W Power 2024

World Consumer Rights Day: Here's what Indian consumers are upset about

A report by LocalCircles highlights that in the last five years 53 percent households surveyed have bought products that were found to be inherently defective for which no replacement or compensation was provided

Samidha Jain
Published: Mar 15, 2024 01:14:34 PM IST
Updated: Mar 15, 2024 01:49:42 PM IST

According to the survey, there exists a problem for consumers on the ‘defective product grievance redressal’ front. Image: ShutterstockAccording to the survey, there exists a problem for consumers on the ‘defective product grievance redressal’ front. Image: Shutterstock

Buying a product, online or offline is easy. What’s tough is when the product is faulty and needs to be replaced. As per the amended Consumer Protection Act of 2019, every entity involved in the supply chain, such as manufacturers, suppliers, and sellers, bears responsibility for any defective product sold to consumers. As of July 2020, this law also holds endorsers or promoters accountable for promoting faulty or substandard products. More so, product liability (of a manufacturer, service provider or seller) to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service is among the six consumer rights defined in the Bill.

While all this has been implemented in theory, as per a recent survey by LocalCircles, a social media platform and pollster focusing on governance, public and consumer interest issues, the ground reality is a lot different. The survey, which includes responses from 32,000 Indian consumers from 300+ districts, highlights that there exists a problem for consumers on the ‘defective product grievance redressal’ front.

According to the findings of the survey, 55 percent of surveyed Indian households have been stuck with an inherently defective product for which they have not been able to get a replacement for five years. Moreover, the survey also found that 74 percent of those surveyed had reached out to the manufacturer/seller/service provider, to express their dissatisfaction and get a replacement, but only 21 percent got a product replacement or refund in the last five years.

Typically, Indian consumers tend to focus primarily on product features, prices, discounts, and aesthetics when making purchasing choices, often overlooking service and support aspects. A survey conducted by LocalCircles in 2022 revealed that for some consumers, the true challenge arises when they discover defects in high-value products after purchase. Those who are informed seek resolution by contacting the brand's warranty department, while others opt for local repairs. Many consumers, however, continue using these defective products unless they become completely unusable. In the context of this, 86 percent of the surveyed households want the government to create a mechanism for people to easily report products with inherent defects or those that are unsafe.

Also read: Right to Repair: India's step in the right direction

What is the process to claim compensation for a defective product?

In order to claim compensation, a consumer must demonstrate the following: The refusal, subsequent to the sale of goods or provision of services, to accept the return of defective goods or to discontinue deficient services, and the failure to refund any consideration already paid. These actions must be taken within the timeframe specified in the bill, cash memo, or receipt. In the absence of such stipulations, the actions must be initiated within 30 days. The consumer needs to send a letter to the seller or manufacturer requesting the return or replacement of the product, or a refund for the amount paid. If this fails to yield results, the aggrieved consumer has the option to approach the consumer court. In the letter to the seller or manufacturer, the consumer can explicitly state the losses or damages incurred as a result of the product defects and demand payment within a specified period. Additionally, the sender of the letter can request remedies such as rectifying the defects, replacing the product, refunding the purchase amount, and compensating for any expenses or losses incurred due to the product defects.

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In conclusion, the survey highlights that it’s crucial for the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to establish a compulsory, standardised procedure for product recalls that applies to all brands, particularly for items like automobiles, gadgets, household appliances, and other serviceable products. Additionally, the CCPA needs to enhance its oversight of consumer complaints to promptly identify potential cases of defective products and take proactive measures against such products and brands.