Citizens' Issues
Allowing Fakes and Other Issues: Amazon’s Different Standards for Indian Consumers
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon with the mission to be ‘Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company’. Amazon has, indeed, set global benchmarks for how to treat a consumer. A quick Google search will throw up innumerable articles, blogs and management books that extol Amazon’s consumer focus and offer tips on how to emulate it (three ways, five ways, seven ways to be customer-centric like Amazon, etc). Jeff Bezos is so obsessed with customer service that he is known to leave an empty chair at the conference table, telling attendees that it was occupied by the “the most important person in the room”—the customer. 
 
But, if you were at a panel discussion organised by the ministry of consumer affairs (MCoA) to celebrate World Consumer Day on 15th March, you would wonder if we were talking about the same company in India. Before going into details, a caveat. My experience with Amazon has been excellent, especially for Amazon fulfilled products (delivered directly by Amazon), usually cash on delivery (CoD), barring one exception. But more about that later.
 
At the MCoA discussion, which was titled, “Consumer Disputes Resolution in the Digital Age”, a couple of activists raised issues about Amazon that should have put Jeff Bezos on the next flight to India. Instead, Avinash Ramachandra, Amazon’s director, public policy (who was also on the panel), hasn’t found time to respond to my emailed questions for five days now, despite a reminder. Here are Amazon’s issues in India, a country that is important to Mr Bezos.
 
Fraud and Fakes: An activist with one of India’s largest consumer organisations purchased a cosmetic product made by a large multinational company (MNC) through Amazon. When it was over, she purchased the same product again. The second time around, she noticed that the label looked different, so she compared it with her previous purchase. It was, indeed, different. She wrote to the manufacturer and was told that the product was a fake. The MNC, quite correctly, refused to accept responsibility. The MNC told her that it has told Amazon about fakes and provided it with a list of its official distributors. Amazon’s response was rather stunning. 
 
Mr Ramchandra claimed that Amazon cannot be held responsible for allowing fakes to be sold from its platform, because the government does not allow it to be a direct retailer and it can only operate as an online marketplace. Consequently, it cannot control products that come into its pipeline, beyond preliminary checks. Why did it not accept products only from official distributors of the company? The Amazon representative said that the MNC should get them a court order to that effect. 
 
If anyone figures out why the world’s most customer-centric company needs a legal order to ensure it sells only genuine products, rather than harmful fake ones, please tell us. Meanwhile, we would like to know what Amazon means when its website promises 100% purchase protection, which includes a guarantee of genuine products. The website says, “Sellers are committed to sell only genuine products to customers on Amazon.in. All sellers listing their products on Amazon.in are required to enter an agreement to list and sell only genuine products.” Are these mere words?
 
Three Strikes and Out: The consumer activist asked why a distributor caught selling a fake product was not blacklisted immediately. Moreover, when Amazon realises it has sold fakes (especially cosmetics), shouldn’t there be a recall of all products supplied by that seller? Amazon had no answer. Instead, Mr Ramachandra went into an elaborate explanation of Amazon’s policies and how sellers who indulge in dubious practices are given three warnings before being blacklisted. Should every seller get three chances, no matter how serious the offence? Forget about product recalls, the consumer activist said that the seller continues to operate on Amazon. 
 
We were also told about Amazon’s system of user-driven customer reviews, where even the most negative ratings are faithfully listed. This, again, is a half-truth. Certain issues, especially problems in Amazon’s service delivery, are not allowed to be uploaded by its algorithm. Consider my own example. I purchased a dhurrie from Amazon that had no CoD option and was to be delivered a good nine days later, which I could track online. There was a courier number of DHL. However, things came to a halt when the product was actually to be delivered. On receiving no further information, I called DHL only to find that the parcel number listed there was false, since DHL only handles international deliveries (first lie). 
 
