How much is too much?

2nd Dec, 2013

| by writesolutions

If there is anything that disturbs the equanimity of a brand, it’s the threat of negative publicity – and that really works!

I know of an uncle, who was so unhappy with his brand new Prestige pressure cooker, he had it packed and couriered it to the company, years before there was a system of 12-hour customer helpline to trouble shoot complaints, or websites like mouthShut.com to hang like a Damocles’ sword over truant companies.

I’ve personally used the site twice – once against Bajaj Allianz that had a very unholy deal going with Standard Chartered Bank in India, under which the latter compromised with their customers’ privacy concerns, leaked sensitive details about their account transactions (it happened to yours truly) on the basis of which the former could call on Stan Chart customers, who had just come into some money and sell dud policies to them. I was made a scapegoat; the policy never got delivered to me.

I started chasing them. Six months later, they sent me a duplicate, saying the 15-day window period for review had expired! I took them to the IRDA ombudsman in Mumbai, and the Hon’ judge there also ruled in the insurance company’s favour, saying although it was a clear case of ‘mis-selling,’ I should have been more informed and not let myself be taken for a ride.

And, to assist him in arriving at this verdict, I couldn’t produce any documentary evidence of asking Bajaj Allianz to take their policy back (verbally, I did at least a thousand times, but of course, that doesn’t count), and was also able to produce a letter in my support from a Stan Chartered employee, substantiating the policy got delivered to me six months late, after a long chase. The Hon judge did however suggest that I take the case to the banking ombudsman, as I had a better chance of winning there, but by then, I’d lost it – not my marbles, but my patience.

My uncle was luckier. Prestige kept its prestige and parcelled him a replacement within 15-days.

Both the experiences have made me realize the tremendous value of a consumer review website, such as MouthShut.com that can be more independent and non-partisan in a dispute of this nature than the office of an IRDA ombudsman (I know I can be hauled up in court on contempt- but what the heck).

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of India admitted a petition filed by website MouthShut.com, after it started facing escalating takedown requests from companies wishing to preserve their reputations after receiving negative reviews on the site. The legal counsel for the site argued that such takedowns posed a fundamental threat to their business model. This is not needed as there is always the ultimate weapon, the IT Act, which requires Internet intermediaries to remove “objectionable material” from their networks within 36 hours of receiving a takedown notice, but only if it is “objectionable.”

Complaining against deficient service or a faulty product is certainly not ‘objectionable’ by any stretch of imagination and represents a consumer’s right to protest with evidence, as I did recently, when I bought a Morphy Richards microwave from a Groupon site, and had a harrowing time following up the delivery of a replacement with www.Cromaretail.com as the first piece that got delivered had a visible dent on the body and the front control panel was cracked. We took pictures, as we were asked to by the customer care, the defective item got picked up, reached the warehouse (this was confirmed to us) but we did not get the replacement. Over a month passed and I learnt after regular and persistent calls to the customer care that they had run out of that particular model!

That’s when they offered to refund the money back into my account, with not so much as a written apology.

Pray, what would we do without sites like MouthShut.com? The practice of reliable, good e-commerce has yet not arrived in India, that’s for sure.

(Have a similar experience? We’d love to hear it…)

writesolutions

Radhika Sachdev

Content Strategist

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