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.
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