Every problem doesn’t need one to go to consumer court, but I won’t stop anyone if they want to
Having received many questions on a popular post on how to file a consumer court complaint (in Bangalore), I have decided to give some alternative and easier steps to take before thinking of filing a consumer court complaint.
If I see the maximum number of problems based on comments and emails received, they fall into these categories:
1. Defects found in newly purchased mobile phones. I suggest to follow up with manufacturer directly as part of warranty, unless this is something which is solely a mistake by retailer. Usually retailers will give a new phone in an unopened box, and many people are livid when they find on opening the box some obvious defect in the phone. Well, the retailer didn’t open the box and put the defective piece there so it is like one of those rare cases where you got the box with a defective phone. The right way is to call the retailer for advice on best way to follow up, because he might be able to expedite a replacement or repair. But don’t haggle with him if he says you have to follow up with manufacturer directly. That’s the truth: warranty is given by manufacturer and not retailer.
NOTE: mobile and smart phone related queries seem to be a common issue. But what I am seeing is that people haven’t done much homework BUT probably expect an easy solution after sending me an email. No, it’s not that simple. Read the terms and conditions of the retailer, the manufacturer warranty etc; try those solutions first; and then try the online govt portals below, and only after these don’t work start thinking about filing consumer complaint. Because a consumer complaint will anyway take more time to resolve, so it should be used for serious issues and you should be willing to spend a little effort and be patient for a few months at the minimum. If you don’t have a usable phone in the meantime, buy a new one and claim return and refund for the problematic phone in your consumer complaint.
2. Fees for a service taken in advance, service not taken by customer, but company not refunding the amount. I advise to follow up in writing with the company, and then with government consumer sites, and going to consumer court as the last option.
3. Telecom complaints related to mobile/data pack/3G/ internet/broadband/DTH: Mostly these are of the variety that a bill or extra charge has been levied for a service not consumed. Or the company has charged for repair of modem/router/settop box when it should not. These are again some of the problems solved most of the time by opening complaint on government sponsored consumer sites.
4. General complaints about defective product. Try government sites below, failing which consumer court.
The government sponsored consumer sites
The websites are operated under different ministries, and frankly I don’t see any information as to how they are related to one another or which one is better for what kind of complaints. Basically, it seems each ministry/department has got some budget sanctioned and they are operating their own site without much concern about if the same is being duplicated elsewhere or how best to coordinate among themselves. I right now don’t have the time to get into finding out which consumer site is for what purpose when we are already frustrated with pending consumer issues! But would welcome if someone can share their feedback.
1. CORE website http://core.nic.in/. This site is operated by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and public distribution. I used to like it a lot initially and solved many small and refund issues through them, even though it used to fail in complaint submission many a time. Lately I have been completely frustrated due to the server busy error at their website almost all the time, and have stopped going there. Which means these days I derive my satisfaction vicariously when someone else files a consumer complaint or gets his/her problem solved
2. National Consumer Helpline 1800 11 4000. I haven’t used it but got to know recently when someone commented about his own consumer issue. They also seem to be under Ministry of Consumer affairs but not clear why they need to duplicate what CORE website was already doing. They stress on the word helpline and provide toll free as well as paid phone and SMS based help. From their site:
National Toll Free No–1800-11-4000 Other users can dial- 011-23708391 (normal call charges applicable). SMS can also be sent to +918130009809 (charges apply) mentioning the name and city .
They do seem to have online complaint link also. I haven’t tried either one so far.
3. Banking related complaints. Though I haven’t received lot of such complaints yet, the banking ombudsman is an authority to approach for bank and credit card issues. I successfully got reversed late charges by Standard Chartered bank which were not late according to me since I used to pay around same time every month, but just before renewal of card (another standard trick) they had levied the late charges. The procedure to make complaint with them is that first you need to file complaint with the concerned bank, and on unsatisfactory reply you can go ahead and complaint to banking ombudsman. As of this date, they seem to have an online form for submission. I believe I had used it earlier to send an email complaint along with scan of the letters but don’t remember exactly whether I had send a hard copy also by speed post. Someone can confirm if the below website for online lodging of complaint works for them (it gives security exception so you have to make whitelist/exception for this URL in browser):
4. Insurance related complaints. Have received 1 query related to insurance. You can try complaining to company first, then IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority), and then consumer court if all else fails. For IRDA, many years back I had filed a complaint via speed post but not sure if they have an online form too.
5. TRAI (Telecom regulatory authority of India): For complaints more related to policy like about terms of service, service etc of all telecom and DTH issues, you can approach TRAI. I had approached them many years back about an issue with Tata sky alerts shown on TV, and they did follow up with Tata sky who replied to me on that issue. But in general, I don’t have much hope with them given they allowed mobile operators to run spam SMS and telemarketing operations through their networks for many years without imposing meaningful penalties to stop those spam SMS and phone calls.