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March 2023

5 cyber criminals arrested for using PAN details of 95 celebrities for credit card fraud

Five cyber criminals have been arrested for procuring the PAN Card details of 95 prominent celebrities, including Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan and former captain of the Indian cricket team MS Dhoni, and getting credit cards issued in their names, an official said on Friday. According to officials, the cards were issued from Pune-based fintech startup ‘One Card’. The accused used the details and duped banks of over Rs 50 lakhs Some of the other celebrities whose names and details were used by the fraudsters were Shilpa Shetty, Madhuri Dixit, Emraan Hashmi, Saif Ali Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Alia Bhatt, Sonam Kapoor, Hritik Roshan, among others. The accused were identified as Puneet, Mohd Asif, Sunil Kumar, Pankaj Mishar and Vishwa Bhaskar Sharma. Joint Commissioner of Police (Eastern Range), Chhayya Sharma said that the accused forged government IDs of 95 celebrities and eminent persons to dupe banks of over Rs 50 lakhs. “The loophole is in documentation and backend verification which needs to be upgraded. All accused have good IT knowledge,” said the top officer. On interrogation, it was revealed that they used to get GST details of these celebrities from Google. “They were very well aware that the first two digits of GSTIN are state code and the next 10 digits are PAN numbers. Since the celebrities’ date of birth is available on Google, these two — PAN and date of birth — complete the PAN details,” said an official privy to investigation. “They got the PAN cards remade fraudulently by putting their own pictures on them so that during video verification, their looks match the photo available on their PAN/Aadhaar card. “The accused used to apply for credit cards and during video verification, they were asked questions related to their financial activities which they answered easily as they had got all such details from CIBIL,” the official added. Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Fraud Alert: Stay Away from Dangerous Links in ‘Bank’ SMS

