Hi, My situation is as follows:
I have an account with Citibank Bahrain but I don’t live in Bahrain anymore, just use the account for some bill payments and creditcard which is very good to provide airline miles. I Have been thru a situation with them that recently my creditcard was cloned in a different country (the country that I actually live) and although the card has been used by someone else they say I’m liable for the transactions (different signature) and etc.
I have said to citibank many times about this case but they refuse to cancel this debt from the card and I don’t want to pay something I didn’t buy or use the credit card for.
My question is: Since they don’t acknolledge that I simply want to leave this debt there and the account will be closed automatically. Is that OK ? (I understand its not perfect but i found that is the only solution, correct?
In this case, can I come back to Bahrain one day? What about GCC countries ? Can citibank reach another account i hold with them in another country and take the money ?
How serious is this based on Bahraini law, is it just a citibank bahrain issue, or there is law enforcement involved?
Citibank Bahrain claims to abide by the Bahrain Code of Best Practice on Consumer Credit and Charging.
A. About this Code
- This Code has been prepared jointly by the Banker’s Society of Bahrain (“BSB”) and the Central Bank of Bahrain (“Central Bank” or “CBB”). It sets out minimum standards for retail banks and financing companies (thereafter referred to as Central Bank licensees or Licensees) to follow when providing credit and other services on which fees and/or interest (profit margin in case of Shari’a compliant financing) are payable by personal customers in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
- This Code applies where any Central Bank licensee provides to a consumer:
- Loans, overdrafts, etc.
- Any other type of financial product creating a creditor – debtor relationship (including Shari’a compliant credit facilities of all types).
- Any other financial service for which a Central Bank licensee charges a fee.
- Adherence to this Code is mandatory for all Central Bank licensees. Consumers are encouraged to inform the Central Bank where they believe there has been non-compliance with the Code.
B. Principal Commitments
The overriding duty of all Central Bank licensees is to act fairly, responsibly and reasonably in their dealings with consumers. The four overriding principal commitments are:
- Licensees should make sure that all advertising and promotional literature relating to consumer loans, credit and charging is clear and not misleading in any way.
- Licensees should give clear information and provide clear documentation about products and services they offer, including the application procedures, terms & conditions, interest/profit rates and breakdown of charges that apply.
- Licensees should provide their customers with regular statements, at least every six months. Any changes to interest/profit rates, charges or terms and conditions should be intimated in writing (i.e., by letter or electronically) prior to the change. It is the duty of the consumer to inform the bank of changes in contact address immediately.
- Licensees should deal sympathetically with cases of genuine financial difficulty and treat all customer personal information as private and confidential.
C. Helping the Customer Choose a Product which Meets their Needs
For each new (or potentially new) customer, licensees should:
- Give transparent and factual information on the key features and benefits of the product(s) the customer is interested in.
- Advise customers on the various delivery channels of products (e.g. through the internet, over the phone, in different branches, etc.) and tell customers how they can find out more about such products.
- Once a product is selected by a customer, the licensee will inform the customer of applicable details and the criteria for provision of such a product.
D. Interest /Profit Rates
- Licensees must inform consumers when they are contemplating buying a product or at any time they ask how and where they can find information about interest/profit rates. For example:
- by looking at the notices in the branch (or branches);
- by looking on the website, and/or
- by asking staff
- Licensees must provide consumers with written information about the initial interest rates that apply to their loan when such interest is payable, as well as the notification of changes. Shari’a compliant institutions must provide consumers with written information on equivalent forms of charging (such as “profit rates” etc.), and references to obligations concerning “interest/profit rates” in this Code shall be construed accordingly.
- A licensee must give a full explanation of how the interest (profit margin in case of Shari’a compliant financing) is calculated.
- Licensees must publicise in branches, on websites and in their schedule of charges the annual percentage rate (APR) and bring this to the attention of new customers.
- Licensees must inform customers of any changes to interest/profit rates in an effective manner before they take effect.
- When interest/profit rates change, licensees must update this information on their websites within two working days. Licensees must also advise the old rate so that customers can compare how the new rate has changed.
E. Lending/ Financing
- Before a licensee makes a loan or provides any other form of credit, it must assess whether the customer will be able to repay, given its knowledge of the customer’s current circumstances.
- If an overdraft (or any other type of facility) is repayable “on demand”, licensees should make this clear to the customer.
- Licensees should comply with Central Bank rules on consumer finance.
