HDFC Bank Gold Debit Card: NCDRC Upholds District & State Commission's Order; Asks To Settle Accident Insurance Claim Filed in 2009
Moneylife Digital Team 18 January 2023
Upholding the orders passed by the lower fora, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) has dismissed a revised petition filed by HDFC Bank Ltd. Both, the district forum and the state commission, had asked HDFC Bank to indemnify the complainant as per the insurance coverage offered under the gold debit card (GDC) issued by the lender. In 2009, Rani Singh from Jharkhand had first filed the complaint in the Hazaribagh district consumer disputes redressal commission. 
 
In an order passed earlier this month, the bench of C Viswanath, presiding member and Subhash Chandra, member, says, "From the records it is apparent that the petitioner (HDFC Bank) has challenged the impugned order on the very same grounds which were raised before the district forum as well as the state commission in appeal. The concurrent findings on facts of these two foras are based on evidence led by the parties and documents on record. The present revision petition is, therefore, an attempt by the petitioner to urge this Commission to re-assess, re-appreciate the evidence, which cannot be done in revisional jurisdiction. The counsel for the petitioner has failed to show that the findings in the impugned order are perverse."       
 
"The foras below have pronounced orders which are detailed and have dealt with all the contentions of the petitioner. It is seen that the orders of these fora are based on evidence on record. In view of the settled proposition of law that where two interpretations of evidence are possible, concurrent findings based on evidence have to be accepted and such findings cannot be substituted in revisional jurisdiction, this petition is liable to fail," it says.
 
In an order, the district forum had directed HDFC Bank to indemnify the complainant as per the insurance cover assured along with compensation of Rs3,000, litigation cost of Rs2,000 and pay an interest at the rate of 9%. On 30 October 2015, the state commission, while upholding the order passed by the district forum, had dismissed the petition filed by the lender. 
 
In 2009, Rani Singh's husband Raj Kumar Singh was issued the gold debit card by HDFC Bank. The card had an accident insurance cover for Rs5 lakh included as an additional benefit.
 
HDFC Bank stated that on 5 January 2009, it changed the terms and conditions with respect to the personal accident cover for the cardholder by incorporating the condition that the cover would be available only if there was one transaction from the debit card within a period of six months prior to the death of the cardholder. According to the lender, this change was communicated to Mr Singh on 5 January 2009 by way of the bank statement and also by way of a letter. This information was also displayed in the branches of HDFC Bank.
 
On 29 March 2009, Mr Singh expired in an accident, after which his wife on 24 April 2009 submitted an accidental insurance claim under the GDC scheme. However, HDFC Bank rejected the claim for accidental insurance stating that Mr Singh, the cardholder, had not completed a transaction on his GCD in the six months prior to his demise.
 
Ms Singh then filed a complaint in the district forum against HDFC Bank. The Hazaribagh district forum, while allowing the complaint, asked the lender to pay the insurance amount along with interest at 9%pa (per annum) under the GDC from the date of filing of the complaint till the date of payment.
 
HDFC Bank challenged the order in the Jharkhand state consumer commission. However, the state commission also dismissed the plea filed by the lender. In its order, the state commission noted, "...change was not prospective in nature and against the terms and conditions of the Bank noted above. If such a term would have been made prospective, the policyholders would be obliged to make at least one purchase transaction using debit card within a period of next six months to avail the insurance cover, but in the present case the policy hold had neither any knowledge of such condition nor had any opportunity to comply with the same. As noticed above, the said changes were effective from 1 March 2009, whereas the policyholder died on 29 March 2009."
 
"It may also be noted here that the complainant proved payment of the debit card annual fee for the year 2009. The comprehensive insurance cover was included in the said GDC as an additional facility. Therefore, the Bank wrongly said that Rs500 annually was never charged to maintain the insurance policy. Admittedly, it was charged for an additional facility of GDC," the state commission says.
 
After hearing both sides and perusing orders from the Supreme Court on revisional jurisdiction under the Consumer Protection Act, NCDRC found no illegality or infirmity or perversity in the orders passed by the two foras. "The present revision petition is, therefore, found to be without merits and is accordingly dismissed," it says.
 
(Revision Petition No1024 of 2016   Date: 4 January 2023)
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