Top Tips to be an Informed Consumer

Top Tips to be an Informed Consumer

At Power to Consumer, we believe our responsibility to consumers lie beyond just resolution of their complaints. We want to empower and educate them, irrespective of their levels and flavours, so that they are more alert when doing a transaction with an individual/trader/company/service provider. After all, an [su_highlight background=”#99fbff”]informed consumer is an empowered consumer[/su_highlight].

With this objective in mind, we are starting a series of blog posts called ‘Top Tips’. These posts will contain tips on various subjects concerning you such as insurance, consumer goods, travel, medical facilities, railway services, electricity services etc. Some of these tips may look common place to you. But remember, sometimes it is the obvious that we all give a miss. And companies, manufacturer, trader take advantage of our ignorance and pass us sub-standard goods or give improper services.

So, here it is. [su_highlight]Top Tips to be an Informed Consumer[/su_highlight]:

  • Always stick on getting a bill/invoice/money receipt mentioning the amount paid while purchasing any goods or availing any services
  • Do not hesitate to ask a medical receipt from the doctor or a medical practitioner and hospitals
  • Be aware that, at times, you would be handed over with an ordinary paper termed as ‘Quotation’ or ‘Proforma Invoice’ when you demand a bill. The term may not be clearly visible on the paper header. Always accept the proper bill
  • Never forget to ask the trader or manufacturer to provide you relevant warranty/guarantee on purchase of any good
  • Be forthcoming in demanding a free gift if that is applicable on your purchase
  • Always, always keenly verify the date of manufacture & expiry on a product before making the purchase. This is true specially for edible items, medicines and cosmetics. Decline goods with a short expiry date from the day of purchase
  • Don’t walk into the trap of saving money by agreeing to the trader’s request of not providing you a bill/invoice/receipt. This is an old trick that many traders apply to save taxes on transactions. Always, pay the proper printed price and demand your receipt
  • Preserve all your proof(s) of transaction(s)such as receipts, warranty card, guarantee document, etc. for the life of the good(s) or service(s)
  • Be forthright in approaching the concerned trader/manufacturer/service provider on account of facing a grievance with purchased goods or hired services
  • Maintain a file of such follow-ups, especially in print

We sincerely hope that these tips will alert and make you an informed consumer while you make that Premium Legal Supportessential purchase or hire a service. Do let us know your feedback about what do you think of this list, or want us to add any important point that we must have missed inadvertently. Leave a comment here, or on our Facebook page, or mail us on response@powertoconsumer.in 

Image By Victorgrigas – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19886338

who is a consumer

Who is a Consumer? And What are his Rights?

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was legislated by the Government with a sole purpose of[su_highlight] ‘defending the rights of a consumer and provide him justice in case of disputes'[/su_highlight]. The Act for the first time introduced the concept of ‘consumer’ in legal parlance, and conferred express additional rights on him. But what is interesting to note in the constitution of the Act is that it doesn’t seek to protect every consumer within a literal meaning of the term. Especially not within a common context.

So, one may ask, who is a consumer as defined in the Consumer Protection Act? In simple terms, a Consumer is:

  1. An individual who buys a good for ‘consideration’ and
  2. An individual who hires a service for ‘consideration’

In the legal definition of the Act, the consumer is defined as an individual who:

[su_quote]buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approv­al of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or[/su_quote]

[su_quote]hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly prom­ised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred pay­ment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person; [/su_quote]

Well, those are too many words. Let us simplify it for you with certain examples. Click on the plus sign to below to view the examples.

At this juncture it is important to note that in both definitions, the term ‘consideration’ plays a very key role. [su_highlight]Consideration means the cost/price/value or invoice amount which the purchaser(s) of any goods and or the hirer of any services has paid or merely promised to pay or has partly paid and promised to pay the remainder under a deferred system of payment to the trader or manufacturer or service provider.[/su_highlight] The provision further emphasises the fact that a consumer is not only the original buyer of the goods or original hirer of the services, but also the future beneficiaries of goods or services, but with consent of the original owner.

Coming back to our examples:

[su_spoiler title=”Sunil buys a mobile phone” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

Mr. Sunil aka Gadget Lover from Mumbai decides to gift himself an iPhone 5C on his 35th birthday. He approaches an Apple centre, and accordingly makes a payment of Rs.53,000/- for the iPhone.

The amount paid in here justifies the term ‘Consideration’, and Sunil testifies the term ‘Consumer’. [/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title=”Sunil purchases a Tanishq diamond set” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

Sunil forgets his marriage anniversary, for the third consecutive year. To make up for the miss, he decides to gift an expensive Tanishq diamond set to his wife, Sunita. The only problem is a Tanishq diamond set costs upward of Rs. 1 Lakh, and Sunil’s liquid cash-in-hand is less than the cost of the set. But Sunil is firm on gifting the same.  So he approaches the Tanishq showroom, speaks to the salesman and agrees to pay Rs.10,000/- as down payment, while promising to pay the another Rs.90,000/- in deferred instalments.

