In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
It is not futile to pursue online vendors who fail to deliver promised goods and services. Chitra Vittal from Bangalore has won an out-of-court settlement from online vendor of cakes
Far too many of us have felt cheated by online vendors but have let it go because of the apparent futility of fighting for our rights. However, Chitra Vittal’s story tells us that it is indeed possible to win out-of-court settlements with online vendors with the help of consumer rights organizations like the International Consumer Rights Protection Council (ICRPC).
Chitra Vittal from Bangalore ordered a combo package including cake from Flowers n Cakes to India, an online florist and gift store that guarantees same day delivery and the “delivery of fresh products – always.” Flowers n Cakes to India failed to deliver the product on the specified day, and when they finally did deliver it the next day, the cake was “smashed up, made of cheap wine” and of a quality that was entirely unacceptable to the customer.
When Ms Vittal attempted to complain about the non-delivery of the product on the scheduled day, she found that the customer care numbers displayed on the website were not attended. She managed to find contact details of their Hyderabad-based sub-vendor, only to be told that they had only received their orders from Flowers n Cakes to India the morning after the scheduled date.
Five days later, Ms Vittal complained about the delayed delivery of a substandard product over a chat conversation with the company representative, Rahul, who, according to her was rude and paid no heed to her complaints.
Ms Vittal then approached Arun Saxena, President of ICRPC, which runs a consumer helpline. Mr Saxena sent an email to the vendor on behalf of Ms Vittal, informing them that they had conducted Unfair Trade Practices under Section 2 (1) (r) of the Consumer Protection Act. If the vendor did not refund the full amount to Ms Vittal and pay Rs50,000 as compensation for her losses, harassment and inconvenience, Mr Saxena said, severe action would be initiated against them, seeking higher compensation of Rs1 lakh with the legal costs.
What ensued was a series of emails exchanged among Mr Saxena, Ms Vittal and Flowers n Cakes to India, where the vendor attempted to seek refuge in its disclaimer against “unavoidable delays”. Ms Vittal felt that the vendors entirely ignored the accusation of no-response to complaints and were repeatedly rude to her. The emails reveal comments from the vendor to the tune of “If she doesn’t understand simple English language then it’s not our responsibility” and “she is the only one who we can call Fake”.
When Mr Saxena finally said that the matter was headed to consumer court and they would have to appear in person to justify their position, Flowers n Cakes to India beat a hasty retreat. With a sudden and radical change of tone, it sent a politely apologetic email to Ms Vittal, with the promise of a full refund on the same day.
Chidambaram is asking people not to buy gold. This sermon looks ironical, because over the past 10 years, it’s the ministry of finance and various financial regulators that have ensured that savers lose money by investing in various financial products
The government has been grappling with the problem of massive gold imports as it pushes up current account deficit and makes the rupee weaker. On Thursday P Chidambaram, the Finance Minister, in an open appeal to the public in a televised press conference, said, “Please resist the temptation to buy gold.” As the Prime Minister will be reviewing the economic situation today, the Finance Minister spoke to the press just before the Cabinet Meeting in the morning for about 45 minutes.
India does not produce gold. It imports gold by paying in US dollars for retail purchases in rupees by Indians. The public has been buying gold in massive quantities because of widely held belief that gold is a safe investment whose value goes up. That apart the real reason why people buy gold is because of poor options to put their money. However, the FM sought to debunk both the notions. He argued that gold is not the best of investments whereas those who are well-informed of financial products do not buy gold.
The trouble is that the FM is brushing major problems that savers have with other financial products. Bank savings accounts and fixed deposits are the commonest options for intelligent savers, but there are hindrances in Know-Your-Customer rules’ implementation by the banks at entry level. By the time the saver learns a little more, the quality of customer service leaves much to be desired. In the case of longer-term savers, insurance and mutual funds are options but the problem is that there has been rampant mis-selling, especially in Unit-linked Insurance Plans. For the knowledgeable savers, mutual funds may appear to be a good option. But a large number of funds have failed their investors by giving poor returns. That apart, mutual funds offer a large number of irrelevant products and have not been able to communicate that stocks, and therefore equity funds, work only over the really long term. And now, as Moneylife has repeatedly highlighted, banks have been mis-selling financial products blatantly, abusing the trust of its customers.
In all almost all the product categories, the regulators have made a complete mess by not creating regulations centred on savers’ interests. With such major hurdles in investing in various financial products and disincentives in the regular savings options, savers in the poor or lower middle class category have been pushed to chain-money schemes, chit funds, pyramid schemes and the like, leading to capital erosion, when these scheme inevitably go bankrupt. What the FM either does not know or does not want to know is people are buying gold not just as a matter of choice but because they are unable to trust anyone.
Insurance companies try and avoid selling a pure term policy as the commissions are very low compared to endowment or a ULIP. They cite income as a key requirement for a term policy while for a ULIP it doesn’t matter from where the money comes from
It emerged, from the recent Cobrapost exposé on banks, that insurance is one of the conduits for money laundering, along with real estate,...