HYDERABAD: Tales of consumers of e-commerce websites are not new or unheard of. Everyone has a friend or acquaintance that has had a bad experience while buying something online – there are so many things that can go wrong. The product sometimes is not delivered on time, and when it does it can be counterfeit!
Recently, CR Choudhary, the Minister of State (MoS) for Consumer Affairs, pointed out, in a reply to a question posed in the Parliament on December 18, that consumers cheated by e-tailers with counterfeit products can seek indeed legal recourse. However, denizens, perhaps due to the lack of awareness, do not really go the legal route. According to data available online, a total of 302 judgements have been pronounced in the three district consumer forums in and around Hyderabad. Of these, only 5 complaints pertain to e-commerce websites.
Vakkanti Narasimha Rao, president of the Hyderabad Consumer Forum (II) observes that the Forum rarely gets complaints related to e-tailers sending counterfeit products. “We don’t usually see a lot of such cases.
A lot of the consumers choose to complain on the website itself. The reason, till now, has been that we don’t have jurisdiction over the matter according to Consumer Protection Act 1986,” he said.
The problem Rao was referring to was that a Forum can only act on a purchase taking place in its geographical jurisdiction. For instance, if an e-talier send a defective product from Haryana, the consumer has to file a case in that particular State.
Interestingly, counterfeit products are quite ubiquitous. In his statement in the Parliament, MoS Choudhary had stated that 19 per cent of all products delivered are counterfeit. He cited this information to a recent survey undertaken by Local Circles, an NGO.
of cases not practical’
Complaints made to Consumer Forums can be quite time-consuming for customers. For instance, one such complaint received by the Hyderabad Consumer Forum (III), made against e-tailer eBay India Pvt Ltd for sending a faulty mobile phone, took nearly a year for the judgement to be pronounced. This is in spite of the Consumer Protection Act mandating the complaints to be addressed in 90-150 days. “It is not realistic of us to think that a 100 per cent of the cases will be dealt within the stipulated time period. The forums are short staffed. The twelve forums across Telangana rarely have enough staff to sit for hearings,” said V Gouri Shankar Rao, president of the Confederation of All Telangana Consumer Organisation.