- Customers must be given details of any charges that apply (or may apply) to the product or service they are intending to purchase, including:
- Administration / arrangement fees.
- Pre-payment charges.
- Default interest rates.
- Customers must also be given information on where to find out about charges, for example:
- phoning the helpline;
- looking at the website, and/or
- asking staff
- If a licensee increases any charges or introduces a new charge, it must inform the customer before the charge take effect. If the customer does not accept the increase or new charge, the licensee should give the customer the option of terminating the relationship within 15 days of application of the charge. If the consumer does not terminate the relationship within this time, it will be deemed as accepted.
- Licensees should advise customers of any charges both before a product or service is provided and at any time the customer asks.
- Licensees should ensure that all charges are justifiable for the service
and products provided to customers.
- Licensees that have web sites should publicise their charges on their site.
G. Financial Difficulties
- Licensees should always endeavour to discuss financial difficulties with their customers before taking legal proceedings.
- Where possible, licensees should consider alternative arrangements to enable customers to overcome their repayment difficulties.
- Licensees should provide customers with a minimal level of counselling on debt problems.
- Licensees must have in place a formal customer complaints procedures and a copy of this should be submitted to the Central Bank. Moreover, licensees should appoint a customer complaints officer and publicise his/her contact details at all branches.
- Licensees must inform customers of the complaints procedures and should provide a written leaflet outlining the procedures.
- Licensees should acknowledge in writing customer complaints received in writing within 5 working days of receipt.
- Within 4 weeks of written acknowledgement to the customer, licensees should respond in writing explaining their position and how they propose to deal with the complaint.
- If a customer is not satisfied with a licensee’s response, the licensee should advise the customer on how to take the complaint further within the organisation.
- In the event that they are unable to resolve a complaint, licensees must outline the options that are open to that customer to pursue the matter further, including, where appropriate, referring the matter to the Compliance Directorate at the Central Bank.
- The customer complaints officer (who may be the same person as the Compliance Officer) should also monitor the licensee’s adherence to this Code.
- The Central Bank may, from time to time, ask the Compliance Officer to report on the licensee’s record of adherence to the Code.
- Licensees should implement this Code and ensure that their staff are fully familiar with it.
- Copies of the Code should be made available to customers and notices should be displayed in all branches and on websites explaining that copies of the Code are available.
- The Central Bank will also display a copy of this Code on its own website.
For the avoidance of doubt, this Code shall not have any legal implications, and the provisions therein shall be subject to the rules of the CBB Rulebook. Source
I think you have a valid complaint that Citibank in Bahrain seems to want to ignore. Don’t let them.
In order to protect yourself from any surprises in any GCC country you must peruse this matter to a satisfactory resolution. This means that you should follow the formal complaint procedure as stated by Citibank in their banking code above in section H.
Make sure that all of your correspondence is in writing and it would be best if you had some proof of delivery proof of delivery if possible. When you file your complaint let Citibank Bahrain know that if this matter is not resolved that you plan to file a formal complaint with the Central Bank of Bahrain according to the banking code that Citibank ascribed to.
The Central bank of Bahrain says:
Customers of licensed financial institutions are expected to raise the matter first with the institution concerned, should they have a complaint about a service or product. Only when they have exhausted the institution’s own complaints procedures should they contact the Central Bank of Bahrain (‘CBB’), using the complaint form.
The Central Bank of Bahrain reviews complaints to see if there have been any breaches of its regulatory requirements. It also monitors complaints received to see if there are any noticeable trends.
Consumers should note that they are responsible for making sure they are clear up front about the contract terms of any products or services they obtain. They are unlikely to obtain redress, unless the financial institution concerned has broken these contract terms, has failed to disclose material information, or has otherwise acted in an unreasonable manner.
Now I have seen cases in the UK where the bank claimed that a skimmed card was the responsibility of the card holder because for the card to be cloned it must not have been properly secured by the cardholder. That is a ridiculous statement. It was latter proven that a card can be cloned wirelessly without the card ever leaving the security of the cardholder when run though a till with a skimming device. It’s just another argument designed to prevent you from being treated fairly.
The key to a resolution here is going to be to follow the official procedure for complaint, escalate, and document. If you have not received a satisfactory resolution after all of that then I would advise you to provide copies of your now complete complaint to a lawyer in Bahrain to pursue the matter fully.
You must take this matter seriously since the laws in the GCC for debt problems are severe and can result in imprisonment.