POSTED BY December 1, 2011 COMMENTS (87)ON
Have you been mis-sold any financial product? If yes, then you must be confused on how to approach the consumer forum and talk to the company’s customer care to get justice. While there is no guarantee, neither there is any magical formula on getting justice. There are few rules and some tips which you can keep in mind while trying to resolve consumer complaints and approaching consumer forums in India. So I asked Ankur Singla of Akosha.com, to share some tips and tricks which you can use. Akosha.com works in the area of resolving consumer complaints in India against large brands. So here is what they have to share –
If a bank or insurance company (or any other company for that matter) mis-sells a product or provides a deficient service, you are entitled to get relief from the consumer forum. Before you decide to file a complaint, make sure you have done the following –
Send the company a notice. A notice is a letter, hand-written or printed on plain paper which explains what exactly happened, what you are unhappy about, what you would like the company to do and what you would do in case the company does not resolve the issue. Here are some tips on writing this letter:
1. Do not misstate facts. If there has been some lapse from your side, please expressly state it.
2. Specify all the details which would enable the company to resolve your complaint faster (who you spoke to, invoice number, request number, product id, , date of purchase etc.).
3. Do not use foul language or threaten. However, be firm.
4. Provide a 15 day period for them to resolve your complaint.
5. Make sure that you mention a line to the effect that if the company fails to resolve the issue, you would be forced to file a consumer complaint and take other action as well.
6. Send this letter by registered post acknowledgement due or by courier. Make sure you tell the courier company that you would be requiring the proof of delivery (POD) from them. It usually comes to you in 15-20 days of sending the letter.
At this stage, usually the company will call you back or email you and start taking your complaint seriously. If they offer you relief, or some kind of incentives, coupons, free product or service, do consider their offer seriously. Don’t try to over-optimize (we have had a lot of customers who ask for ridiculous amounts of compensation – which would not even be given by the consumer court forums. Therefore, company decides to wait and let the consumer approach the forum).
There is also the possibility that the company will not reply to your notice or reply to say that they would not be able to solve your complaint. In such a case, you are left with no option but to go to the appropriate consumer forum.
Consumer Forums are divided into 3 levels – District Level, State Level and the National.
If the total amount involved in your complaint (worth of the goods or services and the compensation you ask for) is below Rs.20 lakhs, then you will have to approach a District Forum. Typically, you have to file your complaint at the District Forum under whose jurisdiction the company or its dealer or its authorized agent carries on business. To understand which forum you can file your complaint in; please see this article – Understanding Jurisdiction of Consumer Forums.
Typically it will take about 6-18 months to resolve a complaint through the District Forum. If the stakes involved are high, either side may appeal to the State Forum and the matter may take longer. You have the option to appear before the District Forum yourself or through a lawyer. Usually people do not have the time to appear themselves, so they hire a lawyer. A lawyer can charge anywhere between Rs.2000 to Rs.20000 for a consumer complaint depending upon the complexity of the case, his/her experience, and your willingness to pay.
During the course of the case, you might have to appear 2-4 times in the District Forum. Don’t be intimidated by this – the judges are generally customer friendly and you are only required to state the facts.
Tips on writing the complaint
Once the consumer complaint is filed, the consumer forum sends a notice to the company asking them to respond to your complaint. A lot of times the company will realize that you are serious and probably, to avoid spending 10-15k on their own lawyer, simply resolve the complaint. However, in banking, insurance and financial sector, most of the large players prefer to take the customers through court and often keep appealing against successive defeats in front of consumer forums.
Despite the ease of using consumer forums, a lot of customers don’t end up filing a consumer complaint. It’s a quick cost benefit analysis – it sounds like too much time, money and effort to pursue it. Sometimes the stakes involved are not that great; also Indian customers have a chalta hai attitude. Once their issue is resolved, they move on with their lives. However, if you are really frustrated with something, it is important to know how to file a consumer complaint.
Just like the RTI, filing a consumer complaint is a powerful tool for consumers. If you are unhappy with a product or service, just follow this process and you should come out happy on the other side.
1. As a customer you can be wrong as well. So make sure you understand the terms and conditions when you buy financial products and services. A simple Google search like “5 things to know about mediclaim insurance” could lead you to some useful articles.
2. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If something is too good to be true or sounds like a great deal, simply avoid it. It most likely something that will end up scamming you.
3. Escalation of your complaint to higher authorities of the company is an art. Don’t write angry emails. Don’t do a version of the Delhi-style “Jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai”. Remember there are human beings on the other end. Write politely, reasonably and not very long emails/letters (unlike this article).
4. Some banks/insurance companies’ CEO have an escalation department of their own. So if you can find their email id or guess their email id, just copy them in. Their secretary will check it and probably your complaint will be heard quickly.
5. Prevention is the only cure. Life’s too short to waste time talking to customer care. Avoid such situations.
You can reach Ankur at ankur @ akosha.com. Ankur is a graduate of National Law School of India, Bangalore and worked at a corporate law firm before starting Akosha. I am sure your Consumer Complaints will be solved