On escalating the issue through a chat, Amazon gave me the seller’s number and asked me to connect with him. A conversation with the seller’s representative was an eye-opener.  He claimed he did not have my number (second lie). He also admitted that the parcel had not been couriered at all, but he had brought it along since he was going to be at a fair in Mumbai. He further said that he could only deliver the product three days later when the fair ended. It seemed pointless to cancel the order, if the product was in the city. I agreed. On the day of delivery, the seller told me that the product I had ordered wasn’t available (he probably sold it at the fair) and offered me other options (he sent photos on WhatsApp). By then, I was fed up of the whole experience and wasn’t looking at another battle to get my money back. So, I accepted an alternative which was smaller than the product I had purchased. 
 
From Amazon’s perspective, I needn’t have accepted the alternative product, so I have no complaints about it. But wouldn’t a customer-centric company want to know about the resolution of an escalated complaint? Was the seller even reprimanded for the multiple lies and shoddy delivery? Did it trigger any of the three strikes? I have no clue; nor did I hear any regret for the mess. Instead, a month later, just after the 15th March consumer seminar I referred to, I received a routine mailer asking me to review the product. On trying to post my experience as a review, I was startled to find it got rejected. On reading the review guidelines, I gathered that only product-related details are permitted; service issues need to be mailed as feedback. I didn’t find any feedback button!
 
Apni Dukaan or Haat/Marketplace?
Amazon’s peppy advertisements encourage you to consider it as ‘Apni Dukaan’, or your own shop. But that is false. Mr Ramachandra insisted that Amazon is merely a marketplace—like a ‘haat’ or fair—where different producers stock their goods and take responsibility for what they sell. He seemed to argue that it was the government’s fault that Amazon wasn’t allowed to be a retailer, and so its services in India weren’t what the world has come to accept. 
 
But hasn’t Amazon come to India with its eyes open and chosen to operate in this market, with all the constraints? Whatever may be my sympathies on the policy issue, how can Amazon use this as an excuse for something as egregious as the sale of fake products in Apni Dukaan? Remember, Amazon is already facing a class action overseas for the practice of bumping up product prices to be able to show a fantastic deal. There have been such complaints in India to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which has upheld the charges of misleading advertising, despite Amazon’s aggressive legal defence. 
 
Since all this was played out before the secretary and top officials of the MCoA, one will also wait to see whether they are even alive to the issues of online retail and the much-touted digital policy of the government. More importantly, if this is the situation with Amazon, which is consumer-focused, one can only wonder what is happening with scores of other online ‘marketplaces’ that have been proliferating over the past decade.

User

COMMENTS

Vinay Chaudhari

4 weeks ago

My experience with Amazon India since last five years has been really great but then I am very cautious in selecting sellers - I preferred related entities (Cloudtail, Olympia and so on) as first choice. I buy only prime products (as delivery and returns are handled by Amazon). I check seller ratings. I of course check product reviews but I also go through product Q&A to see how seller has responded. I am generally ready to pay a bit extra for a better seller but in my experience better sellers also has the best price in 95% cases. I do this for all my purchases from elsewhere as well as.

sameer ranade

4 weeks ago

ebay is worse! I purchased an Apple laptop and when it was delivered it i noticed that there were dents in the underbody corner. i raised a claim guarantee and also spoke to Ebay and the seller. But as was expected...to no avail. The seller agreed to immediately replace the product (a high end Apple laptop!). Admission of guilt??!! but refused to refund the money. Ebay would give no reason for rejecting the claim. I pointed out that the product description did not mention anything about dents and hence was entitled to a refund. A legal notice (sent twice!) to Ebay elicited a courtesy response the second time and nothing thereafter. Probably normal course of business for them!

Sunil Prakash

4 weeks ago

Online marketing DUKANS are getting big frauds. The companies are looking for their own booty and not what vendors are selling on their sites.

amazon is a big cheat. Fake goods, defective and priced more than MRP.

Ministry of Consumers Affairs and Ministry of commerce and ministry of digital india is keeping a blind eye. cases are filed with police on frauds, but they are also being taken lightly by Cyber crime.

we seems to be with thugs both at commerce and the Government.

