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Protecting Consumer Rights

Why is it that companies across the world are turning to India? What is so extraordinary about the Indian market that the biggest retail chains of the world are joining hands with their Indian counterparts to establish themselves here? It is nothing but effect of ever increasing purchasing power of Indian consumers which has made India a major investment destination. Everyone wants to sell their product in India. Well, this is something we can be proud of and be happy about too. There are advantages to being the most preferred investment hub of the world from an economic point of view and as a consumer we get more choices, the latest technology, competitive prices and easy access to world class products and consumer durables.

But despite all these things, there is one thing where the consumers are having tough time in protecting their consumer rights. Still despite having so much of awareness about consumer issues, big companies are taking advantage of the legal system and the comparatively unaware Indian consumers. The Indian consumer has become more demanding when it comes to purchasing power but still, a lot is to be done when considering enforcement of consumer rights. The majority of consumers are still unaware of their rights. The consumer courts in the Indian system do not offer a speedy and effective compensation and redressal system to the consumer.

Ms. Saumya, a working professional purchased a washing machine and fridge from a well-known brand this summer. She specifically told the seller that she lives in a joint family and needs a heavy duty machine to handle the load accordingly. But within two months of purchase the product started showing problems. The main pulley of the washing machine had broken. That was the start of a depressing phase of dealing with customer care executives. The contact number provided by the dealer was not in service anymore and to make matters worse the seller told her that it's no more their responsibility as the warranty had expired. After getting the service center’s number and having listened to long minutes of hold music she got through to an untrained executive to whom she had to explain problem. Somehow she managed to register the complaint and it was promised to her that some representative will visit her with in one working day but that ultimately materialized after two days. To make matters worse, the representative told her that the company doesn't cover breakage even without looking at the machine. When she explained to them that the machine broke spontaneously due to increased pressure and the manufacturing fault he agreed to send a technical representative to her. The cycle of calling the service center and waiting started again. This situation not only reflects the story of Saumya but of many of us who go through such humiliation while availing post sale services. Once the product is sold, the attitude of the seller and company undergoes a sea of change. In such situations what precautions and steps must we take to safeguard our interests?

The first thing we need to ensure is that once the product starts having a problem then everything done or said in relation thereof should be in black and white. Even while making a complaint to the help line number, one written complaint should be sent to the customer care preferably to their email. This can serve as a good record and evidence to show the history of the problem with the product at a later stage if the matter goes to consumer court. Having anything on paper makes it hard for anyone to deny that particular fact. In case of a telephonic conversation, though it's not possible to have a written record, one must keep a record of the calls like what time and for what purpose they were made and what was the response thereto. You must write down the reference number for all the complaints made over the telephone.

Another thing, you should always redress your complaint to the seller also. The seller can in no circumstances wash his hands off his responsibilities by saying that the warranty is by the company and he has nothing to do with it. If you will address your complaints to the seller or make him a party to the legal proceedings he is bound to take interest in your problem for his own benefit and will pursue the complaint with the company at a personal level too. There is a fair chance that the company will take a sellers complaint seriously. The seller is making profit from the same product for which you have paid the consideration.

It has also been seen that the company's contact numbers keep changing very rapidly. In that case, the internet can be a good source to update yourself and have latest contact information. These days, there are mechanisms available on the web site of company itself where you can register a complaint. Not only this, you can also register your product with company and have extra benefits. If your product is registered with the company they will have a ready record of all the things and can provide you with expedite services.

When any part is required to be replaced or repaired then you must satisfy yourself regardless of whether the damaged part was due to normal wear and tear of the product, especially if the fault was not caused by you. If that is the case you are not liable to pay for it. If you are feel that the damaged part was due to mishandling then you can pay for the part to be replaced. You must take a slip / invoice from representative for the same. It will help and ensure that you have been charged for right thing and for the right amount. Also ask for the warranty of the replaced part as there may be a chance that particular part may get damaged again. At times it happens that at the relevant time the receipt or invoice of the product is not traceable. In that situation you can pay at that time for the services availed subject to reimbursement at a later time. You can also have a duplicate invoice issued from the seller by giving him suitable information regarding the date of purchase etc. At the time of purchase itself you can find out with the company whether they provide onsite warranty or not and if the warranty services are available globally. If you are an international traveller then having an international warranty is of immense help. For example if you are a software engineer and expecting that in the near future you will be sent for training abroad, then international warranty would be of assistance.

And whenever company representatives or technical representatives come you must fill out a copy of the customer feedback form in which you must express your remarks. You must express your remarks regarding matters like the representative had come later than promised time or if you are not satisfied with the services extended.

Post sale services are a major consumer issue which needs to be dealt with great heed right from the time of purchase. Other things become meaningless if the post-sale services are not in order. One should not hesitate to ask for information at the time of purchase itself. Consumers must think about all the aspects carefully and patiently at point of purchase. It's not just the price of product which needs to be concentrated upon.