Online shopping is the activity of buying and selling of goods over Internet. Online shopping is the most preferred way of shopping today because of its convenience and easy access. Also, people get more variety and options in online shopping.
In this blog, I shall discuss the details about the consumer rights and awareness and also how to file a consumer case for online shopping.
Let us first discuss the basic details: -
1. Who is a Consumer?
2. What is Consumer Awareness?
3. Consumer Rights
4. Responsibilities of a Consumer
WHO IS A CONSUMER?
A consumer is an individual who purchases goods and services for own consumption and not for resale. He/ She makes his/ her own decision on whether to buy an item or not and is influenced by advertisement and marketing schemes.
WHAT IS CONSUMER AWARENESS?
The act of making consumer aware of the information about product, goods, services, and consumer rights is called Consumer Awareness. Consumer awareness is important so that buyers can take right decision and make the right choice.
Consumer Right is an insight into what rights consumer holds when it comes to seller which provide the goods.
A consumer holds various rights such as: -
- Right to Safety
- Right to Information
- Right to Choose
- Right to Heard
- Right to seek Redressal
- Right to Consumer Education
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A CONSUMER
As an aware consumer, there are certain responsibilities which an individual need to carry in order to bring further changes in the society. Apart from this, it would also benefit the other consumers and help them to fight the unfair practice and be aware of it.
- Consumers should be aware of their rights under the Consumer Protection Act and must practice the same if needed.
- Before buying anything, the consumer should be well aware of the product.
- If by any chance the product is found not satisfactory or false, a complaint should be immediately filed.
- While making a purchase the consumer should ask for a cash memo always.
- While making purchase, a customer should always check the standard marks which have been introduced for the genuineness of the quality product like ISI, Hallmark, etc.
With the advancement in technology and time, we can see changes in almost every field. Technology has changed our lives in a drastic way. Life has become easy and convenient and one of its adverse effect can be seen in Online Shopping. Online Shopping has replaced the traditional mode of shopping and people seems to adapt it very quickly. There are various sites for online shopping and it has made shopping really convenient and commodious.
ONLINE SHOPPING: AN INDIAN PERSPECTIVE
With the forthcoming of Internet, online shopping has been referred to, as a website, where the goods or services are sold off directly by means of shopping cart and permitting mode of payment through card system. Also, it contains guiding the business with the assistance of electronic mass media, creating the practice of IT likewise, electronic Data Interchange. In last few years, India too embraced e-commerce as a newer and modern face of business entrepreneurship. Since 1991, after India’s economy was liberalized with an outlook to assimilate through the world economy, the prerequisite to assist over with policy and procedural reforms in international trade has become the basis of countries vocation and monetary policies. Accordingly, past few years have perceived a revolution in technology with the extensive growth of the Internet, along with the application together with other technologies. Now online commerce or electronic commerce as a portion of IT uprisings has become extensively used in global trade as well as the Indian economy.
PROS AND CONS OF ONLINE SHOPPING
At present internet can be a great resource for shoppers looking to expand their choices of products to buy and is an invaluable way to save money. Online shopping sites are highly competitive, not only with other online stores, but also with brick-and-mortar competitors. The price-comparison websites makes deal hunting easier and also help guide shoppers to online stores with the best reputations by posting reviews submitted by other shoppers.
Advantages of online shopping include stores offering no shipping charges and free ship-to-store options. Many online stores do not pass on sales tax (unless required by the state) to customers, which can add up to substantial savings for those shoppers who buy primarily online.
There are many other advantages of shopping online like: -
- The stores are almost never closed.
- Online shoppers save on gas.
- There are no parking hassles.
- Online shoppers rarely have to deal with aggressive salespeople.
- There are no annoying crowds.
- Online shoppers do not have to wait in long lines to check out.
- Many online retailers allow shoppers to post reviews about the products that they purchased.
- There are more choices for buying refurbished products.
- Online sales representatives often receive more intensive product training than those at the local stores.
- Online sale representatives have more flexibility with making decisions such as applying coupons, meeting competitors' prices and expediting shipping at no extra charge.
Disadvantages of Shopping Online
Many a times a deal that looks great falls short of what has been advertised. Online communication is difficult and thus it takes enormous patience and tenacity to get satisfaction. Besides, problem solving face to face with local store employees is often faster and more satisfying. Linking with the next level of management is much easier at local stores than online.
There are many other disadvantages of shopping online like: -
- Online shoppers do not have the ability to physically inspect or try on the items being considered for purchase.
- Erstwhile online shoppers sometimes lose the power to negotiate the price and payment terms that may exist in local stores.
- Products ordered online are sometimes back ordered but shoppers may not find out until weeks later. This is particularly problematic when buying gifts.