Alarmed by the increase in phishing SMS messages asking ‘customers’ to update their permanent account number (PAN) through a short URL or link, HDFC Bank recently clarified that it never sends messages to its customers through an individual number and always uses SMS headers like HDFCBK or HDFCBN. While SMS link fraud is not new, what is worrying is that many persons who are not even customers of the Bank ostensibly receiving the message and opening links. At Moneylife, we have repeatedly said that opening such links can have serious implications for the user. She may end up sharing personal information, including bank details and lose money to fraudsters. A few months ago, the police arrested some criminals responsible for the ‘pending electricity bill’ fraud. Yet, many mobile phone subscribers continue to receive such fraudulent messages. A retired senior bank official was just about to get duped by these fraudsters when she contacted us to complain about the erratic response from the electricity provider. On further probe, we realised it was an electricity bill fraud and requested the banker to block the numbers immediately. Here are some images of the fraudulent messages sent in the name of banks… What should you do to protect yourself from being duped by these fraudsters? First and foremost, what every mobile subscriber needs to understand is that genuine or authentic SMS messages from banks or service providers usually contain a sender ID (consisting of their short name) instead of the phone number of the sender. So, if you receive any SMS from a number asking you to share or update any of your know-your-customer (KYC) information like sharing photo ID, Aadhaar, PAN and email ID, simply delete the message. Never click on the link in such an SMS. In a few cases, fraudsters have even used SMS headers that appear legitimate. Such SMS headers are registered with and assigned by a mobile operator; so if you receive a fraudulent message with such headers, you can report it to the concerned telecom company and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Details of each SMS header are available on the TRAI website. Here is the link https://smsheader.trai.gov.in/ Other than checking the sender’s number or SMS header, you can also be misled by fraudsters using short URLs in the messages. Sometimes, banks use short URLs, but again, unless you have initiated the transaction, do not open the link. Short URLs are basically a mini version of longish URLs. For example, here is the original URL of an article from Moneylife, https://moneylife.in/article/prateek-gupta-the-big-indian-defaulter-behind-a-500-million-international-commodities-fraud/70001.html. Now, if you want to send or share the article on social media like Twitter or through SMS, where there is a limit on word count, you need to shorten this long URL into something that would fit in the word limit. Using a free URL shortener service, this can be shortened to tinyurl.com/ycxe6r8r. Cybercriminals use URL shorteners to reduce the link’s word count and hide the original link. And since the original URL is hidden, people end up opening the link assuming that it, indeed, belongs to their bank or service-provider. In most cases, when you click on the link, malware gets installed on your mobile device (Android), providing access to all information on your device to the criminal gangs. In a few cases, the screen-sharing app may also be installed on the victim’s device. Once the fraudsters have access to your device, they can easily use the information to rob you. Suspicious apps that may get installed on your mobile could contain remote access