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Friday, November 5, 2010

Consumer Complaint Against The Avaricious CITI Bank

Names of the consumer and the letter to whom it is addressed is withheld for protection.

       I am a senior citizen and will be retiring soon as ______________________________. I’m seeking for your valuable assistance to relieve me of my financial predicament with Citibank, N.A. (Philippines) or CITI which worried me so much that led to my sleepless nights. This predicament is explained below:
           I’ve got a Citibank credit card in September, 2007 with a cash advance of P10, 000. Thereafter, I receive the bank’s Statement of Account dated September 23, 2007 indicating that I have a Total Amount Due of P11, 075.68 and a Minimum Amount Due of P554.00. The total amount charged against me was computed as follows:

Bancnet Cash Advance - 10,000.00
Cash Advance Transaction Charge - 300.00
Bancnet Cash Advance - 300.00
Cash Advance Transaction Charge - 300.00
Credit Shield Documentary stamps - 0.50
Credit Shield Plus - 75.90
Finance Charge - 99.28


1. Why is it that I was doubly charged on cash advance and on transaction charge? No explanation was given by Citibank.

2. The Payment Due Date in the said SOA was October 14, 2007. I paid P1,000 on October 12, 2007 at LBC Express, Iloilo City with OR No. IZN020190302759 issued by Ms. Cherrymae Barrios. Why should I be fined of finance charges of P99.28 + P913.36 when I have paid two (2) days before the due date the P1,000 exceeding the minimum amount due of P554? The latter finance charge was added to me unwittingly but only shown to me as sample computation of CITI in my SOA dated October 23, 2007 as explanation to my complaint by the Head of Financial Consumer Affairs Group of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) and emailed to me this October, 2010.

          After two years of payment, on the last week of September and the last week of October, 2009, I asked the customer service officer, during her phone call for collection, to furnish me with a detailed financial statement or accounting of my payments to CITI. Receiving no response after a week, on November 5, 2009, I faxed my detailed summarized payments to CITI and reiterated my request for a similar accounting of my payments but still no response from CITI even after I faxed my complaints together with my record of payments on March 24, 2010.
          I asked for the detailed financial statement of my account to see for myself my total loans and purchases viz-a-viz my total payments because I noted that despite my payments amounting to P118,570 by June 18, 2010 per my records, my total amount due kept on increasing and not reduced by my monthly payments. In fact, in CITI’s record, I have already paid Citibank over P150,000 as revealed in the September 3, 2010 rejoinder of CITI’s Vice President Jayme to my complaints sent to the Financial Consumer Affairs Group of the BSP. From the initial cash advance of P10,000, I have paid that huge amount without knowing exactly how much loan did I obtain and what items and the corresponding amounts did I purchase due to the refusal of CITI to be transparent, honest and fair in dealing with its cardholders. Worse is that my credit card expired last August, 2010 but I was still billed by CITI up to September 23, 2010 in the amount of P107, 994.93 without even bothering to comply with my request as a matter of courtesy and transparency. If I have paid over P150, 000 as the total amount paid for my minimum amount due including interests and finance charges, why was it not accredited as amortization to my loans and any purchases made?
        Oftentimes, the Statement of Account arrived by mail late with only one day left before the date due for payment. Sometimes no SOA arrived but the billing appeared thru a text message in my cellphone. When no SOA (Statement of Account) arrived, the interests and finance charges were billed as compounded in my next SOA as late charges. Being listed as one of its payment centers, I used to pay my CITI bill through the LBC Express which indicates the next day’s date as payment date in its transmittal receipt of payment if I fail to post my payment before 3:00 pm of any office day. These are the instances when CITI billed me for late payments, finance charges and interests even for a one-day delay. Should I be charged due to the LBC’s fault of delayed remittance to CITI?
           Desperate in seeking assistance, on July 12, 2010, I sent a letter to the Head of Supervision and Examination Sector, Central Supervisory Support Subsector, Financial Consumer Affairs Group of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas asking for legal intervention. Ms. Caraan, the FCAGHead, replied on August 3, 2010 saying that she referred my letter to the CITI President for explanation and clarification. Subsequently, on August 27, I received the reply from Ms. Jayme, the CITI Vice-President, explaining the system and various charges collected from cardholders for which I sent my rejoinder via e-mail on September 17 to Ms. Caraan of the FCAG wherein I registered my objections to Ms. Jayme’s explanations, to wit:

1. Ms. Jayme alleged that Mr. Gonzaga, the customer service officer, informed me by phone sometime in August that unless I paid the total amount due on or before the due date, I will be charged of finance charges, and if I paid the minimum amount due between that date and the date paid for the total amount due, I will be charged of the interest on my previous balance as well as my current purchases for the month (which I have not done for the past two years). These conditions as allegedly called by Mr. Gonzaga are more objectionable for the following reasons, to wit:

a. No such terms and conditions, contracts or agreements stating the said terms and modes of payment that were issued by CITI and duly signed by me to indicate my agreement, consent and approval to that proposal prior to my application for membership and subsequent issuance of my credit card. The call, if ever, was made as an afterthought due to my complaint. A legal business transaction should be contracted in writing.

b. Citibank unilaterally and arbitrarily decides on any terms and modes of payments, exact interests and various charges it desires without prior knowledge, understanding and agreement of the applicants for credit card through proper orientation prior to the issuance of the card. A cursory background check by its agents was enough ground for CITI to issue the cards right away. This is a blatant deception, banking on their ignorance of the credit cardholders just to earn huge profits the fast way.

