As per data available with the government, consumer complaints increased by 70% in the last two years. The complaints received through the national consumer helpline reached 1.72 lakh in 2015-16.
In an era where selling and buying of goods & services has grown exponentially with the help of technology, it is important that the consumer’s rights are protected. The government after a recent review has decided to augment the capacity of the national helpline to deal with increasing number of consumer complaints. As per data available with the government, consumer complaints have increased by over 70% between 2014 and 2016.
Consumers can lodge complaints through various modes
Consumers can lodge a complaint about a good or service through various modes like the
- National Consumer Helpline
- Any of the 28 State Consumer Help lines
- Lodging a complaint online
- Approaching the National/State/District Consumer Forum
The government has also been working towards consumer awareness through the ‘Jago Grahak Jago’ campaign for many years now. It has also established Grahak Suvidha Kendras in various states to help consumers.
National Helpline received 1.72 lakh complaints in 2015-16
The National Consumer helpline received 1.72 lakh complaints in 2015-16, up from 1 lakh odd complaints in 2013-14. The state help lines also received 54827 complaints in 2015-16. Most complaints on the National helpline were received from Delhi followed by Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The state help lines in Gujarat, Maharashtra & Rajasthan received more than 10000 complaints each in 2015-16.
National Consumer helpline and State Consumer help lines provide telephonic advice, information, guidance and grievance redressal procedure to consumers relating to their complaints and forward their complaints to companies and regulators concerned for taking necessary action.
National Consumer Helpline has tied up with more than two hundred companies as part of its convergence program for resolution of consumer complaints. Convergence is an alternate dispute resolution mechanism to resolve grievances expeditiously. As per government data, 53185 consumer complaints were sent to companies as a part of the convergence program and 80% of these complaints have received full or partial response from the respective companies.
More than 90000 complaints were filed in the National & State Consumer fora in 3 years
Consumers who are not satisfied with the response of the respective company usually approach the consumer fora setup at the district, state and national level. While it appears that the number of cases filed in the national & state fora has come down in 2015, this is due to non availability of data for more than 10 state consumer fora. The disposal rate has also come down from 2013 to 2015.
In the district consumer fora across the country, 1.21 lakh cases were filed in 2015 compared to 1.45 lakh in 2013. This again is due to the non-availability of data from over 10 states. Within the states, the trends are mixed. While the number of cases filed has decreased in Uttar Pradesh, it has increased in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh from 2013 to 2015.
More than 20% vacancies in District Fora
As per data available with the government, 20% of the members’ posts are vacant in district fora across the country as of February 2016. Close to 75% of the members posts in district fora are vacant in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. 100% of the member posts are vacant in the state fora of Andhra Pradesh & Telangana.
Measures to improve the working of the National Consumer Helpline
The government has initiated the following steps to tackle with the growing number of consumer complaints.
- Number of Helpline will be increased from 14 to 60 within a month.
- Email, SMS and mobile app will be developed for redressal of complaints.
- Response time, from present 5 -6 minutes, will be reduced to 3 minutes.
A committee under the chairmanship of Minister of State, Consumer Affairs, Shri C.R. Chaudhary has been setup to consider setting up four regional helpline centres to address complaints in regional languages. Only time will tell if these measures would effectively deal with consumer complaints.