trojans (RAT) and device-sharing apps like AnyDesk, which help fraudsters access the device and the entire data. Since the RAT and device-sharing apps remain hidden, the user will never know about their existence. RAT and the device-sharing apps show the entire activity of the device to the fraudsters in real-time. They can read all your messages, access the entire gallery and even call recordings. In these cases, the strict rule is never to open any shortened links. In the rarest case, if you want to open the link out of curiosity, visit wheregoes.com or checkshorturl.com. Both websites offer a free tool that tracks the short URL to its destination. Remember, your bank or any registered financial institutution never sends any SMS nor makes any call from a mobile number. All financial institutions are mandated to use specific SMS headers registered with the telecom operator. For example, VM-SBIINB is a registered and authorised SMS header of State Bank of India (SBI). However, the Bank may use other SMS headers while retaining its identity ‘SBI’ in the header like BV-SBIPSG, VM-SBIPSG, BZ-CBSSBI. The typical format and structure of the header with prefixes are as below: XY – ABCDEF, where X denotes telecom service-provider (TSP); Y denotes licence service area (LSA) and ABCDEF is a header assigned to the principal entity or registrant. (Read: Finally, TRAI Shares Names of Telemarketers and Their Codes!) Lastly, your bank has all the KYC details you submitted while opening the account. So, it will not ask you to selectively share or update only PAN details. If needed, your bank will ask you to update your entire KYC details by visiting your home branch.  How Not To Become a Victim • Do NOT click on any link, especially the short URL, shared by anyone via SMS/email. • Do NOT download any app other than from the authorised app stores (Google Play store). • Use a good quality anti-virus (several free apps provide good protection) for protection from viruses, malware, ransomware and remote access. source: moneylife.in.

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Data of 6 lakh HDFC Bank customers’ exposed, bank denies

After reports surfaced that personal information of nearly 6 lakh customers of HDFC Bank was allegedly leaked on the Dark Web, the bank said on Tuesday there has been no data leak of its customers. According to Privacy Affairs website, the HDFC Bank customers’ samples were posted on the hacker forum and “the posted data appears to be genuine”. HDFC Bank Cares Twitter handle on Tuesday posted that “there is no data leak at HDFC Bank and our systems have not been breached or accessed in any unauthorised manner”. “We remain confident of our systems. However we treat the matter of our customers data security with utmost seriousness and we continue to,” said the bank. Data allegedly includes full names, email addresses, physical addresses, and sensitive financial data, the report mentioned. Cyber-criminals allegedly posted the data for sale on a popular hacker forum. The criminals provided data samples while demanding money for the full database. “The criminals explained that the hack was allegedly obtained just recently, in early March 2023, and contains data from May 2022 to March 2023,” said the report. Several Twitter users on March 6 posted about facing outages, failed transfers and even scam messages on the official HDFC Bank mobile app. There has been a surge in spam bank text messages in the recent past. Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Bank of Baroda Held Guilty for Not Disbursing Home Loan after Issuing Sanction Letter; NCDRC Upholds Rs1 Lakh Compensation

