CONSUMER RIGHTS
Quality service
by Pushpa Girimaji

The quality of products sold in the country may have improved but there is no corresponding change in the quality of after sales service. In fact, many companies have outsourced after sales service, but maintain no proper supervision on their working nor do they monitor through consumer satisfaction surveys the quality of service provided.

As a result, despite calling the companyís authorised service centres, consumers are not sure whether they are getting the right service. In fact, going by the experiences of some of the consumers, one could well end up paying for parts that are not needed to be replaced at all. Or pay for a new part, but get in return, a repaired or a recycled part. In short, get deficient or poor after sales service.

Thereís another problem too. Most retailers selling consumer durables deal with not just one but several brands. And if something were to go wrong with the product that they have sold, they forget that they also have a responsibility in getting the product serviced. There have been instances where they have collected from the consumer, the product to be repaired and not passed it on to the service centre. Or told the consumer that their responsibility ended once they sold the product.

Itís time manufacturers, particularly those who franchise after sales service, paid more attention to the quality of service provided by the service centres. Manufacturers should also make the dealers realise their responsibility in so far as the servicing of the product is concerned. Consumer courts have in fact made it clear in many cases that both the dealer and the manufacturer are liable for the poor quality of the product or its after sales service.

So you have a right to quality goods and quality after sales service and for any violations of this right, you can go to the consumer court. However, it would help to be an alert consumer. So here are sometips:

Before buying a product, ask the dealer as well as the manufacturer about the after sales service and the reliability of the service centre. Is it run by the company itself or has the manufacturer given the franchise to someone? If it is the latter, how does the manufacturer ensure proper after sales service? What is the response time of the service center to complaints?

Try and find out how responsible the dealer would be in case of any problem with the product. Will he call up the service centre and ensure that someone attends to your complaint immediately? If the product turns out to be defective, will he give you a replacement or leave you to fight it out with the manufacturer?

Before you call the dealer or the service centre, take out your warranty/guarantee cards and understand what the manufacturer has promised and make sure that the promise is fulfilled. Do not pay for services or parts under warranty.

Make sure that the mechanic comes at a time convenient to you and shows you his identity card. And be present when he does the repair work.

If he wants to replace any part, ask him to first show the replacement. Make sure that the part is new and is in its original packaging and that he is not using an old or a "duplicate" piece. Find out about the guarantee for the new part and if there is no warranty/guaranty card with the part, get a commitment on that score in writing.

Always keep the replaced part with you. Dispose it yourself. This prevents the service centre from recycling it.

These days the prices of some of the electric and electronic goods have come down so much that it is cheaper and wiser to buy a new one than get the old one repaired. So if your product is well past the warranty period, always get an estimate of the cost of repairing.

There have been instances where the mechanic from the service centre has offered to get the parts to be replaced at a much lower price than the one charged by the centre. Do not fall for such offers. Most likely, you will end up with a recycled or a spurious part. Whenever you come across such offers, complain to the company in writing.
Always collect a receipt for all services rendered and parts changed. Let all details be specified on it. Write down the full name of the person who attended to the problem. Keep these safe.

Also keep a record of the date on which you called the service centre and the time taken by them to attend to the complaint. In short, be an alert consumer and do not allow any company, its dealer or its service center to take you for a ride or take you lightly.

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