Unique ‘Twitter satyagraha’ against HDFC Bank completes 50 days: Why did the bank choose the wrong nudge?

A very interesting article. It talks about yet another person protesting on another Indian bank’s practices.

Instead of the usual protests, he wrote series of Tweets everyday for the last 50 days asking the bank to say sorry:

Bengaluru-based communications professional Karthik Srinivasan has started a unique protest to express his displeasure with what he calls an unethical programme by HDFC Bank. A popular handle on Twitter and known blogger, Srinivasan has just completed 50 days of his so-called ‘Twitter satyagraha’ against the bank’s opt-out programme for preferred customers.

The core problem is that default choice was made as opt-out:

In a blog post, Srinivasan said he received a mail from HDFC Bank on January 30 with subject “Welcome to HDFC Bank Preferred Banking Programme!” When he opened the mail, he got to know that he had been automatically enrolled into this ‘programme’ in January 2016 and will be charged Rs 100 + service charges every quarter, and if he wishes to opt out of the program, then he will have to click on a button given at the end of the email. The cost of Rs 400 per year is mentioned in fine print, that too at the bottom of the email.

“In other words, HDFC depends on the customer to,
1. open the mail,
2. read through the contents,
3. notice a way to opt-out,
4. click the opt-out link,
5. choose ‘No’ as confirmation and
6. submit the form
… to not charge him/her,” he wrote in the blog.

Calling the policy “unethical” and “disingenuous,” he said, “If the customer doesn’t perform even one of the above six tasks, he/she will be charged.”

When contacted, Srinivasan told indianexpress.com said: “Opt-out is a bad, unethical practice the world over. It should be ideally opt-in where customers volunteer to pay after knowing what it is for.” He said he asked HDFC this question and found their answer to be very evasive. “But, I fully understand that they cannot decide on things like this with their complex organisational structure and hierarchy — this is not a one-person problem but an institutional problem. The only way to make them feel compelled to address it is to use a classic media tactic – keeping the story alive. That is what I’m trying with daily tweets,” he added.

Not really. Opt-out has been useful to increase savings as Thaler etc have demonstrated.

But yes, point well taken. It is a case by case basis. In this case HDFC Bank should have followed the opt-in given customers are going to pay for the charges. Why did it choose the wrong nudge? A case of arrogance or ignorance?


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