Upholding the decision of fora below, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) reiterated that Bank of Baroda (BoB) is deficient in providing the requisite service for a home loan and must pay a compensation of Rs1 lakh to the borrower. In an order last week, the bench of Binoy Kumar (presiding member) and justice Sudip Ahluwalia (member) says, “No copy of any letter intimating the complainant about the infirmity or illegality of the no objection certificate (NOC) was placed on record by the opposite parties to support their claim, as admittedly no such letter was actually issued to the complainant. In such circumstances, both the fora below were justified in holding that the Bank had been deficient in providing the requisite service to the complainant in respect of his loan for which the sanction letter had already been issued.” NCDRC, while dismissing the appeal, also directed BoB to pay Rs1 lakh compensation to the borrower, as per the ruling by the state commission. Nallasopara-based Jayprakash R Kushwaha had applied for a home loan from the Bank. Based on documents submitted by him, on 8 February 2007, BoB issued a pre-sanction letter to Mr Kushwaha. Using the pre-sanction letter, Mr Kushwaha executed the agreement for sale with Rahul Lokhande, the seller, and paid Rs87,000 as margin money to the Bank. BoB transferred the home loan file of Mr Kushwaha to its Saki Naka branch in Andheri. As per instructions from the Bank, Mr Kushwaha visited the Saki Naka branch and submitted all documents, including an NOC and a share certificate obtained from New Neil Aangan CHS Ltd. However, even after submitting all required documents, the Bank did not issue a cheque for loan disbursement. On enquiry, Mr Kushwaha was told that his file was missing and the loan would be disbursed as soon as the file was found. However, no loan was disbursed to Mr Kushwaha, despite repeated reminders and visits to the branch. He then sent two legal notices and filed a complaint before the Thane district consumer complaint redressal forum against BoB. During the hearing before the district forum, the Bank contended that the NOC submitted by Mr Kushwaha was false and fabricated as it did not bear the signatures of the president or the secretary of the housing society which was informed to them by the chairman and secretary of New Neil Aangan CHS. It also claimed that Mr Lokhande, the seller, was not authorised to execute the agreement for sale in respect of the flat. Hence, the title of the flat was not clear and the loan could not be given to Mr Kushwaha, the Bank contended. During the hearing, the chairman and secretary of New Neil Aangan CHS remain absent. After hearing both sides, the district forum observed, “BoB, after complying with all the processes, inquiring with the chairman and secretary of New Neil Aangan CHS about the NOC, and later giving in writing about not having the signature of the chairman of the society on the Bank’s letterhead, to remain absent in the case before the Forum, taking search report after complaint is filed, taking certificate regarding ownership, all these facts raise doubt in the bank’s working system.” “… it is clear that BoB having encroached upon the legal rights of Mr Kushwaha and alternately he has been deprived from the basic rights of the consumer from the time the possession of the house has been taken over, upto the period of acquiring membership of the housing society and using the house. Therefore, it has come to the conclusion of the Forum that the Bank has defaulted in providing facility in housing loan to the complainant,” the district forum says. Bank of Baroda challenged the ruling before the Maharashtra state consumer disputes redressal commission. On 24 April 2017, the state commission dismissed the appeal, saying, “(the) Bank had not responded to Mr Kushwaha on the pretext that house loan file of complainant is missing. Under such circumstances, we are of the opinion that there was deficiency in service given by the Bank to Mr Kushwaha and hence he is entitled to get compensation from the Bank alongwith costs of litigation.” Alleging failure by the state commission to exercise its jurisdiction in the wake of admitted fact of forgery and fabrication, BoB filed an appeal before the national commission. After hearing both sides, NCDRC observed that irrespective of the question of whether or not the NOC was actually fabricated, it was the duty of the Bank to inform Mr Kushwaha promptly that it was not acceptable in view of the information purportedly gathered from the chairman and secretary of New Neil Aangan CHS. “But the same was not done which ex-facie was a deficiency in service on the part of the Bank. Had Mr Kushwaha been informed about this fact, he could have either rebutted the same, or resorted to any other method to secure a genuine certificate, if the same delivered to him was found to be false, fabricated or unauthorised. But the Bank in Para 12 of their reply filed in the district forum, simply denied in a bald fashion that ‘they have not intimated to the complainant about the delay in disbursement of the housing loan’”. Elsewhere they merely stated that they had ‘orally informed’ to the complainant about the delay in disbursement of the loan since the title of the said property was not clear and marketable,” it says.  NCDRC also noted that the Bank failed to even respond to two legal notices sent by Mr Kushwaha. Nearly five-six months after he filed the complaint before the district forum, the Bank replied to his notices. “No copy of any letter intimating the complainant about the infirmity or illegality of the NOC was placed on record by the Bank to support its claim, as admittedly no such letter was actually issued to the complainant,” the bench stated. It then directed Bank of Baroda to pay Rs1 lakh as compensation to Mr

