. 500) as late fee and three percent (3 %) as monthly mark up which is added to the actual bill for the next month.

The markup keeps increasing and one is held hostage by the goons hired by these banks for recovery. They keep calling any time and visit the office or business and in some case your home and harass and threaten the family.

I have gone through this experience. I used to hold a Citibank credit card and defaulted. Because there were many disputed transactions entered twice or thrice on my card. The bank says that they will refund my money after nine months, while I had to keep paying these fraudulent charges. I have been requesting the bank to resolve my issue, but they have been delaying and now the bank has changed hands and is owned by another bank.

The new owner, Habib Bank has arbitrarily, without any prior warning or intimation blocked many accounts, including mine. All those who held the Citibank Credit Cards and have an account with HBL. Hundreds of people are running from pillar to post in search of a solution to their problem but HBL is not helping them. Those who had no other account, other than the credit card with Citibank are still defaulters and those who had no money in their account in HBL, have got waivers up to fifty percent but those who had large deposits or their salary was transferred, are simply helpless and are not able to get any waiver. This is discriminatory treatment. Only bank management can help clients as the laws and rule are all in favour of the banks and there is no easy legal remedy available to the clients.

Therefore, the top management of HBL and State Bank is requested to look into this issue to resolve the problem of customers who are willing to pay their dues and finish this harassment. The Citibank card holders were not informed by the Habib Bank of the ex-party action while purchasing Citibank.

MUHAMMAD AYUB MINHAS,

Islamabad, February 23.