14 June, 2021

May I Overcharge You?

Banks are fleecing customers to shore up their profits and offset the dead weight of bad loans to corporates

Illustration by Sajith Kumar
May I Overcharge You?

Whenthe GST era dawned this month, online jokesters quipped that it was the most inscrutable thing ­after Duckworth Lewis. But paradoxically, it may have brought a disquieting clarity to another zone of universal experience. Amid the flurry of news reports detailing what would entail a higher tax of 18 per cent, there was the list of banking services. It read like a death roll: withdrawals, deposits, ATM transactions, ordering fresh cheque books, drafts, loan processing, locker charges, NEFT, SMS alerts, what not.

That’s when a lot of people realised what had already crept up on them: beginning this March, without much of a noise, banks had significantly hiked service charges on a range of things, and imposed new ones—like the charges for withdrawals and deposits after a prescribed free number. Trapped without anyone realising it, India’s vast bank customer base—all hundreds of millions of them—were already bleeding from a thousand small cuts.

Some folks, especially those engaged in business and therefore acutely aware of margins,...

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