Consumer courts need to be made more efficient


The news that came three weeks before Diwali, the festival of lights and prosperity, adds to the excitement. In these difficult times, when the whole world, including the United States, Europe and China, is beset by fears of a recession, only seven countries have managed to dodge the blow. India is one of them. How did India get this special place? Our vast consumer base, our food self-sufficiency, and a rapidly growing population of professionals and their passion are the answers.

We will talk later about the farmers who ensure our food security, but for now, let’s look at the situation and the rights of professionals and consumers. What is their current situation? Before answering this question, allow me to tell you about the ordeal suffered by one of my relatives. She is a doctor by profession, and this happened to her one morning a week ago.

Her driver was on leave, so she decided to use Ola or Uber. She started by booking a taxi through her mobile app. She received the confirmation message straight away, along with the taxi details. She expressed her joy, saying, “Hey, now I don’t need a driver anymore.” But she had no idea what difficulties she would face in the next hour.

She rushed to the elevator so the taxi driver wouldn’t have to wait. His apartment is on the 17th floor of one of the best companies in Noida. The elevator had just begun to descend when the power went out. The builder, who sold the flats for millions of rupees, had made no arrangements to ensure the lift operated normally during a power outage. The next few minutes were filled with darkness and terror.

As she exited, she was surprised to see in her taxi app that the taxi had stayed where it was at the time of confirmation. He hadn’t moved an inch. The doctor called the call center, and despite more than 10 minutes of frantic effort, the driver canceled the ride. The young woman again called a taxi, but the same thing happened. The third driver canceled the ride when it was almost at the pick-up location. Therefore, 40 was debited from his account. She could have recovered this money by filing a complaint, but the problem is not a question of money. These incidents affected the doctor and the patients who had made appointments with her in advance.

Apart from mediocre drivers, the perpetrators of this whole episode included an online taxi service, an electricity distribution company, and a well-known builder. They all do billion dollar transactions, but what are they doing for the convenience of their customers? This is not just the ordeal of a young doctor. A large number of people in this country face these difficulties on a daily basis.

In India, there is an urgent need to rein in industries that thrive on taking advantage of government schemes. The attitude of some multinationals is even worse.

Think of car manufacturers. Their safety standards differ greatly between Western countries and developing countries like India. They are happy to take our hard-earned money, but don’t care so much about our lives, our safety, or the environment.

Not only that, but it’s not uncommon to receive a text message telling you that a large sum of money has been withdrawn or deposited into your account with a particular bank, or that your alternative phone number has been activated. .

Likewise, a utility company may suddenly start sending you messages asking you to pay an outstanding bill. I know of a customer who constantly complains to the bank that they don’t have an account with the bank, but he regularly receives email updates from him. He suspected that these activities were carried out by an anti-social or fraudulent person or organization. The individual continued to send emails, but received no satisfactory response from the bank. Exhausted, he filed a complaint with the banking ombudsman, but he still hasn’t received a response after months. Now he doesn’t know what to do. Is there a way for him to exercise his rights?

If we look at the infrastructure and statistics relating to complaint handling and consumer rights, we are left speechless. There are currently 629 consumer district courts and 35 consumer dispute resolution commissions in the country where one can file a claim for compensation of up to 20 lakh against producers, sellers and service providers of consumer goods of all kinds. The sad reality is that 4,029 of the 5.50 lakh cases currently pending before these tribunals and commissions are 22 years old.

The time has come to increase the number and efficiency of consumer courts. The powers of regulatory agencies and commissions also need to be strengthened urgently. Protecting the rights of the broad class of consumers is also essential to economic survival and long-term growth.

Shashi Shekhar is the editor of Hindustan

Opinions expressed are personal


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