Beware: The Sham of Consumer Grievance Redressal
Most manufacturers and service providers have email IDs where customers can send in their complaints regarding unsatisfactory products or services.
 
Write to them, and you promptly get a response with a PR spiel, saying “Thank you for writing to us. We are looking into your grievance and strive to serve you better.” That calms you down and makes you feel good—but what is the response in reality?
 
It is an 'auto response' acknowledgement, triggered not by any human being actually reading your complaint but by the computer, automatically, irrespective of the nature of your complaint. And that’s it. Often, nothing further happens. This is a fraud on customers. 
 
I bought a 500gm (grammes) pack of Nilgiri butter costing Rs265 and took it home, only to find that it was covered with spots of black fungus. Returning to the supermarket where I bought the stuff, along with the bill, meant extra exertion and harassment (I am 80 years old). The store said it will forward the defective goods, along with my complaint, to the manufacturer. I returned home and also sent off an email complaint to their grievance cell, on 24 September 2020, and promptly, within hours, came an acknowledgement saying “Thank you for contacting us.  Your feedback is important to us…We are looking into your complaint. Our customer care team will respond within a maximum of two days…”. 
 
That was it. It’s a standard, automated acknowledgement and means nothing. Perhaps no human employee at the factory even reads the complaint. Only the machine triggers an automatic acknowledgement.  
 
Nothing further happened, even after three weeks.  (What was that spiel about “maximum of two days”?) So what is the point in having a grievance cell, or a customer care team, or complaining to it? Just a PR initiative? Do you keep on sending reminders, spending time and effort, or give up? Most customers would want to be pragmatic and opt for the latter.
 
I remember sending an email to Airtel, seeking a recharge clarification, and got an automated response asking me to call 121 as they needed more information. What more information, when I have already given all relevant details? I also requested a reply by email as I have a hearing problem (and telephone conversations become difficult). Once again the 'automated' reply came in by email asking me to call. So, does no one even read customers’ complaints? 
 
My mobile was given to me by my daughter for her to call and check if I am OK, I don’t make outgoing calls (I have finger coordination problems in punching keys. The only two outgoing calls I made were to my daughter, by just pressing the button on her incoming number—for which Airtel has deducted over Rs500 from my prepaid balance.)  
 
I complained again. It made absolutely no difference to Airtel; again and again, I got the same automatic reply asking me to call. What does one do, especially if one is a senior citizen with restricted mobility? I did get two calls from Airtel employees (after a consumer protection organisation contacted them on my behalf) but it made no difference—no apologies, much less solutions, were offered.
 
I have with me a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announcement saying that telecom service-providers cannot arbitrarily hike charges. Who cares? Airtel nearly doubled its 28 days validity extension charges from Rs23 to Rs45 last year.  
 
TRAI could do nothing. So what does it regulate? 
 
Telecom companies owe the government a huge amount— Rs1.6 lakh crore—in arrears as adjusted gross revenue. The Supreme Court has given them 10 years to pay up. Citizens stand helplessly by, completely at the mercy of companies that show scant respect for customers’ rights (or the regulatory authority’s mandate).
 
Why do I need a mobile when I am housebound and have a landline? Because for many transactions (including bank operations and booking cooking gas) one has to provide a mobile number. You don’t exist if you don’t have a mobile. This is crazy. 
 
I did think of migrating to another service-provider, but got an email from Airtel asking me not to do so (apparently my form requesting migration had been referred by BSNL to the Airtel office.) They want business, right? But business without ethics, so that they can fleece the customers. 
 
Last year, when I asked for a validity extension of Rs45 (hiked from Rs23)  I was charged Rs49. Why?  Where does that extra Rs4 go? My query has not fetched any explanation till today.
 
I sued Airtel some years ago (when I was mobile enough to attend court) and was awarded compensation for harassment. The magistrate even remarked in open court that Airtel should be “ashamed to harass a senior journalist and elderly person.”  
 
The chastisement apparently did not bother Airtel. I wrote to the boss, Sunil Mittal at the suggestion of a former senior telecom official (now a consumer activist). My message bounced, marked 'undeliverable!' 
 
In an ancient fable, a cow could tug at a rope installed at the gates of the king’s palace for people to bring their grievances to the notice of the ruler. We are a democracy, and supposed to be “better than monarchy”, right?
 
Public apathy and helplessness condones unethical business practices. Where a single, isolated complaint may get overlooked by unethical businesses, perhaps we should think of strength in  numbers—India had  1.1514 billion mobile connections at the last count, almost one for every man, woman and child—and  must insist on proper, meaningful  grievance redressal for customers with complaints.
 
(Dr Sakuntala Narasimhan is a Bengaluru-based senior journalist, writer, musician and consumer activist. She is a renowned senior vocalist in both traditions of Indian classical music - Hindustani and Carnatic, an A-graded artiste of All India Radio in both traditions. She is also a musicologist and author, and has written a book on the Rampur gharana.)
 
