If the Vaids have their way no bank will ever be able to charge pre-payment penalty on loans — at least not on home loans. AK Chandok has been battling for the past six years to make sure that the insurance firm he bought a health cover from honours its agent’s commitment. The Gupta sisters are fighting for an even bigger cause: refund of fees by educational institutions in case students do not join a course after taking admission.
The Vaids, Chandoks and Guptas are ordinary people fighting for their financial rights — and winning them. Their victory is significant, not just because they are individuals battling against institutions, sometimes even against an entire industry; but because their victory is the triumph of every Indian financial consumer. Delhi-based Sudarshan Vaid’s efforts have already resulted in state and national consumer courts ruling against pre-payment charges.
The bank Vaid is fighting with has now appealed against the consumer court ruling in the Supreme Court. A favourable verdict from the highest court could mean any or all of these: housing finance companies and banks won’t be able to discriminate against their existing customers while offering lower interest rates on new loans; they won’t be able to charge pre-payment penalty from customers who transfer their loans to companies offering lower rates; banks won’t be able to charge penalties even if they are mentioned in the loan agreement — if they are seen as anti-competition.
Vaid’s victory will benefit every loan taker. The struggle of Chandok and the Guptas has similar ramifications. It also brings to the fore a relatively lesser known aspect of intelligent investing — knowing how best to get out of a bad financial deal.
To spread the message of financial consumerism, we had dedicated our anniversary issue (2 November 2007) to this theme. We have decided to profile people fighting for their financial rights regularly on the last page of the magazine called “My Story”. Not every story has to be of protracted court battles. It could just be that you took up your grievance with the bank, or insurance company, or credit card issuer or any other financial firm you deal with and had it resolved.
It could be as small as settling a disputed amount on your credit card or phone bill to something bigger like getting the claim on your insurance. If you’ve had a similar experience, do share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax or post. Join the MONEY TODAY ranks of financial freedom fighters and let the tribe grow.