These deferred installments qualify the term ‘Consideration’. And Sunil justifies the term ‘Consumer’.

[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title=”Sunita, being Sunil’s wife is a consumer too” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

Taking the same example forward, Sunita, now besides being the proud owner of a Tanishq diamond set, is also a ‘consumer’ in the sense of the definition, as she is using the goods with his consent.

[/su_spoiler]

All the above examples justify conferring of the Consumer title on an individual buying or using a good. But what about someone hiring a service? The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has provisions for the same too.

[su_spoiler title=”Amit hires the services of BEST in his home” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

Mr. Amit owns a 2 BHK flat in Mumbai. He utilises the electricity service of BEST [Brihanmumbai Electrical Supply and Transmission] in his house.

As per the provisions of the Act, Amit qualifies the term ‘consumer’.

[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title=”Amit leases the house to Abhishek” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

Taking the same example forward, Amit leases his house to Abhishek. By the provisions of the Act, Abhishek, who is a tenant of Amit, qualifies as the beneficiary of the said services of BEST electricity. And is a consumer in the definition of the Act.[/su_spoiler]

We hope that the above examples make it abundantly clear who is a ‘Consumer’ as defined in the Act. The definition limits the scope in the context of purchaser of goods / hirer of services, by ‘excluding’ from its wide range individuals who buy goods for resale or for any commercial purpose, expressly denying them the benefits of the Act.

Image By McKay Savage from London, UK – India – Sights & Culture – 008 – Crowd watching cricket, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23468856

26th January | The Day India became a Republic

Indian FlagToday, 26th January, India celebrated its 65th Republic Day. This day has got a great significance as it was the day on which the Constitution of India, certified by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, was brought into effect. This was the day that gave a realization to the sacrifices of numerous freedom fighters who fought for India’s freedom against the tyrannical British rule. The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution in the world containing 444 Articles,  12 schedules and a total of 117, 369 written words.

In the [su_highlight]Preamble of India’s constitution one can find a reference of the recital of the facts or state of the law for which it is proposed to legislate by the statute, the object and policy of the legislation and the evils or inconveniences it seeks to remedy.[/su_highlight]

 The Legislature sought remedy of existing evils/inconveniences in the lives of Indian consumers and accordingly enacted a ‘Statute’  which  came to be recognised as ‘Consumer Protection Act, 1986’ empowering all consumers in India to seek simple and speedy redressal of  their  grievances against erring/unscrupulous traders or manufacturers or service providers.

Power to Consumer honours the legislature and promises to provide all possible legal solution and assistance to help you resolve your  grievance as a consumer. Know your rights. Raise your voice. You all are empowered consumers of a modern India.

Wishing you all a Happy Republic Day.

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indian bank kyc norms

Know your Customer Norms of Bank & Validity of Aadhaar

In a recently issued circular, the Reserve Bank of India cleared its stand on the Know your Customer norms required to be adhered by every Bank  while opening an account for a customer. We have come across various news bytes as well as cases where a customer’s Aadhaar card was rejected as a valid proof. But that is not legally right.

A customer is required to submit a Proof of Identity (POI) and Proof of Address (POA) at the time of opening an account with a bank. According to the circular issued by RBI while a PAN Card testifies only as a Proof of Identity, an Aadhaar Card stands true for being both a POI as well as POA.  Here’s a small excerpt of the circular issued by RBI indicating its stand on acceptance of Aadhar as a valid POI and POA.

[su_pullquote][su_highlight]Acceptance of Aadhaar letter for KYC purposes – Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has advised Reserve Bank that banks are accepting Aadhaar letter issued by it as a proof of identity but not of address, for opening accounts. If the address provided by the account holder is the same as that on Aadhaar letter, it may be accepted as a proof of both identity and address. [/su_highlight][/su_pullquote] The entire circular can be accessed by clicking here. On non-acceptance of Aadhaar by a bank as a documentary POI and POA, the customer can bring it to the notice of the ‘Customer Service Section / Grievance Redressal Officer’ displayed in the branch premises, and also made available on their website. Only in cases where there is a change in the address of the customer from the one registered in Aadhaar, the customer needs provide a separate copy of the latest proof of address.

You have now been empowered with this fact by Power to Consumer. If you or any of your relative or friend or colleague is facing resistance from a bank official in accepting ‘Aadhaar’ as POI / POA, we are here to help you. Please feel free to pose your query on our website. Meanwhile, help us by spreading this piece of information in your social circles.

Image By Ali Rizvi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53426654

doctors - service - providers

Medical Negligence and Compensation

A patient seeks medical help for treating an injury or a condition, and the treatment turns into a grave matter of life and death for the individual. Haven’t we all heard of such serious cases of medical negligence before? Of patients being diagnosed for simple conditions and losing their lives in the bargain. All due to serious neglect by a  medical professional.

