'I'm seeking a mortgage loan from a bank, and that bank requires me to buy its life insurance product. What should I do? I really don't want life insurance coverage, as I already have it. What I really want is a housing loan."
Chanatip: ‘Our duty is to change attitudes’
This is one of thousands of financial product cross-selling complaints shared on social media.
In recent years, consumers have found a greater voice to protect their rights. They are taking their complaints to the Financial Consumer Protection Center (FCC), a unit of the Bank of Thailand.
The process of filing a complaint is a clear-cut procedure. First, the consumer submits an ID card to verify their identity. Second, the person provides specific documents as evidence to support the claim of misconduct. For example, a consumer protesting a credit card's interest rate should include credit card slips.
If you are worried about the notorious bureaucratic red tape that you have experienced before, here is your answer: The FCC will respond within 15 days if you choose to send a letter to file your inquiry. The centre will then send a letter to the financial institution about the complaint. You should get a response from the institution within 15 days if the case is not too complicated.
FCC director Chanatip Jariyawiroj says the centre has separated consumer cases into two categories based on complexity. The first deals with problems involving ATM withdrawals or insensitive demands for debt payments; the central bank will respond within 15-30 days. The second category is for thornier cases, such as interest rate calculation and debt restructuring, and the process takes three months or longer.
Should the consumer be dissatisfied with the results, the next step is to file a court case, says Mrs Chanatip.
Other channels exist for filing FCC complaints. The call centre can be reached by dialling 1213 between the hours of 8.30am and 4.30pm, and round-the-clock interactive voice response is available. You can also send a fax to 02-283-6151 or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For walk-in customer service, the hours are the same as for the call centre. The Bangkok head office is at 273 Samsen Road, Phra Nakhon, and there are regional offices in Chiang Mai, Songkhla and Khon Kaen.
Let's take a look at the most-reported complaints. You may discover that some of the cases relate to your own financial experience.
Debt restructuring was the big issue in 2012, signalling financial indiscipline among Thai consumers, while cross-selling complaints also mushroomed.
The FCC last year received 468 debt-restructuring complaints out of 3,785 total cases. The debt-restructuring cases involved consumers who could not pay their debt on the due date and needed relaxed payment conditions to prevent their credit from turning sour. The cases mostly dealt with personal, credit card and business loans.
Mrs Chanatip says this type of case was the most widely received complaint by the FCC in the first half of this year, with 138 cases out of 1,136 total.
Office employees formed the majority as they struggled to pay off personal loans and credit card debt. Bangkokians have lodged the most complaints to the FCC so far.
Of the overall first-half cases, 607 were settled, with 55% resolved through the document-based channel and 95% through document- and phone-based channels.
"It's likely that debt-restructuring complaints will continue at this rate for the next few years, as there are consumers who lack financial discipline," said Mrs Chanatip. "It is our duty to change the perspective of the new generation."
Meanwhile, a growing number of reports concern cross-selling in which, for instance, a bank customer is diverted into getting a debit card with insurance instead of an ATM card.
There were 64 complaints of cross-selling in terms of deposits and 30 cases of cross-selling involving loans in the first half of this year. For all of 2012, the figures were 79 and 71, respectively.
The central bank recently warned that household debt had surged to 8.97 trillion baht or 77.5% of GDP in the first quarter.
Swelling household debt, spurred in part by stimulus schemes such as the first-time car buyer tax rebate, boosted short-term economic growth amid weak global demand. But the consumption engine is running out of steam as high debt levels stop Thais from further borrowing and leave little room for more monetary easing.
Although the economy remains fundamentally strong, rising household debt has the potential to trigger a financial collapse if not properly addressed.
Fiscal prudence is a much-needed vaccine for Thai consumers. Think carefully or seek help financially before you go on a spending spree.
About the author
- Writer: Pathom Sangwongwanich
Position: Business Reporter