Have you ever experienced a sense of dissatisfaction after buying a product, felt helpless and not known how to go about getting the issue redressed? As consumers, we expect to get a correct measure of whatever we purchase. Back in the day, some shop keepers blatantly cheated their customers by sticking magnets to their weighing scale, making the actual quantity of the product weigh less than what the customer requested for. Even today, there are a large number of brands that ‘cheat’ their customers in a wide variety of ways. How then, do we as consumers go about getting value for our hardearned money?
Know your rights
For starters, it is important to be aware of your rights as a consumer. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 states that as consumers, we have the following rights in India:
• Right to choose: Consumers have the right to choose from a large variety of products and services, priced competitively and with the assurance of good quality and service.
• Right to be heard: Consumers are assured that they will be represented so that their interests and complaints are heard with sympathy and understanding.
• Right to redressal: Consumers have the right to fair settlement of just claims that enables them to receive compensation for misrepresentation or for inferior goods and services.
• Right to consumer education: Consumers have the right to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be an informed consumer.
• Right to information: Consumers have the right to be protected against fraudulent, deceitful and misleading information, advertising or labelling needed to make an informed decision.
• Right to safety: Consumers must be protected against the marketing of goods that are hazardous to health or life.
Now that you are acquainted with your rights as a consumer, it is important to act on them if you need redressal for a certain product or service that failed to satisfy.
Power to the people
There are a number of ways to go about the process of redressal. In fact, when combined, these methods are sure to offer you some form of justice. Filing a redressal at the consumer court would be the first thing that comes to mind when a consumer seeks justice against malpractices on the part of a retailer or manufacturer. A written complaint needs to be filed before the District Consumer Forum for a pecuniary value of up to rupees twenty lakh, the State Commission for a value up to rupees one crore and the National Commission for any value above rupees one crore with regards to defective goods or services.
Raise your voice (online)!
It is common knowledge that in India, going through the legal route can turn out to be a futile attempt with much wastage of time, energy and resources involved. Hence, to ensure prompt redressal, the Government of India has facilitated an online registration process that allows the consumer to register complaints via the Internet. Known as CORE (Consumer Online Resource and Empowerment) Centre, this grievance system offers a dual platform to consumers and large companies alike. In addition to helping consumers get their grievances redressed, CORE also runs a customer retention programme that helps large companies retain their customers and build their brand around them.
To lodge a grievance online, one needs to visit the CORE website (www.core.nic.in). Once the complaint is registered, it is forwarded to the complaint manager, who then goes through the complaint to check its legitimacy. If it is found to be genuine, an alert is sent to the brand in question, after which, the company’s response is directly published below the complaint in the assigned area. The consumer is also notified about the same and is requested to comment on his or her satisfaction with the response. But if the complainant is not satisfied, he or she can write back to the CORE Centre in confidence. A dedicated CORE complaint manager will once again take up the issue with the concerned brand for an amicable resolution.
The online forum of the consumer court of India (www. consumercourt. in) is yet another effective route for consumers to seek justice against dissatisfaction against consumer brands. The website is user-friendly and is divided into different areas of consumer goods and services.
Brands Go Social
Besides lodging a grievance via the CORE Centre and on the consumer court of India website, many unhappy Indian consumers find that speedier redressal is achieved by harnessing the Internet, particularly social media like Twitter and Facebook. Interestingly, every major Indian consumer brand and service such as Airtel, SpiceJet, Kingfisher, Pepsi, Garnier, Cafe Coffee Day, Vodafone and Nestlé happen to have a Twitter and Facebook profile. According to a recent research, approximately 40 per cent of Indian consumers use social networking websites to air their problems with regards to consumer brands and services. Whether you want to complain against a faulty product or a service that has not been provided to you, social media networks seem to be the quickest way to get your issue addressed. The viral nature of such media is what makes brands bend backwards to satisfy their customers in an attempt to hush down all sorts of negative publicity. A large number of companies have hired professionals to respond to irate online messages. For instance, Airtel’s social networking team always gives complaining customers a timeframe by which the company will revert. The Indian consumer is getting more aware. Thus, the day is not far off when they will be truly empowered.
A consumer’s guide to justice
Volume 1 Issue 8