By J. Choudhry/KARACHI
The Financial Daily published my this column on Monday (Jan 8, 2018)
A few weeks ago I have faced not one, two but hat-trick of headache because of some technical problem in the online payment system of the United Bank Limited. On the midnight of Dec 8, 2017, I ordered an internet session, but I was shocked to see the unexpected situation when I tried to make payment to the Facebook. In first attempt, I got the message of suspicious transaction and the payment was not transferred into my account with the Facebook. Few seconds later, I got the message that the amount had been deducted from my ATM card for internet session/payment to Facebook ads. At that time, I thought that there may be a problem with my ATM card. Then I ordered another internet session from my Mastercard, the same day and about an hour past midnight. To fulfill the process, I kept on waiting for verification call that the UBL had started a few months ago, before activating the net-session just to ensure transparency. It is a good strategy, but when the UBL concerned banker do not make call in 30-40 minutes, the wait becomes very painful that too an hour after midnight that usually is my time to sleep. Once again, after attending the verification call, I tried to complete the net-session, but my mastercard too showed the same message “suspicious transaction” _ and the amount again was not transferred into my Facebook account, this was my second consecutive attempt after mid-night. Once again, with a gap of few minutes, I got another SMS alert of deduction of net-session amount from my bank account, although it was not reflected in my account on the Facebook.
In next two/three days, I made a couple of calls at the helpline to lodge a complaint about non-payment in the net-session, but nobody bothered to register the complaint and further surprised me twice by saying “our system is showing that you exceeded the limit”. Finally, I got the contact number of my friend Ali Habib, head of the corporate communication in the United Bank Limited, talked to him and he understood the problem immediately. Mr Ali perhaps asked someone to handle this complaint as I got a call from a bank official, who advised me to fill a form to claim refund. Interesting to note is that before talking to Mr Ali Habib, I filed a complaint with the UBL through email and I just got a traditional message that I am posting here “Dear Mr. Javed, With reference to the appended email, please be informed that we tried to connect with you [03014549495 8:09 PM 12/11/2017 and 03343939029 8:10 PM 12/11/2017], but contact could not be established (Network Error). It is important for us to have telephonic conversation with you. Therefore you are requested to provide any other Contact Number or convey us any Preferred Time for call back so that we could connect you again or you may also call our Helpline 24/7 at (9221) 111 825 888 (UAN) in this regard. This is true that I got a couple of miscalls from the UBL number that I could not notice on time. But is it enough that the bank contacted me once and then did not bother to contact again to resolve this double-headache that finally led to hat-trick.
However, when the intervention of Ali Habib, the UBL officials talked to me, sent the claim form on in the 2nd week of Dec-2017, but I am still waiting for to get back that money which not only made me upset as I delayed by planned promotion on the social media. This headache did not end here and I faced the same scenario for the third time, after a gap of couple of weeks when I could not make payment through net-session and once again I got an SMS from the UBL about deduction of the net-session and charges associated with this session. I again sent email to the concerned UBL officials and they again sent another claim form. The problem does not end here, a week ago I got an SMS from the bank that the UBL people need another 34 days to resolve my complaint of refund of failed internet-sessions. One thing is very interesting _ all my failed net-sessions took placed around mid-night time _ one just before mid-night and the other two soon after midnight time. But this is not happening at day time (throughout the day). This reminds me of the popular joke about Sardars who go berserk around 12 _ But in this case, I think the internet technology/system of the UBL became ‘’Sardar’’ around midnight, no one, two, but three times. Now here are few questions for the UBL whose slogan is “UBL – where you come first” (I am sure not for embarrassment but for better service). Why the net-sessions of the UBL are going mad or out of order around midnight time and why this does not happen throughout the day and before midnight time _ because my other net-sessions went well in the day. Secondly, why the UBL people engaged for verification call take too much time, sometime more than an hour. One day, I ordered net session after midnight and I went into sound sleep when I did not get a phone call in an hour. The next morning, I saw miscall with a gap of more than an hour, around 2.30am. Third, when UBL is not engaging more staff to facilitate timely verification process through bank-call system. Fourth, when the customers approach the helpline for net-session or any other purpose, the process takes mostly many minutes perhaps due to staff shortage and during this process the helpline keep on generating money from the customers as call on the helpline costs to the customers and each minute counts at that time. So it seems a good way for the bank to mint money from the customers by prolonging calls on the helpline. This becomes more evident when the bankers make verification call, they end that very shortly and speak with a speed to save their time and money as well by making short call. Finally, why the UBL system is taking too much time in completing the refund procedure and who is responsible for failed net-sessions that damaged my planned promotions of my events on the social media. UBL must add to its slogan _ UBL where you come first, for convenience and not for embarrassment. I hope the top management of the bank would take this write-up seriously to mend faults in their banking system.
Writer Javed Mahmood (Editor Weekly Corporate Ambassador)