- Consumers do not always know if a site is a legitimate retail store and if is safe to shop.
- Shipping and restocking costs are often charged on returns.
- Online buyers often do not have a person (or the same person) to talk to when dealing with a problem.
- Not always it is easier to get money refunded locally when the item purchased drops in price within the guaranteed price period.
- Online buyers do not get to take advantage of seasonal state wide tax-free shopping events.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Customers save money and frustration by taking the time to learn the policies of both online and local stores before making a purchase. As well as there are hidden charges like restocking fees at some online and local stores. And besides the restocking fee may increase the longer it takes the shopper to return an item.
Moreover, it takes longer to ship a product back to an online store than it does to return it to a local shop, it might be the deciding factor on where to make the purchase.
Return policies and its small print sometimes states that shoppers must pay to ship products back, even when items arrive with a defect whereas it not uncommon for online store to deduct the original cost of shipping the product from the return invoice. In case if a shopper is uncertain of a purchase they are making, knowing the return policy of the online store might affect their decision to shop locally instead.
Nevertheless, another point to consider is how repairs are handled on the products being purchased. Well it might be easier to return a faulty product to the local store for repair, rather than going through the trouble and expense of shipping it back to an online store.
Going through Customer Service Policies at online and at local stores must provide shoppers with clear answers on all fees and guarantees. Vague policies might lead in customers moving to different stores and thus it results in lose.
Though shopping has become convenient and secure, still there are complaints and cases where we see consumers getting exploited in various ways. Following are some of the ways in which consumer gets exploited.
- Selling goods at higher prices.
- Product risk
- Sub - standard products
- False claims
But there are measures to protect oneself from consumer exploitation: -
- Consumer Education
- Purchase of standardized goods
- Taking cash memo and receipt
- Not to be lured by advertisements
- To complaint collectively
- To verify expiry date
Well, these were the traditional ways of exploitation. Even online shopping which claims to be safe and secure isn’t really the same. Customers from worldwide has complaints from online shopping sites that they were cheated by the seller. Nevertheless, there are various websites which claims to give real and good products but turns out to be opposite. And also, at present there are more fake sites which fools the customers and advances money with the promise to deliver the products on time.
Some of the ways in which consumers get exploited in online shopping are as follow: -
- Wrong products delivered
- Duplicate products delivered
- The product shown in the image was not the exact product when delivered
- High amount charged including the shipping charges
- Delivery was not on time
- If you want to return a product without any manufacturing defect then the company may ask you to pay the shipping, packaging & delivery charges
Apart from all these, we often get to see cases where in case of online transaction the account details were hacked or also after the payment the goods were not delivered and money was not refunded.
WAYS TO FILE A CONSUMER CASE FOR ONLINE SHOPPING
Nowadays there are many fraud cases which comes through online shopping website. At present there are few online shopping websites who want lots of profit by hook and crook. Owners of these websites are just focusing on revenue of the website, which eventually results in cheating consumer by fake advertisement and also, they give bumper offers to tempt the consumer and at the end customers are lured by such offers. Erstwhile excessive bill, defective product delivery, bad customer support, and many more reasons are faced by a consumer.
You can also file a complaint with: -
The Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.govt/complaint
The respective State Attorney General using contact information at naag.org
In case the above do not work out then you also have an option to file a case in the country’s State Consumer Protection Agency
The Consumer Protection act, 1986 in India is governed by Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer affairs, Food and Public distribution, Government of India. There are many online portals opened these days and day by day number of these portals is increasing.
When a consumer buys product from online portals or other local portals, he /she is not able to see the physical product and thus many companies takes the advantage to make more profit from innocent and unaware customer.
Nevertheless, when a consumer has been a victim of online fraud such as: -
- Items not delivered
- Same impression of product Sent
- Cheap and used products delivered
- Instead of expensive products ordered, cheap products were sent
- Return policy were not given, etc.
But nowadays consumers are aware about their rights and so they take action against online frauds by complaining to the authorities. It is easily accessible and hassles free and thus actions can be done online also.
- Well, in order to file a case, there has to be certain deficiency in the service of the website.
- And also, it is important to note that before going to court, you will have to send a formal notice to the company giving them an opportunity to rectify their mistake.
If these conditions are not fulfilled, you will not be able to go to Court.
At present, to file a case just go to District Consumer Forum where you can file a complaint by submitting required documents. You can even visit website of National Consumer Helpline.
Online Shopping is both boon and bane at the same time. If used wisely can be of great benefits but on the same hand can be misused also. Consumer needs to be aware about the shopping websites and also the frauds coming up these days. There are various measures to protect oneself from consumer exploitation and thus consumer education is compulsory so that the message reaches to all.