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Claim Rejected but Oriental Insurance Asked To Pay Rs1 Lakh Compensation for Its ‘Dilatory and Harassing Attitude’

While rejecting an insurance claim, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) directed Oriental Insurance Co Ltd to pay Rs1 lakh to compensate the complainant for the insurer’s dilatory and harassing attitude before belatedly repudiating the insurance claim. In this case, the commission upheld that legal heirs of an insured must get the policy transferred in their names within the stipulated time to claim the insurance. In an order issued last week, the bench of Binoy Kumar (presiding member) and justice Sudip Ahluwalia (member) says, “…while holding that the claim of the complainant was not tenable on account of non-compliance of relevant policy conditions which required him to get the policy transferred in his name within the time specified, the revision is allowed after setting aside the impugned order of the state commission. At the same time, a compensation of Rs1 lakh towards mental pain and harassment is awarded to the respondent on account of the dilatory and harassing attitude of the insurance company before belatedly repudiating his insurance claim.” Delhi-based Sujap Singh, son of Amarjeet Singh, had filed the complaint before the district forum against the insurer. Amarjeet Singh bought an Rs7 lakh insurance policy for his truck from Oriental Insurance from 8 September 2004 to 7 September 2005. However, on 3 November 2004, Amarjeet Singh died. The truck was stolen on the night of 22nd and 23 May 2005. The Singh family filed a first information report (FIR) and intimated the insurer. However, despite collecting all relevant documents from the Singhs, Oriental Insurance rejected the claim. The Singh family then filed a complaint before the district forum. During the hearing before the district forum, Oriental Insurance denied any deficiency in service. It contended that “as per terms and conditions of the insurance policy in the event of death of the sole insured, the policy does not lapse immediately but remains valid for a period of three months from the date of death of insured or until the expiry of policy (whichever is earlier) and during such period, the legal heirs of the insured may apply for the transfer of the policy to their name or obtain a new policy.” In the present case, the insurer submitted that Sujap Singh got the vehicle transferred in his name on 18 May 2006 or after the theft, violating condition no10 of the insurance policy. “At the time of the theft of the vehicle, the policy was not in force and the same had already lapsed as per the terms of the policy and it had rightly repudiated the claim,” it says. The district forum dismissed the complaint filed by Sujap Singh. Aggrieved by this order, he filed the first appeal before the state commission at Delhi. While setting aside the order passed by the district forum, the state commission directed Oriental Insurance to pay the claim amount to Sujap Singh. “Having regard to the discussion done and law laid down we are of the considered view that the repudiation of the claim is not sustainable. The insurance company cannot escape its responsibility and obligation to allow the claim. Accordingly, we set aside the orders passed by the district fora and direct the insurance company to settle and pay the claim within 30 days from the date of receipt of the order.” Oriental Insurance challenged the order before NCDRC. It contended that it is settled law that in the event of any failure on the part of a transferee of an insured vehicle to comply with the relevant terms and conditions in the insurance policy within the period provided therein, the insurer is not liable to satisfy the claim. After hearing both sides, the NCDRC observed that on the existing position of law in this regard, particularly in the light of some subsequent decisions of the apex court, the claim of Mr Singh is not tenable. “This is so because it has to be noted that breach of policy conditions which in the present case happen to be failure to get the policy transferred in the name of the complainant within the time prescribed, ipso facto disentitles him from claiming the compensation as on the relevant date i.e. three months after death of his father- registered owner and insured, as there was no privity of contract between him and the insurance company,” it stated. However, NCDRC says, “considering the unprofessional and unfair conduct on the part of the insurance company in not promptly repudiating the claim of Mr Singh for the reason that he had failed to comply with the relevant clause for transfer of the insurance policy in his name within the specified time from the date of death of his father or original insured, would certainly invite censure.”  “It is a matter of record that intimation of the claim was submitted as far back as on 26 May 2005. But, Mr Singh was made to approach the insurance company again and again on various pretexts and asked to submit some documents or the other which would have been altogether irrelevant if his claim was to be ultimately repudiated solely on the ground that he had failed to comply with the requisite policy terms and conditions. The documents asked from him during the intervening period were such irrelevant ones as the original cover note, financial repayments, status, and proof of the existence of the vehicle in November 2004, apart from asking him to comply with some other formalities vide letter dated 10 January 2007. But, a copy of the such letter has not been placed on record on behalf of the insurance company.” “The claim was finally repudiated almost two years later on 18 April 2007 after the complainant had been made to submit all the information and documents sought from him. He certainly deserves to be compensated for such harassment, callousness and uncalled-for attitude on the part of the insurance company in making him run from pillar to post before finally repudiating his claim for a reason which had

