Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tammy tells the story of how Citibank has taken away 'three years of her life'

I came across this amazing story by my friend Tammy about her experience with Citibank Singapore when I logged on to my Facebook account today.

She has been so exasperated by this she says she has lost three years of her life. Here's the story in her own words (Her version on Facebook, meant for her friends, is more colourful):

"In my 40 years, I have never been driven to such exasperation by any one organisation as I have in the last six days by Citibank.

"It all started when my husband and I decided to buy a place in Melbourne. Our obvious financing choice was Citibank. It's a global bank with Aussie branches and we bank with them a bit. It all made sense.

"The home loan process started with a guy being attached to us. This banker whom I shall not name, was a nice guy but he didn't seem to know anything about the product he was selling.

"He came with a loan document for me to sign and couldn't even answer simple questions. Eg: why is there a 10% foreign exchange buffer on the loan amount if the loan is to be converted to Sing dollars at point of disbursement anyway? Er..... let me check, was his answer.

"Anyway he left soon after. Months went by and I decided I had better keep tabs on what was going on. My concern was that things were not in place for effective disbursement of funds when settlement was due. I was repeatedly assured that all was well.

"Settlement, we were told last week, is due on 1 Dec 2011.
On Friday, 25 Nov, Citi sent an email with attached loan facility documents which required our immediate signatures - in front of a notary public.

"I asked why these were not sent earlier and was told it was because of our Australian lawyer's fault. But the documents did not come from, our lawyers - it's from Citi's lawyers...

"Anyway we got the documents signed. But I noticed that the loan amount seemed lower than what I remembered. I did my calculations and asked the loan officer why it did not translate to 70% of the purchase price. She did not know and said she would check.

"Hours went by and at about 4pm on Friday, she came back to say the amount was right....and that the loan was lower because valuation had been assessed to be much lower than the purchase price.

"You can imagine our shock. Citi had not bothered to inform us about this. I was livid to say the least. If I had not checked, the settlement date would have come and gone and incomplete settlement would have been made. Who then would have been liable? Penalties would have to be paid and we may even lose our property - all because of shoddy Citi processes.

"To add insult to injury, Citi asked that we pay for valuation costs. We refused to on principle. Citi finally agreed to waive the charges.

"The problems did not end there. I was to find out that Citi was holding AUD30,000 against the loan amount as stamp duty payment - even though the Australian authorities had yet to ask for it.

"More importantly, the property was bought off the plan which meant that stamp duty was much reduced - estimated at a mere AUD800, give or take.

"I asked Citi what right it had to ask for AUD30,000 to hold in trust when the stamp duty was not payable to them anyway. What more, the amount they were asking would not even earn interest.

"I saw no reason to give them the money when there was no documentation to show that stamp duty would be AUD30,000.

"Citi's answer: it is needed because without payment for stamp duty we can't register the property and that is collateral against the loan.That is mind-boggling to say the least. No other bank has this as a requirement. Why does Citi feel it needs to nanny its customers.

"Obviously when stamp duty is due, payment will be made. Why does Citi need to hold an amount 30 times the actual amount just so it can feel "safe"? "

Looks like Citi has a lot of explanation to do. Watch this space.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

OAC explains why it could not process claim

In a previous post, we ran a story on how insurance company Overseas Assurance Company (OAC) had refused to help a policy-holder process an accident claim.

Insurance company Overseas Assurance Company has now explained why it could not do so and I accept its explanation -- unless policy-holder Wong Shi Shen can show that the company was wrong in doing that.

In a letter to the Forum Page of The Straits Times published yesterday, OAC said:

"MR WONG Shi Shen's vehicle was involved in a traffic accident with a Malaysian-registered vehicle in Singapore.

Mr Wong filed the accident report at one of our authorised workshops during which he elected not to claim under his comprehensive Overseas Assurance Corporation (OAC) motor policy but against the Malaysian vehicle's insurer in Malaysia.

Local workshops are not set up to handle cross-border claims, and as such, they are not in a position to assist effectively.

