Almost everybody faces issues with online shopping, primarily because you need to make a purchase decision without actually looking at the product or trying it out, whether it is clothes, cosmetics, personal care products, accessories or electronic goods. You may need to return products for issues regarding size, fit, quality, colour or delivery and should be able to get your money back or the product exchanged.
Chasing up online vendors who fail to deliver as promised is difficult but not futile.
The first step is to get in touch with the website or the seller. Except for fake shopping sites, where it is almost impossible to get your money back, the reputed ones will resolve issues after following the redress process and a bit of a follow up.
Online companies, which are heavily dependent of user feedback have dedicated teams working on negative feedback on social media, so it is often the fastest way to redress issues today.
Posting your issue on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram by tagging the company handle has worked well for online sellers (holiday bookings, hotels, airlines, railways, online retailers, telecom companies etc). Videos are also very effective because they tend to go viral quickly.
It is important to make your point crisply with details, tag ministers, ministries, regulators or the appropriate authorities to get the right impact.
About a year ago, a large number of people who booked hotels through OYO found their bookings cancelled on landing up at their destinations. Twitter was awash with complaints.
A colleague who had booked through OYO landed at Tirupati to discover that her booking was cancelled. A tweet from a handle with many followers opened the floodgates to complaints from others who were similarly duped and within hours the CEO was involved in firefighting. A refund as well as alternative accommodation was offered and it ended well after the initial panic.
The new Consumer Protection Law 2019, which came into effect from 20 July 2020 includes detailed provisions for e-commerce companies and online retailers. It has been made mandatory to display details about price, expiry date, return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods, the security of payment methods, charge-back options, etc so that customers can make an informed decision. A customer care number of the seller is also mandatory for all online marketplaces. The government has also asked all e-commerce firms to ensure that complaints are acknowledged within 48 hours and redressed within one month.
But all this works only with reputed e-commerce platforms and not fly-by-night operators. A Moneylife reader says she paid ‘Craze and Trends’ for a designer lehenga through Razorpay. When it wasn’t delivered for a month she discovered that she had been conned just like many others. This is unfortunately true with many small companies, who have started with the right intent, but are unable to run the business. If the company itself vanishes, then a refund is almost impossible, so it is important to stick to big names. The consumer court route takes a little longer but is also effective. Consider these examples.
Gaurangi Deshmukh of Pune ordered a Nikon DSLR camera on Flipkart in February 2018. She paid Rs 28,990 through net banking. What was delivered the next day, was an empty free deal bag. Worse, it was delivered to the building watchman despite clear instructions that it should be delivered to her residence only. After Flipkart ignored her multiple complaints, she approached the consumer forum in June 2019, She won the case and the Pune District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum ordered Flipkart to pay Rs44000
(Rs28990 with 9% interest and compensation of Rs15000 towards mental agony and costs) as compensation.
Here are a few tips and resources to help you get back your money:
1. If the website’s redress mechanism does not work, don’t hesitate to use social media pages.
2. File a complaint on the government’s grievance redressal portal INGRAM (Intergrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism).
The ministry of consumer affairs provides consumerhelpline.gov.in
for filing complaints with the slogan Jaago Grahak Jago. It also has a phone based complaint mechanism run with the help of NGOs in the consumer space.
4. You can approach consumer forums under the consumer protection act. These offer faster disposal, do not require an elaborate format, procedure or fees and allow you to represent yourself.
5. The National Consumer Helpline (NCH) advises that in case of fraudulent transactions a consumer should lodge a First Information Report (FIR) or make a police complaint or to Cyber Cell, if company is not traceable. To register a complaint with NCH you can call on 1800-11-4000 or 14404 (all days except national holidays – from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm), you can also send SMS on 8130009809. Besides, there is the option to file complaints online either on NCH website or app is also available.
Some platforms like Voxya
let consumers file complaints for free and launch social media campaigns to resolve the issue. They also draft a professional legal notice to be sent to the company, but for a fee. Several satisfied customers have attested to quick resolution through Voxya.
(International Consumer Rights Protection Council) also offers a fee-based service with good results.
A free online resource is iamcheated.com
which forwards complaints to concerned company for resolution. mouthshut.com
is a similar website to post your reviews.