Yazdi Tantra

4 weeks ago

Another harrowing incident - http://www.dailyo.in/voices/amazon-india-online-retail-sony-india-smartphones-customer-service-illegal-trading-uae-national-security-threat/story/1/12123.html
In this case, a fake was identified and reported to Amazon, but they refused to help the customer and left him to fend for himself!
Although, by and large I have been satisfied with Amazon, such stories scare you and deter you from buying big ticket items from Amazon.
Is anyone listening?

MOHAN SIROYA

4 weeks ago

This is the second time that Sucheta Dalal's day high light story appears on net and I also have a story ready on the same topic.It happened with her online petition to the Governor RBI, for arresting unreasonable banking service charges and I got a chance to bolster up that with my terrible experience with the IDBI Bank. Now this Amazon story has also my story about the terrible "Customer Service" experience from amazon . I had placed a order for an Automatic Washing Machine slated for delivery between 10 am-1 pm. Instead without informing me they changed the slot from my choice of 10 am to 8 a.m. slot for 30 March. Since the deliveryman knocked at 8-30 a.m. ,none was available to take delivery. Re-scheduled delivery was confirmed by Service executive on 31 March between 10 am to 1 p.m. What transpired thereafter is complained by me on 31 March as under:
"The CEO
Amazon.in
 "Above order  is destined to be returned to the seller " was the bolt from the blue.
Had U kept your Service Executive who spoke tome on 30 March 2320 p.m informed about this?.  He Was extra helpful, ignorant of latest updates. When I told that it appears wrongly worded button I pressed which says something for "Product return", Web only had flashed next day Delivery schedule between 1-30--- 10 30 pm slot. Button asked Wish to Cancell? I thought it is for cancelling the delivery slot so pressed but it resulted in a never imagined disaster. When said this to Mr. Danish,, he assured not to worry for that, but asked me what help I want for the product. I was happy .Requested  him to deliver next day viz; 31 Mar between 10 -1 p.m.slot. He confirmed and took a very high rating for himself, for a product which was not deliverable.
Second episode  of  Chat with one Mr. Satyender on 31 March about 4 p,.m. He just avoided his duty to handle any query about this as the product falls under "Large Appliances Team ". He has escalated for help to them  and that department will speak to me . Chat Over.
For next 2 hours no alert /message came . So in frustration requested for phone call.
Third Episode Mr. Suhas spoke to me . First he heard and agreed with all what I said, But when we reached for "Help" he said "If you want frank opinion, NOBODY CAN HELP YOU IN THIS MATTER as the product is in Transit for Return".
Now was my turn to get more confused. I said till now in my order page ,it still shows status as "Product to be delivered  beween 1-30 -10 30 p.m. slot on 31 Mar. At 4 p,m, Chat service man said it is to be handled by some other team and never said what truth was as you are telling. Why did   Mr. Danish   promised the delivery  between 10- 1 p,m, slot as was desired by me on 31 March ,Why did he say or even assured me that  no effect will come because I had pressed the cancellation for delivery slot button? Mr. Suhas could not give any reply but felt sorry and apologized. When I said were those  Service Reps were ignorant about this "Status" then he sheepishly said may be .
The million $ question is why the big online worldwide seller AMAZON  employ such system or personnel who are not updated with actual STATUS of the order and incur more Customer wrath ? Amazon will cry hoarse in telling the world that they the best in the area of 'Customer Satisfaction.
What will they call  about this TERRIBLE experience of one loyal old customer ?
Perhaps your highly qualified people do not know the Definition of Customer Satisfaction . Perhaps ROBOTS ( Who do not have human brains)have devised your website for active orders without knowing that for a mere inconvenient delivery time why a customer who already paid for the product will CANCEL it?
Yes, after delivery or seeing the product if the consumer is not satisfied,    at that point after getting feedback, Amazon could give that CHOICE to return the product thru' Amazon Courier  for refund of money. That can be understood and appreciated as a fair and consumer centric seller. Lesser online sellers like Snapdeal, Shop clues or even Indian giant Flipcart do that way. Why amazon has different para metres ?
It will be interesting to see  what Amazon has to say on the above "Terrible Customer Experience".

Thanking you
..
Mohan Siroya
Amazon now repeatedly says only "Sorry" and no more elaboration.