We had advised Mr Wong to claim under his OAC policy for repairs to his vehicle. By doing so, this will give us the right, as the insurer, to recover the amount paid out under the policy from the insurer of the Malaysian vehicle.

As Mr Wong chose not to claim under his policy, OAC has no legal right to represent him in his claim.

Mr Wong's no-claim discount (NCD) will be reinstated and his premiums readjusted once the liability of the parties involved in the accident is established and the recovery is completed.

We advise motorists facing a similar situation to take photos of the damage to the Malaysian vehicle, its insurance certificate and road tax disc.

To help them, we have a dedicated section on our website on how they can report and submit a claim involving Malaysian vehicles."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Insurance company OAC 'refuses to help process an accident claim'

What really annoys me is when I come across someone refusing to perform a service when he has a duty to do so.

This morning when I read the papers, I came across a Forum Page letter in The Straits Times in which the writer, Wong Shi Shen, says that his insurance company refused to help him process an accident claim.

Here's the story for those of you who have missed it...

S'pore drivers at a disadvantage
"RECENTLY, I was involved in an accident with a Malaysian-registered car driven by a Malaysian motorist here. He and I agreed to lodge a police report and to submit our claims with our respective motor insurers.

But when I visited an authorised workshop of my insurer, Overseas Assurance Corporation (OAC), I was told that the workshop did not entertain claims against Malaysian drivers of Malaysian- registered cars because of the red tape involved. I was rebuffed by other similar workshops I called.

What was shocking was that the Malaysian driver managed to submit a claim against me. OAC informed me that it was increasing my premiums upon renewal because it had received a claim filed by the driver's Singapore workshop against me. The increase would be permanent if the claim succeeded.

When I asked OAC to process my claim because all other workshops had refused, OAC refused, stating that it was not a legal firm. I was given to understand that a Singapore motorist had to hire a lawyer to submit a claim for an accident in Singapore involving a Malaysian-registered car.

Till then, my impression was that one was covered for all accidents that happened on Singapore roads.

The irony must be obvious: Foreigners in a foreign-registered car can use Singapore workshops to make a claim for an accident against a local motorist in a Singapore-registered car plying Singapore roads.

Shouldn't the authorities ensure that the laws on our roads prioritise protection for Singapore motorists ahead of foreigners in foreign-registered vehicles?"

If what the writer says is true, I think the Monetary Authority of Singapore
should step in to put things right.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Despite her change, SQ keeps reverting to Anne Wong's old name

No one would blame frequent flyer Anne Wong if she were to develop a split personality. And reading about her recent experience with Singapore Airlines, our national airline appears to be partly responsible for her "disorder".

After her return from Hong Kong earlier this month, she sent this email to SQ on November 16:

"As you can see from my boarding pass stubs, I flew from SIN-HK (6 Nov 2011) and was Anne Wong Holloway.

"Then when I returned to Singapore yesterday I was Elizabeth Anne Wong all over again.

"Last night I printed out my boarding pass for tomorrow's flight to HKG from SIN and am Anne Wong Holloway -- this is enough to give me multi-personality disorder! Who am I?

"Also after printing out my boarding pass in HK, I got to the airport to check in my luggage and I was told that due to problems with the electronics/entertainment system I was moved from the seat I had picked out (somewhere in row 34, I think) to 31D.

"I thought to myself...this is most unusual as have found that no matter Business or Economy, one discovers the seats or the electronics are faulty only when on board. It impressed me no end that in such a big plane, SIA would have such spot-on, ahead-of-time, care-for-the-poor passenger fault reporting.

"However, I noticed during the flight that all the AISLE seats in the rows behind me were fully occupied. So obviously nothing was wrong with the electronics! I shall be wary when next time Singapore Airlines asks me to change my seat...

"In the meantime I hope that you will help me cure my multi-personality disorder."

If you have been following this blog, you would know that this was not the first time Anne had complained to the airline about the confusion over her name. She had the airline changed it to Anne Wong Holloway way back in 2005 but "for some unknown reason" it kept reverting back to her old name.