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    COMMENTS

    saharaaj

    2 weeks ago

    This complaint could be repeated by Lakhs. Telcos are notorious i am customer of 18 years of VI . their arbitrary change of classification i complained the fellow will ring even if i have told travelling and can not take call , e-mail will arrive in 5 mts ur complaint resolved ... same complaint i repeated N times all along caller will literally say HELLOW and confirm by e mail issue resolved.
    Look at electricity complaint on paper all institutions are in place in face all embellished and decorative .. manned by retired employees of the service providers . selection legal but ethical ??? no prize for guessing . all talk of due process of law; problem law does not take its it course till people take recourse to Streets under ANNA Hazare

    ssk.pab

    2 weeks ago

    I fully agree with Ms Sakuntala Narasmihan!
    To the list of all the manufacturers and service providers you may also add the Banks and even RBI .
    The biggest Private Sector Bank can hot list your International Bank card with total impunity - without any fault of yours and due to their own fault - when you are out of country leaving you high and dry in a foreign land and when you write to them upon return to the country they don't even bother to reply!!!
    You go to Banking Ombudsman with a complaint and BO tells you your complaint does not come under BOS 2006!!!
    You cmplain against BO to CEPD - the designated department that has to look into any complaint against any RBI department, and your complaint gets routed to the same BO who originally rejected your complaint as not coming under BOS 2006- so, RBI simply believes in setting up KANGAROO COURTS and when you protest, they don't bother to reply even after six months!!!!!
    That is the state of SERVICE CITIZENS ARE GETTING FROM THE GOVERNMENT THAT IS SUPPOSED TO SERVE THE CITIZENS............

    Rupesh Chatterjee

    2 weeks ago

    In my experience, the only establishment in our country, that addresses customer greviences with due diligence is Amazon.

    Every employee who works there, from the shelf stacker to the door deliverer knows that customer satisfaction is something Amazon's board of directors values dearly, this drives them to work and contribute their best to honour the companies core values resulting in a top class experience for their customers.

    REPLY

    Sebastian PD

    In Reply to Rupesh Chatterjee 2 weeks ago

    Amazon do reply only to justify their wrong doings. In India, there is always a demand-supply deficit, so consumers are at the mercy of suppliers.

    Newme

    2 weeks ago

    Typical Indian consumer experience whether 80 or 20 age doesn\'t matter.
    That\'s why bulk of Indians prefer prepaid and never trust postpaid billing.

    Regarding telecom license fees due to government, why not make them park their revenue into an escrow account and government first take their fees and then the companies take out the remaining?

    Apple enters 5G era with 4 iPhone 12 series smartphones
    Heralding a 5G era for its iPhones, Apple on Tuesday introduced a new lineup of four iPhone 12 smartphones that are expected to log even bigger sales than the iPhone 11 family last year despite a delayed launch.
     
    Apple launched iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max models. The elevated new design of the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 and 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini are as beautiful as they are durable, the company announced.
     
    The top versions -- iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max -- will be available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB models in graphite, silver, gold, and pacific blue, starting at Rs 119,900 and Rs 129,900, respectively.
     
    iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini will be available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB models in blue, green, black, white and red colours, starting at Rs 79,900 and Rs 69,900, respectively.
     
    iPhone 12 will be available in India beginning October 30.
     
    Apple's iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max feature a new lidar sensor on the back – a technology first introduced on the iPad Pro in March.
     
    The newly designed iPhone 12 models feature expansive edge-to-edge Super Retina XDR displays for a brighter, more immersive viewing experience, and a new Ceramic Shield front cover, providing the biggest jump in durability ever on iPhone.
     
    The Apple-designed A14 Bionic, the fastest chip in a smartphone, powers every experience on iPhone 12, and coupled with an advanced dual-camera system, delivers meaningful new computational photography features and the highest quality video in a smartphone.
     
    iPhone 12 models also introduce MagSafe, offering high-powered wireless charging and an all-new ecosystem of accessories that easily attach to iPhone.
     
    Pre-orders for iPhone 12 begin from October 16 and availability from October 23 globally. iPhone 12 mini will be available for pre-order beginning November 6 and in stores beginning November 13.
     
    "The arrival of 5G marks the beginning of a new era for iPhone and we're thrilled to bring these impressive new capabilities to our customers with iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
     
    "Available in two great sizes, iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini take design to a new level in a new form factor that's as beautiful as it is durable, and makes it easier than ever for customers to find the perfect iPhone to fit their lifestyle."
     
    Pushing the limits of machine learning (ML), A14 Bionic features a 16-core Neural Engine -- for an 80 per cent increase in performance — that is capable of completing 11 trillion operations per second, enabling improved performance on even the most intense ML models.
     
