Happy Diwali Shopping – Ensuring Value for Money

Follow these guidelines and you will enjoy the best of Indian products and services, for it is up to us, consumers, to ensure that we receive quality that is on par with the very best in the world. Be it a television set or a radio, a toaster or an iron, a cosmetic or a perfume, a crockery item or a toy, Diwali is one time when one goes for the shopping of these things.

The list is, in fact, endless, and includes soaps, cars/bikes, alcohol, cigarettes, sports items, clothes, insecticides, et al. In India today, with the liberalization in the industrial policy and with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opening up of the economy, there is a spurt in the quality of goods being manufactured in India itself.

Moreover, because of keen competition from abroad, Indian manufacturers have pulled up their socks and upgraded the quality of their goods, so much so that Indian items now compete favorably with foreign ones. Also, Indian products can be serviced locally very quickly and the spare parts are easily available. However, Indian entrepreneurs are not always capable of the salesman ship that foreign enterprises excel in. Therefore, precautionary steps are necessary to ensure that you get the maximum satisfaction from the products you buy. The first rule is: look before you leap.

Your budget and the manufacturer’s reputation should help you make a good choice. Check out with friends before you decide to make a purchase. Ensure that the price of the products is in keeping with its utility. Before you buy, go to a store and look at different models.diwali shopping

Tips for problem-free shopping

When you buy a foreign item, sometimes even if you take your complaint back to the shop from which you have purchased it, the shopkeeper may plead helplessness at being unable to help you out, and he may even have a genuine reason for saying so. However, if you buy an Indian item, you can observe the following foolproof method for complaining:

The Sale of Goods Act, 1930, provides consumers with rights as a buyer. You are entitled to goods of marketable quality. They must be fit for their normal purpose. Make a mental note of the price, and see if it is appropriate with the item being sold to you. Inspect it carefully. See that it is not broken or damaged, and works properly. (But remember: in cheap, second-hand or a seconds‚ items you cannot expect top quality).

Ensure that the goods you buy are as described on the package, a display board, or by the seller. Plastic handbags should not be passed off as leather handbags. Confirm that the goods are fit for the particular purpose made known to you. If, for instance, a shopkeeper says that particular glue will mend broken things, then it should.

If, despite having observed the above procedure, things go wrong, don’t despair. Stop using the item immediately, and take it back to the shopkeeper at once. Take the receipt or proof of purchase along with you it is always wise to insist on a cash memo while purchasing (many consumers avoid a cash memo because of the increased price on account of sales tax).

Redressal: Decide what redressal you can ask for: a refund of the total amount; a cash refund for the difference of what has been paid by you, and the reduced value of the faulty item; or, if you and the seller agree, you may go in for a replacement or a free repair. What you will be entitled to will depend on how serious the fault is, how soon you bring it to the seller’s notice and the terms of sale written on the sellers letterhead or as stated on the cash memo issued.

In case the salesmen is adamant, and then approach the shop manager or the shop owner, as the case may be, keeping your cool. It is always better to personally approach the shop from where you have made the purchase. But, if you would like to phone first, recall your points and note them down, if necessary. Keep receipts and other useful facts handy. Make a note of the person you speak to and jot down the date and time and what transpired. Always keep your cool.

And remember: always be fair in all your dealings. You are not entitled to anything if you have examined the item when you bought it and have overlooked the defects by an oversight. Sometimes, a seller may tell you about the defects beforehand, and may or may not offer a concession. In this case, it is for you to insist on a concession, or, if you are not given one but still buy the product, then you are not entitled to claim damages. If, after you return home, you change your mind about not wanting the item, you are not entitled to anything. If you damaged the product yourself or got the item as a present (only the buyer can claim), you are not entitled to claim anything.

Service from dry cleaners, builders, travel agents, et al, should be of a certain standard. The services should be rendered with reasonable care and skill, and within a reasonable time. For this you, the consumer, should pay a reasonable charge. Usually in the case of drycleaner receipts, one finds that behind the cash memo it is written that the drycleaner’s is not responsible for any loss or damage to the clothing item. This does not negate a drycleaner responsibility towards that item and a consumer can certainly make a claim in the consumer courts set up under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

If your complaint to the shop – keeper is unsatisfactorily attended to, your second line of defense is the manufacturer. He should be sent the complaint by registered A.D. post. In case your complaint is not attended to, take up the matter through the consumer redressal agencies such as the National Consumer Disputes redressal commission, the state consumer disputes redressal commission and the Consumer Disputes redressal forum (district forum) setup under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

If one’s complaint is within Rs.20 lakhs, then one has to approach the district forum. If one complaint is within Rs.20 lakhs and rupees one Crore, then one must approach the state consumer disputes redressal commission and if one’s complaint is above a crore of rupees, then one should approach the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

The addresses of the consumer courts can be had from the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’s website having as its address: ncdrc.nic.in.

Claims: Sometimes, one orders goods which are not readily available but the shopkeeper promises to deliver them at a later date. If you do not receive it by this date, you can refuse to accept them. Even if a delivery date is not fixed, the seller must deliver the item within a reasonable time. You should not hesitate to tell the seller if enough time has passed and you do not wish to wait any longer. The seller may be told to deliver the goods (say, within 14 days) or refund the money otherwise.

Sometimes, consumers are the victims of untrue claims. For example, if the shopkeeper told you that the table was made of a particular quality of wood but when it was delivered, you found it was only veneered, you can approach the district forum. Or, the drycleaners promised to give you the article within two days but took two weeks, and then too you can take recourse under the consumer Protection Act. In such cases, the shopkeeper can be convicted and you may be awarded compensation.

But remember: if you give a deposit for an item and later refuse to take the goods, the seller can claim damages from you. This may even cost you more than the deposit. Of course, this would be inapplicable if the goods were not delivered on time. If, while paying the deposit, the seller agrees to it being returnable, ask for this in writing.

Sometimes, the seller makes a small note on the receipt he gives you. You can always ask the seller to write that the deposit will be returned if the goods are not satisfactory and you can get him to sign below this along with the date. This rule applies to after after-sales services also.

When you order something, both you and the seller agree to a fixed price but you will have to pay any increase in sales tax. If you have agreed not to pay a higher price at the time of delivery because of inflation, put it in writing. Either way, confirm the terms with the seller, preferably in writing, so that you know where you stand.

To conclude, it is up to each of us to ensure that our Diwali shopping excels in quality and we can only do this by scrupulously refusing to settle for anything less than the best.

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