"This would be amusing if SIA was not our national carrier, but, say, India's," she messaged me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Feedback demon at Starhub

Avid tennis fan Irene Hoe was happily watching Starhub Channel 211's ATP 1000 Paris "live" on November 8 when she heard something annoying coming from the TV.

Almost immediately, she wrote to the telco's customer service to find out: "Why the hell is there LOUD background music being played during the match now?"

Four days later, Ms Hasda Yati of Starhub replied to thank her for the feeback. But what annoyed Irene was this sentence in her reply: "However, in order for us to feedback to the relevant department, we would appreciate if you would further elaborate on the incident such as the programme or time where the incident occured."

So, she shot back: "What can't you understand about Ch 211 and 'now'? And please note that 'feedback' is a noun and not a verb. Do NOT, I pray you, ask me to elaborate further."

Separately, the telco's Customer Care also sent Irene this standard reply on the same day: "We are currently experiencing higher than usual email volume and regret that we may take longer to attend to you. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused."

Without missing a beat, Irene countered: "You are NEVER going to experience anything but 'higher than usual email volume' since you keep NOT dealing with issues and instead keep the flow going with ridiculous requests for 'more information' so that you can 'feedback' some voracious feedback demon.

"And please do NOT call me to get 'more information' and 'more details' of the 'incident'."

Two days later, obviously realising the mistake it had made in its earlier reply, another customer officer Ms Mabel Lim wrote to Irene:

"Thank you for your email of 12 November 2011. Please accept our
sincere apologies on the delay of our reply due to the high volume of
emails received.

"Rest assured that your feedback regarding Racquet Channel has been
shared with the relevant parties who will look into this. We
sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused you."

Irene's rejoinder: "I assure you that I am not assured by anything I am told by Starhub. I also assure you that I am in no need of any further assurance from Starhub. I am completely assured only of the certainty that absolutely nothing will be done."

This time, Irene sent a copy to its CEO, Neil Montefiore.

Let's hope he will be able to assure Irene that Starhub means action and not just words.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Silkair flight not so smooth

We are back from our holiday in Jiuzhaizuo/Chengdu and I would like to give an update on the service that we received from Silkair.

The flight up to Chengdu was pretty pleasant. The business class crew was helpful and efficient.

One notable incident that impressed me was when the crew allowed an old man from Economy to use the Business class toilet. Otherwise he would have to walk all the way to the back of the plane to ease himself.

My choice for lunch -- fish and noodles -- turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It tasted good! But my friends who opted for the chicken and rice were disappointed.

Well, I guess it was the luck of the draw. Who's to know what to expect from airline food. You just do not get consistency.

However, I would still give a passing mark overall for our flight MI 934 to Chengdu.

The return journey was a different story altogether. It started off badly. When I tried to check in my wife for her economy flight online, I failed miserably. This despite a phone alert from the airline a day earlier asking us to do so.

Silkair's position on its website was specific -- it said in a statement in red that online check-in was not available and that passengers had to do it at the airport. WHAT A WASTE OF OUR TIME!!!

At the airport, eight of our travelling companions who were on Business class, thought we would have an easier time. Unfortunately, it was not so.

We discovered Silkair had put a trainee to man the Business check-in desk. It probably thought that the number of passengers was much fewer and therefore they did not forsee any problems.

However, it was not to be. By the time the trainee finished checking in the business class passengers, ALL the Economy passengers had already been cleared. And there must have been at least 100 of them.

What was more embarassing was that two of our friends, also on Business class, had to amble over to the Economy desk to check in, in order to speed things up.

On board, the crew was, as usual, pleasant and obliging. But the dinner was horrendous. My fish and fat beehoon was just inedible and I had to tell the stewardess to take it away.

I discovered later that I was not the only one who found the food bad. My friend Ceci thought so too. She said the stewardess could not even get the menu right when it was read to her.

She was told that one of the two dishes offered was chicken with pasta when it turned out to be something else. The stewardess later apologised to her for making the mistake.

As the return flight was delayed by 30 minutes and we finally got home past midnight, I guess there were at least two growling tummies that needed to be fed that night.