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Fraud Alert: Scammers Using Landlines, IVR To Dupe People; TRAI Remains Aloof

Technology is a double-edged sword; unless the user has good intentions, it can end up in a blood bath—not necessarily in terms of physical harm, but it could decimate one’s finances and cause immense mental trauma. All of us have read innumerable news reports and social media posts about people being duped by scammers or messages that are ostensibly from banks, financial service-providers or key utility companies. This telecalling or messaging menace has turned increasingly more sophisticated over time. Fraudsters are now obtaining and using landline phones and intelligent voice responses (IVR) technology for spamming almost every mobile subscriber nationwide. Unfortunately, India still does not have an effective grievance redressal mechanism for customers. Sector regulators are supposed to play a vital role in protecting consumers, but most fall short or simply do not care about implementing effective redress systems. One regulator has virtually said that resolving consumer complaints is not its job! Yes, you guessed it right. It is the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that does not take any cognizance of individual complaints from telecom subscribers. The TRAI portal, under its frequently asked questions (FAQs) on consumer complaints , says, “TRAI Act, 1997 does not envisage handling of individual consumer complaints by TRAI. As per the Telecom Consumers Protection and Redressal of Grievances Regulations, 2007, in case a consumer has a complaint, the first step is to register the complaint at the toll-free call centre number of the service provider and obtain a docket number, confirming registration of the complaint.” In short, consumers must take up their complaints with their respective service-providers, even if the complaint is against them, or perhaps approach consumer courts. Interestingly, while TRAI remains in its ivory tower and ignores complaints, the department of telecom (DoT) at least shows the courtesy of responding. Unfortunately, it is a standard response: “Your message has been forwarded to the concerned telecom services provider (TSP)/division for necessary action.” Consequently, the number of spam calls hawking personal loans, credit cards, and many other things, as well as scam calls from fraudsters, have increased exponentially. With individual data being freely sold without punitive consequences, spam messages inundate people’s phones. There exists an app called TRAI DND (do not disturb). Unfortunately, an app is not a regulator and can only act as a facilitator by forwarding details of spam calls and SMSs to the central registry number 1909 in a specified format. Barring the few cases where the number of the caller or SMS sender is available and thus can be disconnected, there is no other action taken against the telemarketers or spammers reported on the app. Most often, the app blindly accepts standard replies provided by spammers, who may be using an SMS header obtained from a TSP. For example, I used to receive several SMS from a portal selling old items, with a header of ‘IM-Selold’. Before receiving these spam messages, I had not even heard of its name, so there was no question of me using any service they offered. Yet, when I complained from the DND app, I was told this was a ‘service SMS/call’! Spammers are now using new methods for their nefarious activities, including setting up call centres and obtaining landline phone numbers. You may be aware that buying a new SIM (subscriber identity module) card is simple, but obtaining a landline is time-consuming and involves scrutiny, including verification of the premises where it would be installed. Yet, fraudsters are able to bypass this scrutiny and obtain landline phones for their fraud call centres. Earlier this week, a surprise raid by the officers of the Bidhannagar police commiserate unearthed unaccounted cash worth around Rs4 crore seized from a fake call centre in the Rajarhat-Newtown area on the outskirts of Kolkata. The police suspect that the arrested persons were also involved in illegal hawala transactions besides running the fake call centre. A police officer told IANS that through this call centre, these persons mainly targeted elderly citizens in different parts of the globe. “We suspect the arrested persons are part of an international forgery racket. We will interrogate them to collect information on their partners and masterminds in this illegal trade,” the officer says. Similarly, the cybercrime branch of the Gurugram police busted a fake stock trading call centre and arrested 13 people, including two foreign nationals. This fake call centre was involved in duping a man of Rs1.6 crore by luring him to invest in the stock market, cryptocurrency, and international share market. These fraudsters then scam the victims by making them invest in fake trading websites—Lexa Trade and Grow Line in the name of investing in the stock market, cryptocurrency and international share market by putting advertisements and pop-ups on Facebook, Instagram and social networking sites, police told IANS. Some of the call centres are using IVRs for calling and spamming mobile subscribers with telemarketing. Many of them are operating from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. For example, fraudsters are using landline phone numbers from Ahmedabad, Indore, Lucknow and even Nashik for IVR-based telemarketing.   This number 079-35282894 is from Ahmedabad and the number check on Truecaller shows it as a spam call for SBI credit card. A similar series number 079-35282884 is noted as a spam call for loan fraud. Another number, 0731-6197022 is from Indore and is used for investment and health check spam. Mumbai landline phones are not far behind. A number 022-50044270 uses IVR for personal loans. Another number 022-68535246 is mentioned as ‘fraud’, ‘survey’ and ‘card payment reminders’ on Truecaller. Hyderabad is not far behind. A number 040-71320226 is used for marketing fraudulent personal loans in the name of State Bank of India (SBI). One number from Nashik, 0253-6913263, shows as a financial service in the name of Bajaj Finance Ltd. However, the telecaller is selling personal loans and cards from DBS. Lucknow is also on the list of such automated IVR calls using the landline. The number 0522-7187781 is used for a personal loan through IVR. The IVR message

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Refund Money or Hand Over Possession of Flats to Home-buyers; NCDRC to Puri Constructions and Florentine Estates