    Featuring the most 5G bands on any smartphone, iPhone 12 models offer the broadest 5G coverage worldwide.
     
    Models in the US support millimeter wave, the higher frequency version of 5G, allowing iPhone 12 to reach speeds up to 4Gbps, even in densely populated areas.
     
    iPhone 12 models also feature Smart Data mode, which extends battery life by intelligently assessing 5G needs and balancing data usage, speed, and power in real time.
     
    Apple also unveiled HomePod mini, the newest addition to the HomePod family. HomePod mini will be available in white and space grey colours at Rs 9,900.
     
    At just 3.3 inches tall, HomePod mini is packed with innovative technologies and advanced software that together enable computational audio to deliver breakthrough audio quality wherever it is placed.
     
    "HomePod mini is the ultimate smart speaker for anyone with an Apple device. It works effortlessly with iPhone to hand off music, answer calls, or deliver personalised listening suggestions, elevates the sound from Apple TV, plays music from a Mac, and so much more," said Bob Borchers, Apple's vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.
     
    HomePod mini is designed to work with Apple Music, podcasts, radio stations from iHeartRadio, radio.com, and TuneIn, and in the coming months, popular music services including Pandora and Amazon Music.
     
    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.
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    In a First, MahaRERA Penalises Home-buyer for Payment Delay to Builder
    In an unprecedented case, Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MahaRERA) has asked a home-buyer to pay a penalty (in the form of interest) to the developer for delay in payment. 
     
    This judgement stands out in stark contrast since the Authority usually has to issue directives to developers to pay penalties to home-buyers for delayed possession. 
     
    In August 2019, the home-buyer Ms Suvarna Nazrekar had signed an agreement with the developer for an under-construction apartment in Pune. However, the home-buyer had not made any payment despite several demand letters between August and December 2019. The developer SMP Namrata Associates filed a complaint in MahaRERA against a home buyer for not making payment. 
     
    In January 2020, the home-buyer sent a legal notice to SMP Namrata Associates for non-allotment of car parking space. The home-buyer quoted the non-allotment of car parking space and the increased GST (goods and services tax) charges as the reasons for not making payments to the developer. 
     
    In its complaint, SMP Namrata Associates sought MahaRERA’s directions for cancellation of the agreement and forfeiture of the amount paid by the buyer at the time of booking. The developer shared that it was willing to go ahead with the agreement if the buyer was willing to make the payments along with interest. The home-buyer asserted that she was willing to pay the outstanding dues but sought directions be issued to the builder to waive off the interest amount.
     
    The home-buyer maintained that the complainant was a developer and so could not file a complaint against the allottee since there is no provision under RERA to file such a complaint.
     
    MahaRERA member, Vijay Satbir Singh held that the home-buyer, being an allottee, is liable to make payments in accordance with the terms and condition of the sale agreement. He pointed out that the provision of section 19(6) of the RERA is required to be perused, which reads as under:
    “11(6) Every allottee, who has entered into an agreement for sale to take an apartment, plot or building as the case may be, under section 13, shall be responsible to make necessary payments in the manner and within the time as specified in the said agreement for sale and shall pay at the proper time and place, the share of the registration charges, municipal taxes, water and electricity charges, maintenance charges, ground rent, and other charges, if any.”
     
    MahaRERA said that in case of any default on the part of allottee or the promoter, either party would be entitled to seek interest for such a default as prescribed by the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016.
     
    Mr Singh added in his order “Accordingly, if the respondent (buyer) has made any default in timely payment as per the agreement for sale, she would be liable to pay interest for the delayed payment at the rate of Marginal Cost Lending Rate (MCLR) of SBI plus 2% as prescribed under RERA.”
     
    MahaRERA has directed the home-buyer to pay the builder within a month, failing which the developer would be entitled to terminate the agreement for sale in accordance with the terms and conditions of the agreement for sale.
     
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    COMMENTS

    swarke

    2 weeks ago

    The article should also explain if the home buyer does not honor the verdict then what is the course of action for developer ?
    Invariably ..... if one looks at the arbitration proceedings at Stock Exchanges, wherein the verdict goes against an investor as an individual & he / she does not honor it, there is no mechanism to panelize.

    as against this, the broker OR developer can be easily panelized if they refuse to honor the verdict that may have gone against them !!

    ssbh.dceo

    3 weeks ago

    BALANCED JUDGEMENT.

    i_sakarwala

    3 weeks ago

    If the contractual obligations are not fulfilled as per the agreement.... Then the builder or developer has a right to seek recourse from the constituted authority. In this case, the buyer was bound by the registered agreement to pay .

    ganeshiyer95

    3 weeks ago

    This is not good, now seeing this case, developers will use every tactic by use of law to bully homebuyers. This needs to be kept in check.

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