If you are facing issues with your online purchase from an e-commerce site, you can now get a faster justice through an online through mediation process launched by the Bengaluru-based National Law School of India University (NLSIU). The law school has set up a Online Consumer Mediation Centre (OCMC), which is supported by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The ministry has also written to leading online marketing companies asking them to participate in the mediation process. This gives the entire exercise some official support, as it is more likely to bring companies to the mediation table.
The OCMC began operations on 24 December 2016, which is marked as the National Consumer Rights Day. It aims to provide an innovative online mediation tool that permits consumers get justice through quick and easy redressal mechanism and also provides opportunity for businesses to maintain good customer relations. This service in its initial stages can be accessed by login to https://onlinemediationcenter.ac.in/
. There is a small fee of Rs100 charged to avoid non-serious complaints.
"When a customer lodges a complaint, the OCMC staff gets into action. We inform the e-commerce company about the complaint and check if they can arrive with an amicable solution by communicating (through our platform) with the customer. If both parties fail to settle the matter between themselves, then they can ask for a mediator,' says Prof Dr Ashok R Patil, Chair Professor for Consumer Law and Practice at NLSIU as well as Director at OCMC.
Interestingly, Dr Patil also says that there have been cases where the mere fact that the OCMC approaches a company with a request to participate in mediation has led to direct contact between the company and the customer to resolve the matter.
What separates OCMC from other forms of consumer grievance redressal is the time limit set for the solution. Dr Patil says, "Under OCMC, both the parties get 30 days from the date they started negotiation process to resolve their dispute through this platform. If required, they can seek a onetime extension of 15 days. But they need to complete the mediation process within this time limit only."
At present, OCMC has eight mediators empanelled for helping in mediation.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has requested industry associations and e-commerce companies to use OCMC for addressing customer grievances in an easy and speedy manner.
How OCMC works...
If you are unhappy with the product or service and you want to file a complaint against the e-commerce company, you may choose to file complaint with OCMC.
•Item not delivered/ received.
•Item Significantly Not as Described.
•Item not replaced/ exchanged.
•Item returned but money not refund
STEP 1- Registration with OCMC/Sign in
1. The first time you file your complaint, sign-up/ register with OCMC by filling a simple registration form.
2. Furnish the following mandatory fields at the time of registration:
•Identity Proof No.
4. Upon signing up, you are sent a Welcome email.
5. Your validation will be confirmed by an email once you are registered with us.
6. An account is created with details of your profile. You may choose to either file a new case or view case history.
7. Subsequently, when you visit the website you can sign in with the registered email and password
STEP 2 – Select E-commerce Company
1. Select the company against whom you want to file your complaint from amongst the list of e-commerce companies provided by OCMC.
2. Enter the invoice no. /order no./ bill no.
STEP 3 – Payment
1. Next, you are taken through a secured payment gateway, Atom Technologies Ltd, where you pay your registration fee.
2. Once the payment is processed, you will receive message that payment has been successfully done.
3. The registration fee shall be applicable to ONE CASE only.
STEP 4 – Complaint Intake
1. On successful payment, you will be redirected to the ‘File a Case’ Button.
2. In case of a technical error between the payment and proceeding to ‘File a Case’, you can go back to ‘Case History’ in your Account to view the case.
3. In the form, choose if the complaint was already filed before court/forum/commission – Yes/ No.
4. If yes, then you need to give pending case details in addition to the details of the transaction and complaint you wish to make and relief you are seeking against the e-commerce company.
5. The complaint form requires the following details to be filled by you:
•Transaction details –Purchase date, Receipt date, value of goods/service, nature of dispute, description of issue.
6. Upload documents supporting your complaint. The files shall be in PDF, PNG, JPG, JPEG, GIF. MS Word documents in .doc or .docx format are not allowed.
7. For subsequent registration of complaints, you may simply sign in with the platform using your login and password and proceed with payment of fee and file new complaints.
STEP 5 –Negotiation with the E-commerce Company
1. On this platform, you will get the opportunity to directly communicate with the e-commerce company to resolve your case and discover a mutually agreeable solution.
2. In case you are not able to settle the matter through negotiation or if the parties could not reach agreement on terms, you may choose to escalate the case to mediation.
STEP 6 – Mediation
1. On choosing to settle the matter through mediation, OCMC appoints a third- party neutral party or mediator appointed by OCMC.
2. Mediation is a voluntary, party-centred and structured process where a neutral third party called mediator assists the parties in amicably resolving their dispute by using specialised communication and techniques.
3. Overall you have 30 days from the date the parties started with the Negotiation process (as under Step 5) to resolve your dispute through this platform. The parties may agree to a one-time extension of 15 days to complete the process.
4. If both parties agree to terms, the same can be finalized by a formal Settlement Agreement.