National consumer dispute redressal commission (NCDRC) has directed Puri Constructions Pvt Ltd and Florentine Estates of India Ltd to either refund the collected amount or hand over possession of the flats to respective buyers. NCDRC held this decision on the complaints filed by two buyers, Lal Lakhiani and Roma Gupta. In the order, presiding member justice Ram Surat Ram Maurya, and member Dr Inder Jit Singh, says “ In the instant case, there is a delay of only 10 months in handing over the possession of flat by the construction companies from the committed date, which is not unreasonable.  Hence, the complainants in the present circumstances are obligated to take possession of the flat and the construction companies are obligated to pay delay compensation for the period of delay.  However, if due to the reason that they have mortgaged the entire project and Puri Constructions are not entitled to sell the said units as the license is issued in the name of Florentine Estates, the complainants wish to seek a refund, they can do so without the imposition of any penalties, and without any interest by builders on their principal amount.” Lal Lakhiani’s brother Mohan and other family members had purchased a flat in the project launch Emerald Bay situated in Sector 104, at Village Dhanwapur, Gurgaon, Haryana. This was launched by Puri Constructions. The buyer and builder executed a buyer’s agreement for the flat, which cost Rs1.70 crore. In the agreement made the builders were liable to hand over the possession of the apartment within 48 months from the date of the deal, i.e., by 29 October 2017. A total of Rs1.66 crore was paid by the buyers. However, the developers failed to complete the construction. The buyers came to know that Puri Construction, representing to be constructing the Emerald Bay project, is not entitled to sell apartments in the project and collect money from the allottees since the license for the project has been issued to Florentine Estates of India Ltd. Both construction companies mortgaged the entire project, including land and structures constructed or to be built thereon, on a first exclusive charge basis in favour of PNB Housing Finance Ltd. The mortgage was done to secure a loan from PNB Housing Finance Ltd. This clearly violated the agreement and the buyers filed a complaint. A similar complaint was filed by Roma Gupta also. The construction companies contented that the complaints are not maintainable as they have been filed after the expiry of five months after the offer of possession of the unit. They have already discharged all their obligations under the BBA before filing the complaint and a breach of the agreed terms is on the part of the complainants. It was also contended by the builders that the complainants entered a transaction for commercial purposes. NCDRC, after perusal of all records, found that the construction companies failed to produce any evidence to substantiate their contentions. NCDRC also stated that the delay of 10 months in handing over the possession could not be excused. Roma Gupta had made a payment of Rs1.48 crore, and Mr Lakhiani and his family had made a payment of Rs1.66 crore to the construction companies. NCDRC  directed that either the companies should hand over the possession of apartments or, if the buyers seek a refund, the amount collected should be returned without any interest and the imposition of any penalty. Along with a litigation cost of Rs25,000 each, the builders are obliged to pay delay compensation in the form of simple interest of 6% from 29 April 2018 to 21 September 2019. (Consumer Case Nos1087/1088 of 2019   Date: 6 January 2023)  Source: moneylife.in

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National consumer helpline number 1915 to be integrated with WhatsApp

The government is working towards integrating the national consumer helpline number (1915) with WhatsApp, which would enable consumers across the country to lodge their complaints against any product or service in an easier manner and would also ensure better tracking of their complaints. According to official sources, the Consumer Affairs Department is in the process of integrating the consumer helpline number with WhatsApp. As of now, if there are any product or service-related complaints, a consumer can either call the national consumer helpline number or lodge a complaint through the department’s website. However the helpline number’s integration with WhatsApp will make it easier to lodge complaints and even track them. As around 40 crore people use WhatsApp, the Consumer Affairs Department feels that the integration will encourage more people to come forward and lodge their complaints and it will make them aware of their rights as consumers. Sources said that around 7 lakh complaints have been received on the national consumer helpline and 90 per cent of them have been redressed, and therefore its integration with WhatsApp will also help in greater redressal of consumers’ complaints. Further, in order to facilitate online filing of consumer complaints, the e-daakhil portal has been set up by the department, which provides a hassle-free, speedy and inexpensive facility to conveniently approach the relevant consumer forum, thus dispensing the need to travel and be physically present to file their grievance, Additional Secretary, Consumer Affairs Nidhi Khare told media persons. The objective is to digitise and make it easy for consumers to access justice with the help of technology. All formats for application, review, appeal, etc. will be digitised for bringing hassle free, speedy redressal of consumer complaints, in line with the e-courts project. Mediation, which is envisaged under the Consumer Protection Act as an alternate dispute redressal mechanism, is also being considered through online mode, Khare added. In addition to this, the department has also developed the ‘right to repair’ portal, which is aimed at protecting consumers against planned obsolescence (i.e. designing a product with limited life, thus resulting in increasing e-waste). The portal, which was recently launched, addresses consumers’ concern on price, originality and warranty of spare parts, explicitly mentioned differences in liability for warranty, guarantee and extended warranty of products, as well as methods to check authenticity of spare parts. The portal has divided products under four categories, notably farming equipments, mobiles or data equipments, consumer durables and automobile equipments. These initiatives are part of the celebrations of the World Consumer Rights Day, which is on March 15. Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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