How many of you have planned to file a complaint against a product that does not match your expectations or is different from what the company promised to deliver, and then never actually gotten around to doing it? Here is one simple app that will let you file a complaint anytime and anywhere you want.
Satyamurthy had booked flight tickets worth Rs. 60,000 through an online travel company. But due to a medical emergency, he had to postpone his travel plans. Satyamurthy contacted the company looking for a refund, but all he got was Rs. 1000.
He was miffed by the poor services, but also clueless about where to take his complaint. That’s when he heard about the Consumers Association of India (CAI) and took the matter to them. This NGO focuses on helping consumers file complaints without any hassles.
CAI took the matter into its hands and helped Satyamurthy get a refund of Rs. 55,000 within a month.
Satyamurthy is just one among hundreds of discontented customers in India who have approached CAI for help.
“It is not entirely a company’s fault. We, as consumers, are equally responsible for all the trouble that we go through. Hardly any of us take the trouble to file a complaint. We prefer to let go of the matter rather than spending time on finding out how and whom to approach if we’re not satisfied with a product or service” says K. Krishnakumar, a Founder Trustee of CAI.
Founded in 2001, CAI is all about addressing consumer complaints and following up with the companies to make sure that matters are closed to everyone’s satisfaction. But this is not all. There is more that the CAI team has to offer.
They wanted to make their service more user friendly, so they came up with a mobile app called ‘Consumer Connect’ to address consumer grievances.
“For example, I am in a store and I have a complaint to make. But by the time I come back home, find the contact details of the person to approach, and draft the complaint, half of my motivation to complain is already lost. This is why we felt the need to come up with an initiative like Consumer Connect; it enables consumers to file a complaint from wherever they are and whenever they want to,” says Krishnakumar.
What does Consumer Connect do? It helps users file complaints about products or services they are not satisfied with through their mobile phones. The mobile app, which works on Android devices, enables users to directly file a complaint without having to register as a member first.
After downloading the app, one can fill in details like name, email address, mobile number, description of the complaint, name of the company against which the complaint is being filed, etc. These details could be supported by a photo of the faulty product, which acts as proof.
Once a complaint is filed, it goes to the CAI team. They make sure the complaint reaches the relevant company and is addressed within a month.
“We want to make the process easy for the consumers. Once we get a complaint, it is our responsibility to get it resolved. And ideally, it gets resolved within a month,” says Krishnakumar.
The CAI team of 11 people manages the entire initiative. As soon as a complaint is received, the team calls the concerned company and informs them about the issue. This is followed by an official mail that has all the details about the faulty product or service offered by them.
The team continues to follow up until the consumer gets his/her due refund or compensation.
“The good thing about the app is you can use it anywhere, even at locations where network connectivity is not very good. You can fill in all the details offline and then submit it as soon as you reach a better network zone,” explains Krishnakumar.
Consumer Connect receives about 200-300 complaints every month and about 90 percent of these complaints are successfully resolved through Alternate Dispute Resolution.
Though the organization has come a long way with its first-of-a-kind initiative in India, it had to initially struggle to make people understand the use of a platform like this. In the four years since its launch, Consumer Connect has been trying hard to make people understand the importance of fighting for their rights. In addition, they have helped people realize that filing a complaint is not very difficult and companies are willing to cooperate if the customers reach out to them.
CAI has seen a recent increase in the number of complaints filed by consumers, and has also observed that it is senior citizens who are more willing to file complaints as compared to the younger generation.
The NGO sustains itself through an annual voluntary membership of Rs. 600 paid by its registered members. “We also run a magazine but we don’t carry any advertisements in it — since there could be a conflict of interest created if one of our members complain about a product advertised in the magazine. So currently we are just managing with the help of the membership fees,” says Krishnakumar.
“We have bigger plans and this is just the start. We want to connect with Consumers International, the world federation of consumer groups that addresses consumer grievances. We want them to use this platform and then one app will be used globally to file each and every kind of complaint. It will simplify the entire procedure,” he adds.
So next time you have any issue with a product or service you bought, you know what you have to do. You can download the Consumer Connect app here. To know more about CAI, check out their website or mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org