Jago Grahak Jago

Jago Grahak Jago Logo

Nearly 50% Consumers Stuck with Inherently Defective High-value Products due to Broken Redressal System: LocalCircles

31st March 2022: India has a massive base of consumers from the middle-class and above, who buy a variety of high-value products, including automobiles, gadgets, white goods, consumer electronics, and appliances. However, nearly one in two Indian consumers got stuck with one or more high-value products with inherent defects. Consumers say the redressal of defective products is broken for many brands. Most of them want the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to fix this, finds a survey conducted by LocalCircles.

According to LocalCircles, most Indian consumers generally only evaluate the product features, prices, discounts, look and feel and make their purchase decision. With e-commerce apps also now in the mainstream, some of these purchases happen based on comparisons with other products, reviews and ratings.

“Based on thousands of experiences received over the last 24 months by LocalCircles, it appears that the real battle for some consumers begins when they find the high-value product they bought is not functioning properly and has an inherent defect. Those consumers who are aware resort to reaching the warranty department of the brand to find redressal while others get it repaired locally. Many others just end up using these defective products unless it is completely defunct,” it added.

From laptops to television sets and from automobiles to smartphones, the issue cuts across a large number of products, LocalCircles says, adding that, in only a handful of such cases, the warranty department responds quickly, and the grievance is redressed within days while, in a sizable number of them, it takes a long time to sort out the issue.

LocalCircles conducted a nationwide study to gauge consumers’ pulse on getting a defective high-value product fixed or replaced. It received over 28,000 responses from consumers residing in 355 districts of India.

The first question in the survey asked consumers, “In the last two years, how often did you find that the electrical, electronics, white goods, automobile, other category high-value products that you purchased were inherently defective?”

In response, 46% of consumers said they ‘did not find any defects in products purchased’. Breaking down the poll, 6% of consumers say it ‘happened with five or more products’, 14% said it ‘happened with two to four products’, and 30% say it ‘happened with one product’, while 4% could not say anything.

“On an aggregate basis, 46% of consumers had one or more products at hand that they purchased in the last two years and was found to be inherently defective,” LocalCircles says.

Among the consumers who had a high-value product with inherent defects in the past two years, three in 10 could not find any assistance from the brand, while one consumer in every 10 never even approached the brand and got it repaired locally.

The survey findings indicate participating consumers who had a defective high-value product issue in the past two years, and these 3 in 10 either bought a replacement product, got it repaired locally, sold or disposed it, or are still holding on to the defective product.

In one such instance, a brand new laptop worth Rs1 lakh with a defective camera purchased from an authorised company distributor can take about four 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, per the consumer feedback received by LocalCircles. While all this happens, the consumer’s functioning is disrupted without any compensation or a spare device to use from the company,” it added.

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 six months.

LocalCircles says, “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.”

The Union government, via notification, passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 and constituted the CCPA to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class. The CCPA intervenes 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 moto 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.

No wonder as many as 94% of the respondent consumers want the CCPA to start taking suo moto action against brands with many defective product complaints.

According to LocalCircles, one of the key concepts that most brands in India fail to understand is the concept of fast and consumer-centric after-sales service.

Many complaints are regularly received each month by LocalCircles against many brands selling white goods, appliances, electronics and gadgets. The majority of brands will go to whatever extent possible to deny a replacement to the consumer, even under warranty. Outside warranty service is mostly broken for most brands.

In some cases, LocalCircles found that it takes weeks just to acknowledge a consumer complaint. It says, “In many other cases, something as simple as a toll-free number is hard to find for consumers and even after it is found and the consumer approaches it, the customer service agent remains elusive. Then there are the customer service hours and calls received after-hours are just not returned. Many consumers give up on such after-sale services and either get defective products repaired locally, buy a replacement, or live with the defective product.”

All of this is evident in the study findings, with 46% of consumers surveyed saying that they have purchased a high-value product in the last two years which was inherently defective.

“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. This has the support of 94% of consumers. 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,” LocalCircles says.

LocalCircles says it will share the findings of this survey with key stakeholders in the Indian government, the ministry of consumer affairs and the CCPA, for action. Source: moneylife