E-commerce accounts for 36% of all the 60,000 odd complaints that reach the central government's national consumer helpline (NCH) every month, Nidhi Khare, additional secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, says.
Banking, insurance and consumer durables, in that order, are the other key sectors with most dissatisfied customers. The NCH data is becoming a major source of information for the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to act upon. Khare is also the chief commissioner of CCPA.
"We are building intelligence into the complaints that we receive on the national consumer helpline where people are raising all kinds of issues. We then see if there is any pattern where people from different parts of the country are making similar complaints about one product or one policy, and if there is ground for class action, we initiate investigations," Khare said.
The CCPA also coordinates with other sectoral regulators if the complaints pertain to their domain. In March, CCPA had asked GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare Ltd to withdraw the advertisements of Sensodyne products that claimed to be "recommended by dentists worldwide" and "world's No.1 sensitivity toothpaste". With respect to the claim of "clinically proven relief, works in 60 seconds", CCPA had written to the Drugs Controller General of India, for its comments on the correctness of the claims made by the company. The matter is under investigation. "Similarly, if a lot of customers have issues related to real estate, RERA will be the right authority to carry out the investigation. We get a lot of complaints against insurance companies and we refer those matters to IRDA. That is our internal understanding and discipline," Khare said.
In 2020 (Jan-Dec), the national helpline had received 6,54,192 grievances of which 28.5% was e-commerce related issues. Banking, telecom, electronics products were the other major areas from which maximum complaints were generated.
The CCPA was established under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 that came into force from July 20, 2020. It aims to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class. It can conduct investigations into the violation of consumer rights and institute complaints, prosecution, order recall of unsafe goods and services, order discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements and impose penalties on manufacturers, endorsers and publishers of misleading advertisements.