Want to complain online? N Madhavan suggests how to go about it
One of the key problems of savers in India is that they are often short-changed by market intermediaries and sellers of financial products. Earlier, getting your complaint redressed was tough. It still is; but technology allows you to at least log in your complaints. You can now file your complaint online.
Post Office: The latest entrant in this field is the post office. For those who have invested in post-office saving schemes, National Savings Certificates, Public Provident Fund and Senior Citizens Saving Scheme, there is a single window for registering complaints about products, distribution or services. Complaints can be registered on the site of the National Savings Institute which was set up by the finance ministry’s department of economic affairs to streamline the distribution of small saving schemes by the government. Once the complaint is registered with http://www.nsiindia.gov.in/insert_complaint.asp, it is directed to the respective regional centre for resolution. The complainant must identify himself as an investor or distributor or belong to any other specified category.
Various regulators, such as IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority), SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India), RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and the NSE (National Stock Exchange), allow you to file complaints online.
Insurance: For insurance-related complaints, you may go to www.igms.irda.gov.in. The system allows you to first complain to the insurer and then approach IRDA through the online IGMS (integrated grievance management system).
Capital Markets: SEBI is the regulator for capital markets-related complaints. If you have any complaint, use the complaints page of SEBI on the Internet which is http://scores.gov.in/Complaint.aspx where you may complain about mutual funds, stockbrokers, listed companies, registrars & transfer agents, stock exchanges, depository participants, bankers & merchant bankers, custodians, credit rating agencies, price manipulation and insider trading. Telephonic follow-up may be done with the office of investor assistance and education (OIAE); the numbers are: +91-22-26449188/26449199/40459188/40459199.
SEBI’s redressal mechanism is in addition to that of the stock exchanges—the first-level regulators for trading-related issues. For each category of complaints, there are specific SEBI officials listed on the SCORES (SEBI’s complaints redress system) page. For instance, for mutual funds-related complaints, the officer is Rakesh Bhanot, deputy general manager (Tel: 022-26449361; [email protected]).
Banks: RBI regulates banks and RBI’s complaint website for consumer of banking services is https://secweb.rbi.org.in/BO/compltindex.htm. All banking-related complaints are forwarded to the banking ombudsman. However, it does not have a feedback form 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.
NSE: In the case of NSE, individuals are required to use the link http://www.nse-investorhelpline.com/EIS/ to lodge complaints. However, don’t expect too much of help from the stock exchanges.
Other sites for online complaints include the following. All these are non-official forums:
(a) www.investorhelpline.in: 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 an interactive and user-friendly site and tries its level best to resolve as many problems as possible.
(b) www.mouthshut.com: This is an interesting site for reviews of all consumer and financial goods and services. It does not help resolve grievances, but because of the high level of activity and reviews posted by consumers and users, it provides an excellent feedback mechanism for anyone who wants to cross-check information should read before opting products or services listed on the site. You can even check movie and music reviews posted by viewers if you are among those who think that most media reviews are too critical.
(c) www.complaints-india.com: This link allows an investor to post complaints on the Internet in the prescribed format which can be read by all visitors to the website. The details to be furnished include name, email address, category of complaint, agency against whom the complaint is lodged, nature of investment, city of residence and detailed complaint in text format. Company mail ID is optional but is essential if the complaint needs to be forwarded to the company for action. A copy of the complaint will be sent to the company with a note from Complaints-India if the company mail ID is entered. Replies are available in these cases, although there is no binding commitment. If the complaint handling is not satisfactory, the investor has to correspond directly with the company, from this stage onwards.
(d) http://complaintsnow.com: On this website, registered users (free registration) can login and post their complaints in free format. The posted complaint can be read by any visitor to the website. The categories of complaints include banking & finance with sub-categories of credit cards, loans and finance, insurance, stock market and brokerage, tax service and banks. Since the complaints can be read by all visitors to the website, other individuals with similar complaints can also complain using the same thread.
(e) www.consumercourt.in: On this site, the complaint categories are well defined and an investor can lodge a complaint under the category of financial services against banking/finance companies. The sub-categories are: loan, investment, banking and insurance. Investment categories are mutual funds, stock market and government securities. The complaint forum is open to registered users (free registration). This is a relatively well-populated website with a large number of complaints from the public.
(f) www.consumercomplaints.in: This link allows complaints under many categories including business and finance. The sub-categories are: banks, loans, tax services, insurance, stock market and credit cards. Complaints can be made in free format and are available for reading to all visitors to the website. The website is run by the Indian Consumer Complaints Forum.
(g) www.consumerdaddy.com: This is a free service for complaints about a product purchased or investment made by individuals. Only registered users (free registration) can use this complaint facility. Complaints are forwarded to the company where the investment is made or the financial service is availed. The website claims a success rate of 82% for complaints made through the website. On an average, it takes 32.8 days to resolve a complaint satisfactorily. Success stories include resolution of complaints about ICICI Bank credit card and SBI credit card.
(h) http://ccccore.co.in: Consumer Online Resource & Empowerment Centre (CORE) is supported by the ministry of consumer affairs, government of India. Registered users (free registration) can lodge their complaints about products, investments and financial services. More than 0.1 million complaints were received between 15 April 2005 and 31 October 2011 from all parts of India and also from abroad on this grievance redressal system. In October 2011, CORE received 1,109 online complaints and 152 complaints were closed. The website had a resolution percentage of 74.79% in November 2011. Hindi, Gujarati and Punjabi versions of CORE website have been made functional with selected links. Companies, which have visited CORE to discuss grievances, include eBay, Idea Cellular Ltd, Reliance Infocomm, Tata Teleservices, Standard Chartered Bank, Vodafone and Club Mahindra.
The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has made subscribers’ account details available online on its website (http://www.epfindia.com). The 47.20 million EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund) account-holders can check their account balance online.
These websites are not enough to take you through a redressal process; nevertheless, they are a boon for consumers and investors. The best course would be to ensure that you are not prey to buying services that are not safe and smart.