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Were you unable to pay online at www.hsbcaccount.com or www.hrsaccount.com? Did you find out you could not pay your monthly statement or bill at the store? Did you try to make a payment at Best Buy only to be turned away? Were you forced to pay by phone, only to be charged an additional fifteen dollars? Then you found out you were billed for fifteen dollars at the highest interest rate possible on your next statement, didn't you? They said it was a new purchase, didn't they? Well here is your letter:

The following was sent to the OCC and FBI on behalf of consumers. You can print it and send it again as supporting documentation. You can attach it to any complaints you send.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
1301 McKinney Street
Suite 3450
Houston, Texas 77010-9050


And


Federal Bureau of Investigation
Attn: RICO Investigations
1300 Summit
Kansas City, Missouri 64105-1362


SUBJECT: HSBC NORTH AMERICA AND HSBC FINANCE CORPORATION

The purpose of this communication is to confirm the accuracy of consumer complaints relative to Household International and HSBC, the specifics of which are outlined below. We are Household HSBC Watch, a consumer watchdog organization that operates www.householdwatch.com and other support sites which facilitate our ability to perform trend analysis from consumer reports.

During the approximate period from I5 January through today an extremely and abnormally high volume of consumer complaints pertain to the customers inability to make payments through the Internet using the HSBC online payment website at www.hrsaccount.com. We believe this is a trend that may have huge ramifications for the consumer. The trend may also show predatory tactics on the part of HSBC, HSBC North America, and HSBC Finance Corporation. A telephone number is clearly published for online support for www.hrsaccount.com and that support number is 1-800-298-4240. Any major US corporation with technical support staff can correct a non-functioning website in a short period of time, or post a notice to the website that the site is not in operation. HSBC Finance Corporation did neither.

Consumers are faced with two options if they cannot pay online. The first option is to mail their payment to the company. As evidenced by Shea v Household, during the period from 1994 through 2004 payments were credited late. HSBC purchased Household International in October 2002, thus they owned Household International for two years or the period covered by Shea v Household. Many consumers, upon discovering they could not pay online through the designated website, were already too far into the billing cycle to mail a payment in time for it to post in the billing cycle. Their other option was to call the company, making a payment by phone, for which they were charged an additional $15.

For those who missed the billing cycle cutoff, if they had a "no interest" plan such as no interest for 6 months, 12 months, etc., the account was declared in default of the terms and all interest was added to the account balance. The interest rate also increased. Late fees were added. Credit reporting mandates the account shall be shown as "late 30" at all three major credit reporting agencies. In some cases consumers reportedly were not told of the $15 telephone payment charge, thus the account was automatically put in a past due status because the payment appeared to be $15 short.

We operate a consumer advocacy hotline supported by United States and United Kingdom telephone numbers. We also operate a Live Help Center in conjunction with our websites. Through both of these channels we spoke to many HSBC customers during the period. Others posted complaints in our forums. Our statistics reflect approximately 300 visitors per day who cannot pay online at HSBC. For a period of almost eight weeks, this represents approximately 18,000 people. Statistically only 4 percent of consumers complain to advocacy and complaint websites. We have operated our websites for almost five years and have experience in trend analysis and investigation. Our researchers firmly believe this is a new trend that is alarming and out of the ordinary, even for the former predatory lender Household International and HSBC. Accordingly HSBC says they have over sixty million accounts.

Consider the benefit to HSBC. 18,000 people represent a possible profit to HSBC of $270,000 in telephone payment fees at $15, or $630,000 in late fees at $35. The average amount of interest called due on a $1000 balance is $285. That total multiplied by 18,000 is $5.13 million. Household, a.k.a. HSBC, only paid $11 million to settle Shea v Household and those violations of FDIC Regulation Z took place from 1994 through 2004. We can clearly see where the consumer is hurt financially while the company benefits from substantial revenue that is derived from questionable practices. Suffice it to say that Household, and later HSBC, denied the accusations in Shea v Household, but our researchers, analysts, and investigators confirm that the violations were taking place and continue to take place to this day.

The action described herein suggests possible RICO actions, thus this letter is also sent to the FBI in Kansas City Missouri. The contract between HSBC and their merchants guarantees "ongoing compensation" to the merchants. Most, if not all, of the accounts for which consumers attempt to make monthly payments using the non-functioning www.hrsaccount.com are private label credit card accounts. Thus the merchant attracts the consumer into their place of business, sells a product, and HSBC provides the financing. Referencing RICO charges pending against H&R Block and Beneficial, another HSBC Household International company, it is claimed the defendants "operated a scheme to defraud customers, distinct from the other ordinary business dealings each conducted, whereby Block would attract and mislead customers into purchasing extremely expensive loans from Beneficial in exchange for a cut of the profits."

In an Alabama case it says "HRS conducted this scheme to defraud its customers, including the Plaintiff[s] and members of the class, to increase its profits by not disclosing and then assessing its customers with hidden charges and fees." HRS is Household Retail Services, and is the same entity that we are discussing in this letter. Now called HSBC Retail Services, this is the same company that consumers attempt to pay using www.hrsaccount.com.

At this time the SEC is conducting an informal investigation into one of the merchants that has a contractual relationship with HSBC. That merchant is Birmingham Alabama based Saks. There are over 60 merchants involved in this scheme. The largest merchant involved is Best Buy, which has recently been charged with deceptive advertising in two states. Perhaps the SEC can expand the scope of its investigation to examine ongoing compensation from HSBC. Either the merchants know that ongoing compensation has increased and they are a part of it, or HSBC is not paying the merchants in accordance with their contracts and HSBC is keeping the profits, but either way the consumer is the target of the abuse. Much of what we see now, and what we saw with Shea v Household, is a clear violation of FDIC regulation Z.

CONCLUSION:

HSBC and the former Household International tied the consumer's hands. If they took part in the $484 million nationwide predatory lending settlement they cannot sue the company today. If they have a credit card they are bound by binding arbitration and cannot sue. The courts looked at the terms of the binding arbitration and said it was oppressive and almost illegal, but it was upheld as legal. Analysts estimate during the ten years of Shea v Household $11 Billion was derived from questionable predatory tactics, but HSBC settled without admitting guilt and the settlement was only $11 million. Consumers clearly need the help of regulators and authorities. Their hands are tied. They cannot do anything without you. Please look in to the circumstances outlined in this document.

Respectfully submitted by
Household - HSBC Watch Consumer Advocates

CC:

Brendan McDonagh
Chairman and CEO
HSBC Finance Corporation
2700 Sanders Road, Prospect Heights, IL 60070


Reports to HSBC global headquarters in London which document complaints and McDonagh's performance relative to complaints can be sent to this address:

HSBC Plc, 8 Canada Square, E14 5HQ London England

Footnote: Letters like this, which document complaints and the CEO's performance, may have helped HSBC when HSBC fired former CEO Bobby Mehta and executive Sandy Derickson

This is just one of our articles referencing HSBC complaints about mortgages, Bestbuy, credit cards, auto loans, fees, and late payment processing.

Author's Note: Don't forget to visit the Action Engine for help, downloads, or to search for more articles like this. HSBC Watch gives you more than just articles. Send us your complaint using the live help system at the bottom of each page

Notes

 

HSBC Watch monitors HSBC customer trends for possible violations of Regulation Z and other possible illegal actions. We use your individual HSBC complaints and merchant complaint reports to perform trend analysis. We are not associated with HSBC, Household International, or their merchants. Some items are used by permission granted in the Fair Use guidelines of the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act. HSBC Watch was formerly known as Household Watch is now part of the Lender Watch network

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