Highway Robbery: Another Update

I was kind of hoping this case would be resolved by now, considering it’s been just about a week since I first contacted RHB Bank. But there’s been no official word from them beyond messages from their Corporate Comms guy that he hasn’t heard back from HQ yet, and assurances that he’s on the case. That was the last couple of days. Today: nothing. Meanwhile, H has agreed to a meeting* with someone from RHB’s PJ Business Centre. I’m not sure what will come out of that, since it seems to me the bank is fixated on the dispute over the keys without acknowledging the bigger picture of the carjacking. But it was H’s car that was taken, and H’s keys; if she wants to have a meeting with RHB’s PJ Business Centre people (supposedly now the repossessor won’t be there, which is a relief), that’s entirely up to her. She said she just wants this to be over, so she’s going to attend the meeting. That’s understandable. I want this to be over too.

I’m certainly not letting go of this just yet, though. Even if H decides to accept it and move on, the fact remains that my wife was traumatised by someone who was working on behalf of RHB Bank. The fact that she wasn’t actually hurt is a relief but it doesn’t mean this isn’t serious. She could have been hurt, along with the child she’s carrying. She’s okay physically, but there are a whole lot of ways that incident could have gone differently. I’d rather not think of the possibilities; unfortunately, Leen can’t help but think of them. And I can’t help but fear that real change isn’t going to come about until someone is hurt or even killed during one of these bank-sanctioned carjackings. Considering what I’ve been hearing from people since that incident, I think it’s not unrealistic to imagine that the chances of this happening are disturbingly high, since people representing other banks also repossess cars in this manner.

The Association of Hire Purchase Companies Malaysia, the organisation with which car repossessors in Malaysia must be registered, has a Code of Ethics on Repossession, which I linked to in my first post on this issue. Interestingly enough, RHB Bank provides a copy of this code of ethics on their website:

1. As far as possible the number of authorized repossessors must be minimized unless circumstances warrant any additional assistance.
2. Repossessors should only gain entry into premises with the knowledge and consent of the occupant.
3. Repossessors should be well mannered and dress decently. They should ensure the practice of professionalism and dignity in carrying out their work.
4. The use of strong arm tactics of any kind is strictly prohibited in the performance of their work.
5. At the time of repossession, the repossessors should give a standard notice to the hirer informing him of the following:
The address and telephone number of the finance company and the authorized officers he/she can contact immediately to resolve any problems.
The repossessors must give a reasonable time to the hirer to inspect the vehicle and remove his personal items and belongings.
6. As far as possible repossession should be undertaken in the presence of the hirer or any person authorized to that car.
7. Repossessors should at all times act in accordance with the laws and regulations in the performance of their work.
8. All repossessors should be given and briefed on the Code of Ethics On Repossession and abide by its terms. They should also observe any other Code of Ethics introduced by the Association of Hire Purchase Companies Malaysia, the Association of Finance Companies Malaysia and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs from time to time.

Number four looks pretty black and white to me. I’d say carjacking falls under “strong arm tactics”, and that the code of ethics has definitely been breached in this case. But is this code of ethics legally binding, or is it just a guideline? Who should be held accountable? The repossessor/carjacker, Nathan A/L Supramaniam? The company he works for, PJ Auto Mart? Or the financial institution that ordered the repossession, RHB Bank? Someone needs to take responsibility for this.

I suppose if any meaningful action — and any real change — is to take place, it will have to come from the top; in this case the top is the bank. But maybe we shouldn’t be expecting any banks to make the necessary changes on their own. In the world of Malaysian banking , the top spot is occupied by Bank Negara, the National Bank. I was advised to go straight to them by a friend a couple of days ago; that’s probably exactly what we should do. Heck, we should have done that in 2003 when AM Bank swept our fraud case under the carpet. Another option is to go to the AHPCM, or to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

First, though, let’s see what comes out of that meeting.

*UPDATE: There’s no meeting. H called them back and told them she doesn’t want to meet with them after all, and that if anything happens to her or her car, they’re responsible. Nice. But this isn’t over yet.