How often has it happened that you are furious about the quality of a product or service, want redressal but don’t know where to complain or even look up the procedure to do so? Moneylife worked on a list posted on karmayog.com to put together websites where one can register complaints or look up complaint-filing procedures.
This is the first of a three-part series that will tell you about where to complain, how to get information on the complaint-filing procedure as well as a list of NGOs who guide consumers in the redressal process. We have checked out these links for accessibility and responsiveness, but are looking for feedback from readers about their own experience in using these websites.
• http://www.consumercomplaints.in/ : This is the most accessible of all websites that deal with consumer complaints. One does not have to go through various links in order to access the complaints section; the homepage allows readers to view complaints posted by other consumers providing additional consumer feedback. Also, there is an easy option on the front page to register a complaint. It also has a sort of blog where consumers can discuss issues that concern them and there is a ratings section that allows you to rate various stores and services.
• http://www.consumerhelpline.in : This is the website of the National Consumer Helpline set up by the Delhi University with support from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. It provides a toll-free hotline for consumers which answers their queries and provides solutions to their problems (1800-11-4000). There is a feedback section titled ‘Valued Comments’; most of the feedback that has been posted seems positive. It is extremely difficult to locate the email address for posting complaints, probably because the helpline functions through the hotline number. Complaints can be sent by email to: [email protected]
• http://www.consumeronline.org/ : This is the website of Consumer Online. This organisation tries to interlink and integrate a comprehensive database, which focuses on information that may be of interest to consumers. It provides an online grievance registration form for consumers. Some of these complaints are then published in the Product Watch section of the website.
• http://www.cai-india.org/ : This is the website for Consumer Association of India (CAI). Its aim is to educate consumers about various laws and the Right to Information Act. It is very well organised and has a volunteer section that allows consumers to volunteer in the CAI cause and help the organisation in its functioning. It has listed a national telephone number which helps consumers report their grievances promptly; it also lists email addresses of officers like the Editor, Administrator and Webmaster for general queries, in addition to the regular mailing address. This website does not have a consumer feedback section.
• http://www.pgportal.gov.in : The Public Grievance Lodging and Monitoring System is the place where you can complain about shoddy service by public or government-owned companies. It endeavours to bring excellence in public service delivery by government agencies. It provides a flowchart which shows a consumer the authorities through which his complaints are routed. It has a consumer feedback forum; however, the messages are not posted on the website.
• http://investor.sebi.gov.in/ : This is the website of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). It tries to protect the interests of investors in the capital market and also has a developmental role. The SEBI website has a generic email address to which consumers can send their grievances. Investors get an electronic tracking number which allows them to follow up on their complaints. However, there is no indicator of how many of these complaints are successfully resolved and over what time frame. However, we do know that complaints are, indeed, read and acted upon. SEBI’s redressal mechanism is in addition to that of the stock exchanges – the first-level regulators for trading-related issues.
• http://www.cccindia.net/ : This is the website of Consumer Coordination Council of India. It claims that its vision is to help achieve consumer sovereignty and it is actively involved in redressal of grievances. Its activities are funded by several international NGOs. The website is not fully developed; a lot of sub-links are still under construction. It offers an easy way to file consumer complaints, mainly through an online form on its homepage. The feedback link is under construction and there is also an email address to send complaints. The presence of the online complaint form makes it easy for consumers to report their concerns and complaints.
• https://secweb.rbi.org.in/BO/compltindex.htm : This is the website of the Reserve Bank of India. On this site, you can register your complaint to the Banking Ombudsman electronically. However, it does not have a feedback forum on the site and, hence, the effectiveness of the grievance resolution mechanism is unclear. It is a big boon to consumers that the Banking Ombudsman, which is a fairly powerful office, accepts and acts on electronic complaints and does not demand physical documents at the time of filing the complaint.
• http://www.investorhelpline.in/ : The Investor Helpline has been funded by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and is run by a SEBI-registered investor association called Midas Touch Investors Association. Its aim is to redress investor grievances free of charge on a best-effort basis. A registered user can also track the status and progress of the complaint. Apart from a step-by-step guide to register complaints, it provides feedback on complaints that have been resolved. It is very interactive and user-friendly and tries its level best to resolve as many problems as possible.
• http://www.cvc.nic.in/ecomplain.htm : The Central Vigilance Commission’s (CVC) website provides information on how to plan, execute, review and reform the vigilance function at various government organisations. However, we found that complaints lodged by email are not redressed easily. The CVC is much more accessible on telephone and quick to note down complaints. The website is slightly confusing and one has to go through various sub-links to access information.
• http://www.ascionline.org/ : This is the website of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). This is a voluntary and self-regulatory agency of the Indian advertising industry. Consumers who find an advertisement offensive or that the claims made by advertisers (about being the biggest or the best, or about the efficacy of its products or primary ingredients) are incorrect can register a complaint through the website. However, the advertising industry’s voluntary body is not so web-savvy; it insists that a hard copy of the complaint be sent to the ASCI’s office.