NEW DELHI: From laptops to smartphones, 46% of Indian consumers ( nearly 1 in 2) have gotten stuck with one or more high-value products like electronics, whitegoods or automobiles with inherent defects, said a survey by LocalCircles.
Of the consumers who had a high-value product with inherent defects in the last two years, 3 in 10 could not find any assistance from the brand while 1 in 10 never even approached the brand and got it repaired locally. The survey received responses from 28,000 Indians.
For instance, a brand new Rs 100,000 laptop with a defective camera purchased from an authorised company distributor can take about weeks for the consumer to get a replacement after multiple visits by company techs. The process is extremely unfriendly for the end consumer and is designed to minimise replacements, as per the consumer feedback received by LocalCircles. While all this happens, the consumer’s functioning is disrupted, of course without any compensation or a spare device to use from the company.
From television sets to automobiles, the issue cuts across a large number of products. Passing a verdict in one of such cases, the Bangalore Urban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission directed a local firm to pay compensation for selling a defective product to a consumer, for their failure to replace the defective product despite repeated requests for about 6 months. In many such cases of laptops or television sets, what ends up happening is most consumers are unable to wait for redressal from the brand warranty or non-warranty process and either get the product repaired locally, which has consequences, or just buy a replacement.
Of the consumers who had a high-value product with inherent defects in the last two years, 3 in 10 could not find any assistance from the brand while 1 in 10 never even approached the brand and got it repaired locally.
Sixty six per cent of consumers said that despite raising the issue, the brand refused to fix it. Only 3% of consumers said that when they raised the issue with the brand and the latter refused, but they won against them in the consumer court. 10% said that when the brand refused to fix the defective product, they created awareness about it on social media.
Breaking down the poll, 10% of consumers said that they never raised the issue with the brand because they couldn’t reach them. Another 10% said that they never raised the issue with the brand and instead got it fixed locally.
94% consumers want the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to start taking suo moto action against brands that have a large number of defective product complaints. The Centre had passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019, and constituted the CCPA to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class. The CCPA would intervene to prevent consumer detriment arising from unfair trade practices and can also initiate class action, including enforcing a recall, processing refund, and return of products.
The CCPA is also empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights, order recalls of unsafe goods and services as well as take a suo-motu cognisance against brands where a class of consumers is impacted due to a defective product or inefficient customer service.
The CCPA has, in recent months, taken some actions against sellers of non-compliant pressure cookers and helmets as well as against misleading advertisements by penalising them and discontinuing sales and promotions of such products.
According to consumers, the after-sale service is largely broken in India and the CCPA must start taking suo moto action against brands that have a large number of defective product complaints. The actions of CCPA should be such that they drive a culture change amongst brands to invest in after-sale service, for if they do this right, they could have happy consumers for life.