The CEO
Amazon.in
 "Above order  is destined to be returned to the seller " was the bolt from the blue.
Had U kept your Service Executive who spoke tome on 30 March 2320 p.m informed about this?.  He Was extra helpful, ignorant of latest updates. When I told that it appears wrongly worded button I pressed which says something for "Product return", Web only had flashed next day Delivery schedule between 1-30--- 10 30 pm slot. Button asked Wish to Cancell? I thought it is for cancelling the delivery slot so pressed but it resulted in a never imagined disaster. When said this to Mr. Danish,, he assured not to worry for that, but asked me what help I want for the product. I was happy .Requested  him to deliver next day viz; 31 Mar between 10 -1 p.m.slot. He confirmed and took a very high rating for himself, for a product which was not deliverable.
Second episode  of  Chat with one Mr. Satyender on 31 March about 4 p,.m. He just avoided his duty to handle any query about this as the product falls under "Large Appliances Team ". He has escalated for help to them  and that department will speak to me . Chat Over.
For next 2 hours no alert /message came . So in frustration requested for phone call.
Third Episode Mr. Suhas spoke to me . First he heard and agreed with all what I said, But when we reached for "Help" he said "If you want frank opinion, NOBODY CAN HELP YOU IN THIS MATTER as the product is in Transit for Return".
Now was my turn to get more confused. I said till now in my order page ,it still shows status as "Product to be delivered  beween 1-30 -10 30 p.m. slot on 31 Mar. At 4 p,m, Chat service man said it is to be handled by some other team and never said what truth was as you are telling. Why did   Mr. Danish   promised the delivery  between 10- 1 p,m, slot as was desired by me on 31 March ,Why did he say or even assured me that  no effect will come because I had pressed the cancellation for delivery slot button? Mr. Suhas could not give any reply but felt sorry and apologized. When I said were those  Service Reps were ignorant about this "Status" then he sheepishly said may be .
The million $ question is why the big online worldwide seller AMAZON  employ such system or personnel who are not updated with actual STATUS of the order and incur more Customer wrath ? Amazon will cry hoarse in telling the world that they the best in the area of 'Customer Satisfaction.
What will they call  about this TERRIBLE experience of one loyal old customer ?
Perhaps your highly qualified people do not know the Definition of Customer Satisfaction . Perhaps ROBOTS ( Who do not have human brains)have devised your website for active orders without knowing that for a mere inconvenient delivery time why a customer who already paid for the product will CANCEL it?
Yes, after delivery or seeing the product if the consumer is not satisfied,    at that point after getting feedback, Amazon could give that CHOICE to return the product thru' Amazon Courier  for refund of money. That can be understood and appreciated as a fair and consumer centric seller. Lesser online sellers like Snapdeal, Shop clues or even Indian giant Flipcart do that way. Why amazon has different para metres ?
It will be interesting to see  what Amazon has to say on the above "Terrible Customer Experience"
.Now repeatedly Amazon just says Sorry in reply ,and nothing else.
Thanking you

Mohan Siroya


Sugumar Iyer

4 weeks ago

An online seller is not a manufacturer or wholesaler. The company is only a coordinator. They depend on a supply chain either from a manufacturer or a wholesale/ retail seller.
I feel that though there are agreements and protective clauses in the agreements between the Etailer and supplier, it is a very difficult to act immediately against the seller. My point is that unless the manufacturer / retailer is honest and devoted to customer focus, Amazon by itself cannot act and prevent. However if they compensate the buyer/public and black list or stop dealing with the product/ supplier, it may act as a deterrent for such spurious suppliers.

Subba Rao

1 month ago

In their haste to be the No.1 e-tailer in the country, Amazon India seems to be cutting corners going by the instances stated in the article. But it is also a common view that some of the MNCs seem to hold that they can go scot-free even if they provide sub-standard service/products to Indian masses.

