Dept. of Consumer Affairs to utilize LocalCircles to understand common consumer grievances and enable faster redressal
New Delhi, July 7, 2017: The nodal authority for consumer issues in the country - Department of Consumer Affairs will use citizen engagement platform LocalCircles for understanding and addressing consumer related issues and forming future policy which includes consumer participation. This is a revolutionary step as consumers will be able to raise issues faced, find consensus on it from the consumer community and depending on traction the Department could take it up for action. For brands, it provides a great opportunity to understand early what could be wrong in their customer service processes or a product and fix the issue before many more consumers experience it.
Currently, consumers go via the national consumer helpline to raise complaints with the nodal authority to address individual grievances against brands which is primarily a one-way communication channel. With the LocalCircles community, the National Consumer Helpline and the Department of Consumer Affairs will be able to easily identify if a particular issue is an exception or a wide spread and systemic issue and accordingly intervene through individual or policy based action.
LocalCircles created the online community called ‘Connected Consumers’ specifically for this purpose. Via this community, over 52,000 consumers from 200 districts of India are now engaged with the department, raising issues and participating in policy making.
The online community has already helped in giving inputs for making Service Charge optional and creating awareness about it. The Department of Consumer Affairs used a consensus based approach through the community and created a conducive environment between the industry and consumers. This helped in framing and implementation of the guidelines on service charge issue which have now been notified by the department. The guidelines make service charge optional and prescribed the process for charging it.
The second issue taken up was dual MRP on bottled water. The issue was raised on the platform and the Department quickly took it up because it showed violation of the basic tenets of law. Subsequently, the department has issued a notification warning manufacturers and retailers against dual MRP on bottled water.
Also, based on consumer reporting and collective opinion, the issue of sellers on eCommerce sites inflating list price above MRP was identified. Over 42% consumers reported experiencing it. In addition, consumers reported receiving products from sellers on eCommerce sites with very little shelf life remaining. The Department of Consumer Affairs took note of both these issues and issued a notification on June 23, 2017 where effective Jan 1, 2018, sellers on all eCommerce sites will have to disclose actual product MRP and the best by date of the product they are listing. Such disclosure will lead to increased consumer trust in the eCommerce channels.
In addition to the above, the consumers also outlined missing MRP on medical devices leading to poor billing transparency at hospital. Both NPPA (National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority) and the Department of Consumer Affairs took note of the same and took action. The notification issued on June 23’rd by the Department of Consumers Affairs requires MRPs to be published on all drugs and medical devices. All these changes have been initiated because the government is now connected to consumers directly and incorporating their feedback into policy.
The strong traction in the community and important conversations taking place on various Consumer issues, the Department has also enabled a new online community on MRP, Weights & Measures Enforcement specifically for the subject of Legal Metrology. This community is enabling consumers to participate in Legal Metrology related policies and get common issues resolved. In future, city level online communities will be enabled to drive resolution of transactional issues faced by consumers on the ground.
The timing of the roll out of the MRP Enforcement community coincidently is in perfect time as the country migrated to GST on July 1, 2017. Since then, many consumers have reported violation of MRP rules by many retailers (physical and online) as they are charging GST above MRP. In a survey conducted, approximately 31% consumers have reported experiencing the same in the last 7 days since GST. The Department of Consumer Affairs basis this has already alerted Legal Metrology (Weights and Measures) Controllers nationwide who along with their inspectors are now doing field visits to take actions where violations are taking place. Also, the Department will soon be embarking on a consumer awareness initiative so maximum number of consumers know that GST cannot be charged above MRP.
All consumers wanting to participate in the communities or raise an issue can visit the following links and access these communities:
Connected Consumers: http://bit.ly/consumer-community
MRP Enforcement: http://bit.ly/mrp-enforcement