2. CITI granted cash advances and loans and paid the goods and items purchased by cardholders gradually and incrementally by stages, batches and tranches on staggered basis, yet, it demanded lump sum, one-shot payment of the total payment due from cardholders disregarding the total amount paid as minimum amount due plus interests and finance charges as amortization to the total accounts of the cardholders. Is this not unconscionable, oppressive, and a monstrous avarice on the part of CITI?

3. The account summary sent to me by Ms. Jayme did not meet my expectation of a financial statement of my account I had been asking since last year. It contained only the amounts I am accountable for but it did not describe or specify the items or goods purchased nor the kind of loans obtained and all business establishments issue invoices or purchase receipts which described all items purchased with the exception of Citibank.

4. In the said account summary, I noted the incredible entries showing that for a continuous period of six (6) months, from January 15, 2008 to June 23, 2009, I have purchased the same unknown item worth exactly P456.90. This is really a mystery as mysterious as the Holy Rosary. Although I quit purchasing using my credit card since September 23, 2009, yet, I kept on paying my monthly installments of minimum amount due except only on July 23, 2009 and on November 23, 2009 because the SOA failed to arrive by mail on time. Shockingly, I was charged of finance charges, penalty, interests and OVL (which I didn’t understand). Due to the frequent delay in receiving the mailed SOA and sometimes there, was none, I was forced to resort to online banking by paying the amount stated in text message in my cellphone. Consequently, I was slapped with the recurring penalties as the result of delayed payments.

5. I obtained a call for cash loan of P54, 000 but I paid it up in the amount of P79, 149.58 by May 23, 2010. It gave a profit of P25, 149.58 or equivalent to 46.57% interest gain for the bank. If CITI insists to get the full payment of P89, 123.38 by August (already past), it will gain P35, 123.38 or 65% profit from the capital. This is worse than the Indian and Jewish loan sharks in their degree of avarice.

6. In my January, 2009 conversation with the bank’s customer service representative, I signified my intention to quit my membership with the bank. Subsequently, I returned the membership renewal form sent to me without accomplishing it. Now, in the account summary, I was charged of P4, 200.00 as membership fee without my knowledge and consent. Worse, it was non-refundable. Are we now living back to the martial law years of the Marcos dictatorship courtesy of Citibank?

         Upon receipt of my September 17 rejoinder to CITI’s Ms. Jayme, BSP’s FCAG Head Ms. Caraan emailed to me saying that she referred my letter to Ms. Jayme for clarification and explanation and adding the sample computation of my finance charges of October 23, 2007 furnished by CITI for my clarification. I thought all the while that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in general, and the Financial Consumer Affairs Group, in particular, has administrative control and supervision over all the banks in the country, be it private or government, but I was terribly disappointed because Ms. Caraan, the FCAG Head, is clearly non-committal when she stated categorically in her e-mail of October 20 that her office is not in a position to determine and render judgment on the propriety of the transactions billed to my credit account. If her office serves only as a conduit for referral, what then, is the major role and function of this BSP’s Financial Consumer Affairs Group, Central Supervisory Support Subsector, Supervision and Examination Sector in the regulation and control of the unjust, oppressive and vexatious practices of credit-card issuing banks like the CITI? Shall the helpless and hapless cardholders be left unaided and await their fate of financial doom in the hands of these merciless banks? Does it serve the interests of the influential bank at the expense of the victimized cardholders?
            In Macalinao vs. BPI case (G.R. No. 175490), the Supreme Court decided on September 17, 2009 that the interest rate and penalty, of 3% up each per month, respectively, are excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable and exorbitant that would enslave the borrower and hemorrhage his assets. So the Court ordered the reduction of the interest rate and the penalty charge to 1% each per month pursuant to Article 1229 of the Civil Code. Citibank is charging 3.50% as monthly interest rate similarly with its finance and late charges. Is this not a clear violation of the Court’s decision? But unlike Macalinao who availed of P100, 000 as initial loan or purchases, I only availed of initial cash advance of P10, 976.40 but gradually increased to a staggering amount I did not know due to the CITI’s secrecy law hidden behind its shroud of deception.
            Sometime in April 2010, I received a notice from the CITI’s collection department informing me that my account with the bank was already cancelled and closed and, hence, I was warned not to use my card anymore for any purchases (which I did anyway almost two years ago). If my account was closed, why did the bank continued on charging and billing me monthly until September 2010 my minimum amount and total amount due?
        Since the time I received the first SOA until the last one, I noted that the mail envelope used has no CITI’s return address but only that of Manila Central Post Office. This situation makes it difficult for the cardholder to file his complaints or questions in writing. Telephone conversations with the customer service representative with a veiled threat of tape recorded conversations to intimidate cardholders could not adequately answer questions nor clarify doubts without written documents as reference in a face-to-face conversation. I went to the CITI’s Makati branch on April 27, 2010 for this purpose but was referred to the phone booth for a phone conversation with a call center agent. I wondered if this is the CITI’s tactic to evade and hide from the questioning, complaining, grumbling and irate cardholders. Without my complaint, I did not know that the main office of CITI is found at Eastwood City, Libis, Quezon City as found in the mail envelope containing Ms. Jayme’s rejoinder to me on August 7, 2010.
           As a highly respected and talented Chairman of the Senate Committee on Human Rights, I beg you to help me get out of this financial deathtrap because I cannot afford to pay this oppressive, unjust, unconscionable and avaricious charges being collected from me by CITI. I have no money for that opportunistic, crafty scheme of the bank.
     Furthermore, I would like also to request you to refer this matter to ______________, for his appropriate action. Being my “town mate,” I am hopeful that he could also help me about this matter.

Thank you very much for your help and may God bless you.

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