Anand Vaidya

1 month ago

Amazon does source and sell from its own subsidiary - Cloudtail, isn't it? I always try to get my orders fulfilled from Cloudtail if there is a choice.

venkat

1 month ago

I feel Amazon India's service , nowadays, is deteriorating. Recently i purchased a product, & what i observed after delivery, was they were providing this product above MRP, though i commented them with this details. They didn't respond.

Abhijit Gosavi

1 month ago

Unbelievable! I'm guessing there are more people up to fraud in India. Sounds so cliche, but true. Having said that, if complaints are lodged with Amazon about a supplier's lack of ethics, Amazon should immediately stop working with that supplier, unless the supplier gives the customer a full refund.

I'll tell you of my own experience with a supplier once. I got a second-hand book that looked very old. I complained, and they (the supplier) immediately refunded me. Also, whenever I write to Amazon, even if they say they'll respond in 48 hours, they respond in less than 4 hours. But, again, that is Amazon in the U.S.

REPLY

Abhijit Gosavi

In Reply to Abhijit Gosavi 1 month ago

Must add that this is another brilliant piece. Maybe you should combine many of these pieces and compile them into a book on case studies in Revenue Management and Project Management. Management students should find it very useful.

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Abhijit Gosavi 1 month ago

Thanks Abhijit for being so supportive. I think the book is a great idea. Must look at an e-book that will be available to a lot of people.

Raman Kalia

1 month ago

Well... It requires a lot of awareness and an equal amount of responsibility as well. On getting a good deal that delivers a working product, we don't even bother to verify it's genuineness. I personally feel markets of fake products don't impact that way. We are supposed to question every purchase and validate it on grounds of same principle that we would lean on in the events of failure or receipt of a fake products.

https://knowfakes.com/corp/Counterfeit_p_2.html

I've tried covering this in my article above.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Raman Kalia 1 month ago

Hi Raman. It was good to meet you at the delhi Seminar. will connect on email! Lets do things together for the consumer!

Ashok Kumar Gupta

1 month ago

You are correct. All Ecom sites are same in behaviour. I found on Amazon that they jack up the price and then say free shipping. It's your bad luck if get fake /inferior product. What to tell about Ecom sites, even retailer is not responsible for the product genuiness they sell

Ashok Kumar Gupta

1 month ago

You are correct. All Ecom sites are same in behaviour. I found on Amazon that they jack up the price and then say free shipping. It's your bad luck if get fake /inferior product. What to tell about Ecom sites, even retailer is not responsible for the product genuiness they sell

Simple Indian

1 month ago

I have been both a Buyer as well as a Seller on Amazon.in and can relate to all the issues (plenty more, really !) mentioned in the article above. Amazon is legally allowed to operate only as a Marketplace, hence it can't source and sell products on its own, like Flipkart used to do (through its WS Retail arm). For company boasting of customer-centricity, Amazon.in is woefully short on its assurances. After a few unpleasant experiences as a Buyer, I have stopped buying anything from Amazon.in or any other e-com site in India, as all are in the same boat. The Marketplace business model allows e-com sites to wash their hands off product quality/genuineness, but it does penalize Sellers. High time India makes a law to regulate the e-com sector to ensure certain basic/standard services to Buyers.

Bhuveneshwar Gupta

1 month ago

Amazon should immediately blacklist any such seller. Not doing so can only show their indifference to Indian customer. I had similar negative experiences with ebay.in. But so far I had no such experience with amazon.in. May be a matter of chance or I buy not many articles from them.

Ineligible people queuing up at RBI to deposit old notes: Government
Several "ineligible" people were queuing up at Reserve Bank of India (RBI) counters to deposit demonetised notes, Parliament was informed on Tuesday.
 
"Several people who are ineligible queuing up at RBI counters making the queue longer," Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.
 
"As each application has to be checked at the counters for his/her absence from the country from passport stamp marks, it is taking considerable time for counter staff. It is compounded by the incomplete documentation," he said.
 
Long queues are formed at Mumbai and Delhi only as large number of persons from the neighbouring states are turning up and several staff members have been engaged to attend to the large number of people turning up at the counters, Meghwal said.
 
