buyers beware!
When online shopping goes off the track
Pushpa Girimaji Pushpa Girimaji

I bought a multi-media mobile set from an online shopping portal and gifted it to my sister. To our surprise, we found it to be defective, its touch screen being dead. The website’s customer care said that there was no warranty for the touch screen and besides, the dealer is not responsible for the product. We were asked to take it to an authorised dealer and get a new touch screen by incurring an expenditure of Rs 4,000 which is one-third of the mobile’s price. What should be my course of action?

The dealer is absolutely wrong. He is as responsible as the manufacturer for the product that he has sold and if the product is defective, he has to give you a refund or a defect-free replacement. In M.Subba Rao vs Avula Venkata Reddy ( RP no 3292 of 2003, decided on March 22, 2007) for example, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission dismissed the argument of the dealer that he alone cannot be made liable for the defective product (seeds ) sold by him and that the manufacturer should also be equally liable. The Commission here asked the dealer to pay the entire compensation awarded to the consumer.

Thinkstock photos/getty imagesYou must also remember that unlike a brick-and-mortar shop, where you will examine the product and purchase it, here you have not even had the opportunity of physically examining the product or checking whether the touch screen works. So the dealers of online shops have a greater responsibility in ensuring that consumer complaints about the products are redressed forthwith.

As far as the warranty is concerned, you must remember that through the warranty, the manufacturer guarantees that the product is defect-free. In this case, it has not been so. The touch screen never worked. So whatever the standard warranty clauses say, they cannot take away your right to a defect-free mobile set and your right to redress of your grievance. And you can exercise your right by filing a complaint before the consumer court, seeking a refund (or a replacement), compensation for the harassment caused , cost of litigation and even punitive damages.

Keeping in mind the time factor (that is, the time involved in dispute resolution before the consumer court), I would suggest that you first contact the authorised service centre, tell them about the defect and ask them to replace the touch screen or the instrument itself. They should do this without any charge. If they don’t , then you will have to go to the consumer court.

I ordered an expensive silver bracelet through an online shop for my wife for her birthday. However, even after collecting the money for it through my credit card, he did not send the bracelet. Now he is not responding to my e-mails. He claimed that he was an Italian jeweller, but I do not know where he is located. I cannot find his postal address or telephone number on the website. What do I do?

This looks like a fraudulent online shop to me. There are many such ‘shops’ in the cyberspace. So lodge a complaint with the Economic Offences wing of the Delhi police, dealing with online fraud. They may be able to track down the address of the shop through the credit card transaction. Another option is to contact the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network – an organisation of consumer protection authorities from over 40 countries (India is not part of it) that work together to protect consumers from online scams. They conduct international ‘internet sweep’ to detect and put a stop to online fraudulent companies and claims and they may be able to help you. You can lodge a complaint on their website (