But there are, we believe, many more such cases which are not brought out due to the simple reason of a patient not seeking for what is his right as a ‘consumer’ of the hospital – proper service. But today we are sharing a case study of an empowered consumer who did appeal for justice and compensation against a doctor on grounds of medical negligence; and was adequately compensated last week by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission – NCDRC.

Premium Legal SupportJai Prakash Mehta, a resident of Bihar, while working as a contract labourer for Indian Railways suffered a serious electric shock leading to severe burns on his right hand. He was immediately taken to Dr. B. N. Rai, an ENT specialist in Rohtas, Bihar for treatment. He was under the medical treatment of Dr. B. N. Rai for a span of two weeks. Later he was referred to the [su_highlight]Institute of Medical Sciences and S.S. Hospital of the Banaras Hindu University where he was informed that due to wrong treatment gangrene had set in his body, and his right arm needs to be amputated in order to save his life[/su_highlight].

Jai was shocked to hear this, and knew that this was a case of sheer medical negligence for which he was being made to suffer. He approached the Bihar State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to seek justice, but was not granted his right as the Commission dismissed his plea for compensation.

But Jai Prakash didn’t give up. He filed for a revision of the Commission’s statement in NCDRC. NCDRC’s president D.K.Jain and members Vineeta Rai and Vinay Kumar went through the case once again, and as per the provisions laid in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, set aside Bihar State Commission’s order stating the fact this was a case of medical negligence.

In their Order they stated that, [su_quote] “He(Dr. Rai) did not adopt the practice in respect of diagnosis and treatment in the case, which would be adopted by a doctor of ordinary skill in accordance with at least one of the responsible bodies of opinion of professional practitioners in the field, since he gave only first aid treatment which was totally inadequate and ineffective for injuries caused by serious burns.”[/su_quote] They also made an observation that Dr. Rai being an ENT specialist should not have even treated the electric burns as ‘prima facie’ he did not possess adequate skills and should have referred a specialist. As a result they granted the case in favour of Jai.

Jai Prakash Mehta was granted justice as he exercised his ‘power as a consumer’. What about you? Are you or any one you know a victim of such callous medical treatment? Log on to Power to Consumer and let us know.

Image By Hmhedp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26928007

indian bank service provider

Responsibilities of Banks as a Service Provider

On August 9th, 1969, a Presidential order made the then fourteen privately owned and operated Banks into Nationalised Banks under the Banking Companies (Acquisition & Transfer of Undertaking) Bill, 1969.

The main purpose behind nationalising banks was to develop the Indian economy, and also attain the following objectives:

  • Social Welfare : It was the need of the hour to direct the funds for the needy and required sectors of the Indian economy. Sectors such as agriculture, small and village industries were in need of funds for their expansion and further economic development
  • Abolishing Monopolies : Prior to nationalization, banks were controlled by private business houses and corporate families. It was necessary to check these monopolies in order to ensure a smooth supply of credit to socially desirable sections
  • Expansion of Banking Sector: In India the numbers of banks existing those days were certainly inadequate to serve the economy. It was necessary to spread banking across the country. This could be done only through expanding banking network (by opening new bank branches) in the un-banked areas
  • Reducing Regional Imbalance: In a country like India where we have a urban-rural divide, it was necessary for banks to go in the rural areas where the banking facilities were not available. In order to reduce this regional imbalance nationalization was justified
  • Priority Sector Lending : In India, the agriculture sector and its allied activities were the largest contributor to the national income. Thus these were labeled as the priority sectors. But unfortunately they were deprived of their due share in the credit. Nationalization was urgently needed for catering funds to them
  • Developing Banking Habits: In India more than 70% population used to stay in rural areas. It was necessary to develop the banking habit among such a large population

From this point onwards, all banks were required to play a role as ‘service provider’ to the account holders and treat them as ‘consumers’.

The Reserve Bank of India has issued a ‘Master Circular’ outlining many important aspects of customer services in Banks vide its Master Circular D. No. Leg.BC.21/09.07.006/2012-13 dated July 02, 2012 followed by RBI/2013-14/69 dated July 01,2013. This circular consolidates many important facets of customer service in banks such as opening/operation of deposit accounts; levy of service charges; service at the counters; operation of accounts by old and incapacitated persons and like. The link to the circular is attached below:

http://www.rbi.org.in/commonman/English/Scripts/Notification.aspx?Id=1266

Power to Consumer stands by the side of consumers that are aggrieved with improper and irregular banking services. We believe that deficient customer service by any bank lies within the legal ambit of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with its updated amendments. Any customer can file a complaint against any bank, and seek compensation as per the guidelines of the Consumer Court(s). 

So have you been a victim or sufferer of inefficient services by a bank? Let us know. Pose your complaint on our ‘Power to Consumer’ website today. And help us spread the word.

Image By Bill william compton at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17389656