"An officer of the rank of General Manger has been assigned the task at Mumbai Office. Department of Currency Management, Central Office have been advising the specific offices to deal with applicants with more sensitivity," he said.
 
As the last date for deposit by residents, who were not in India during the period from November 8 to December 30, 2016, is approaching more people are turning up, the Minister added.
 
The grace period for Indian citizens residing in India, who were abroad during November-December, 2016, is upto March 31, 2017 and for Indian citizens resident outside is up to June 30. 
 
The facility for exchange of Old currency notes is available at the RBI offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Nagpur.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

User

COMMENTS

GLN Prasad

3 weeks ago

Why they should not extend it to all other RBI branches and introduce to filter those ineligible applicants. The problem with us is we blame persons and do not develop a system to eliminate and discourage such fake persons and nip them in bed with warnings and further action.

Lakshminath Mocherla

1 month ago

If NRI obliges all and sundry in depositing a few lakhs additionally it may solve obligation of the GOVT.

Lakshminath Mocherla

1 month ago

If NRI obliges all and sundry in depositing a few lakhs additionally it may solve obligation of the GOVT.

Lakshminath Mocherla

1 month ago

If NRI obliges all and sundry in depositing a few lakhs additionally it may solve obligation of the GOVT.

REPLY

Govinda Warrier

In Reply to Lakshminath Mocherla 1 month ago

Perhaps, there's some difference in perception. I'm subject to correction. My understanding is that NRIs can get old notes exchanged only upto the limit they were allowed to carry out of India earlier and that limit was small. So, where's the question of NRIs obliging? My personal view is that genuine holders (different from hoarders) of old currency notes should have been allowed to exchange them at RBI for a longer period of time, without hurrying through a legal process hurriedly to "close" Demonetization issue. Maybe, GOI and RBI may have their own reasons for acting the way they have proceeded.

SC reserves order on plea for ban on registration of BS III emission norm vehicles
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its order on a plea seeking ban on the registration of BS-III emission vehicles from April 1, 2017, even as automobile manufacturers opposed the plea saying they needed a window to exhaust their existing inventory of BS III vehicles.
 
The bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta reserved the order after the automobile manufacturers told the court that they need six to eight months to sell their existing inventory of BS III vehicles.
 
The manufacturers have also contended that if all the vehicles in the their stocks are allowed to be sold and registered, their contribution to pollution would be microscopic - much less than one percent of the existing pollution.
 
The ban on the sale and registration of BS III vehicles was sought in an application moved by senior counsel Harish Salve, who is amicus curiae in the air pollution matter.
 
Salve had earlier told the court that most of the automobile manufacturers continued with the production of BS III emission norm vehicles even as the March 31, 2017, deadline for halt to their production was approaching.
 
Salve had told the court that there were 16,000 BS III cars, 96,720 trucks, 40,000 three-wheelers and 6,71,000 two-weelers.
 
The court said that it would pronounce its order on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
 
The Society of Indian Automobile Manufactures (SIAM), Tata Motors, Honda, Yamaha and the dealers' body have opposed ban on sale of BS III vehicles after March 31, contending that they would suffer losses by curbs on the registration of their BS III emission norm vehicles.
 
The Centre had on March 27 told the court that the March 31, 2017, deadline was for the production of BS III vehicles but their sale can continue beyond the March 31 deadline. 
 
The top court had on March 24 indicated that it may allow the sale of vehicles with BS III emission norms after imposing a charge to reimburse Rs 18,000 crore that the government had spent for upgrading the refineries to produce BS IV-compliant fuel.
 
The court had said that the money to be collected by imposing charge could be close to Rs 30,000 crore, as it would involve the cost that the government incurred in upgrading the refineries to migrate to Bharat Stage (BS) IV-compliant fuel across the country and the cost of the health of the people.
 
The court had also indicated on March 24 that it may allow the registration of BS III-compliant commercial vehicles to operate with no national permit and a rider that they would not enter major cities.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

User

COMMENTS

Lakshminath Mocherla

1 month ago

If NRI obliges all and sundry in depositing a few lakhs additionally it may solve obligation of the GOVT.

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