Friday, December 23, 2011

Consumer Complaints upheld against various ads

During July and August 2011, the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI upheld complaints made against 17 advertisements from various sectors like education, health, FMCG and restricted products. Eight other advertisements got away as the council did not uphold complaints against them.

There was a complaint relating to the Bata's "Think Weinbrenner, Think Outdoors" campaign, Maruti Suzuki, CCC also received a complaint against the advertising communication of Hindustan Unilever - Pureit Water Purifier and upheld it. A complaint against the advertisement of Triply Stainless Steel Cookware from Glen Appliances was also upheld.

In the education sector, there were a whole set of advertisement that received complaints. For T.I.M.E. – CAT’ 11/12, the claim “Largest student base: 1,30,000+ students trained for CAT’09 & CAT’10” was  rejected as the claim was not validated  by any third party nor the advertiser  had compared any data of other service providers in the same category. Similarly advertisement of Satyam and Career Launcher's ads, claims were not backed up and substantiated with data or evidence and hence the comlain was upheld for these.

A TVC of Greenlam showed an old man going through the Catholic sacrament of baptism, and thereafter his funeral which shows a coffin made with Greenlam Laminates. The TVC was proved to be extremely offensive and mocks the Roman Catholic faith, by unnecessarily using sacraments to promote its product.  The CCC concluded that the TVC appears to trivialise conversion and thus is likely to hurt religious sentiments.

Hindustan Unilever Ltd‘s Dove Damage Therapy TVC claimed that Dove is the most recommended shampoo by Indian women”, is qualified by a super stating “Based on a study conducted amongst 400 women”.  It was stated that a base size of 400 is far too small to be used to support this claim and it also does not clarify the parameters for which the Dove shampoo is recommended. This CCC thought this claim needed to be substantiated with independent technical data. complaint was upheld.

Lavanya Ayurvedic Hospital and Research Center stated in its print ad, that, “Cancer can be treated without radiation or chemotherapy.” The CCC, thought such a claim is misleading and that can jeopardise the lives of many people who may opt for this treatment. Without the backing of any scientific data and due to the absence of comments from the advertiser, the CCC upheld the complaint against this advertisement.

One of the Ford Figo advertisements stated that the “Ford Figo leaves its competition far behind”, and has made comparison of Figo Advantage with Hyundai i10 in terms of space and maintenance. The facts used in the advertisement are based on Ford’s internal benchmarking study, and  have no independent support. In the absence of comments from the advertiser, the CCC concluded that the claims made in the advertisement were not substantiated on the basis of an independent survey, and were misleading.

The TVC for the Chevrolet Beat diesel adopted the tagline of, 'India’s most fuel efficient car'. This mislead the consumers and General Motors tried to justify the same by relying upon a stray comment in an article published in `Autocar India’ of August 2011 issue. The Beat diesel advertisement uses the tagline which is same as that used by the Tata Indica eV2 in their advertisement of being “India’s most fuel efficient car”.

Titan Industries Ltd’s Fast Track Watches advertisement showed a young woman taking off her innerwear from underneath her t-shirt and holding it out as if to discard it to promote a new offer of 20% off on watches. The advertisement is offensive to women, damaging young minds, and totally unrelated to the subject of the advertisement.

During these two months, the CCC received complaints against Samsung ACs, She Comfort, Hindustan Unilever’s Pureit Marvella eWater Purifier, IMS  Learning  Resources, McDonald’s, L’Oreal India’s Garneir Fructis, Hindustan Unilver’s Clinic All Clear, Procter & Gamble Home Products  Ltd‘s - New Ariel Oxyblu – Deep Clean Technology's ad and Tata Indicom among others too. These advertisements did not contravene ASCI’s codes or guidelines.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Insurance company pays after 12 years

The Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission recently ordered an insurance company to pay around Rs 9 lakh to the widow of one Ganesh Sawadekar, who died while crossing the tracks in Pune in 1999.

National Insurance Company Ltd had repudiated the claim on the grounds that the act of trespassing the railway line was criminal and illegal act and hence the insurance claim would not be payable. However, stating that the act cannot be called criminal, the commission observed, "When a railway line is going through the city area, we find that at many places people have to cross from unmanned crossings."

Holding the company guilty of deficiency of service for repudiating the claim on flimsy grounds, the commission said, "This is not a criminal act. It was purely an accidental death for which claim should have been allowed."

The insurance company will now pay Sangita Sawadekar Rs 5 lakh together with 7% per interest from the date of repudiation of claim in April 2001 till actual payment. She will also receive Rs 5,000 towards the cost of the complaint.

On May 15, 1999, Ganesh Sawadekar, an employee with an engineering and locomotive company, died after he was hit by a train while crossing the railway tracks in Pune. Through his company's employee welfare association, the insurance company had offered the employees a personal accident insurance policy. On payment of premium of Rs 200, the insurance company had assured to give nominees Rs 5 lakh in case of death.

Sangita filed the claim through the welfare society giving all relevant documents. However, the insurance company repudiated the claim on the ground that Ganesh had committed a "criminal act" by trespassing on the railway line and the railways did not establish the death as accidental. Sangita pleaded that she was never issued a policy of the insurance company mentioning the exclusion clause. She then filed the consumer complaint.

Minister wants LPG subsidy to be lifted

For RPN Singh, reforms begin at home. Exhorting the well-off to pay market price for cooking gas on Monday, the MoS for petroleum said he would be the first to volunteer for giving up subsidized fuel.

Addressing an industry meet on petroleum, Singh said subsidized cooking gas was meant only for the poor and the needy and the rich "should take the initiative voluntarily to give up subsidized LPG".

A cooking gas cylinder costs Rs 399 in Delhi and Rs 398 in Mumbai because of government subsidy. At current market rates, a refill would cost Rs 287 more. Depending on the international price of the fuel, the market rate of a cylinder could even shoot up to double the present price.

"There may be many others like me who would want to pay market price since subsidy is not for them. I am going to write to companies, industry associations and other stakeholders on how to go about the issue," said Singh.

Singh, who is in charge of ensuring fuel supplies throughout the country and struggling with mounting subsidy bill, appears to have been forced to look for volunteers after the ministry shelved a proposal to limit the number of subsidized cylinders to four in a year. For every subsequent refill, the proposal envisaged, consumers would have had to pay market price.

Singh said the idea is to replicate what happened some years ago, when people who could afford it stopped buying foodgrains from PDS shops despite having ration cards. His idea is to first have ministers, MPs, bureaucrats and the senior management of public sector companies to give up subsidized cooking gas voluntarily. Taking the cue, other sections like corporate executives and businessmen would also follow suit.

One way of doing it could be that affluent continue buying subsidized cooking gas and pay the difference between the market price to the oil companies directly through cheques. The other way would be that these classes start buying the blue-coloured 19-kg cylinders that are being sold at market price.

Singh said the fuel subsidy bill for this fiscal is projected at Rs 132,000 crore and such bold moves are needed to cut this down.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Indian petrol price higher than neighbouring countries

Petrol in India is not just costlier than in the neighbouring countries Pakistan and Nepal, but its price has also seen higher increase since April last year.

Even after the November 16 reduction of Rs 2.22 per litre in rates, petrol at Rs 66.42 a litre in Delhi is costlier than Rs 48.64 a litre in Pakistan.

Whereas in Sri Lanka it is Rs 61.38 per litre and Rs 65.26 per litre in landlocked Nepal. Incidentally, Nepal does not have a refinery and imports all its requirement from India.

Giving this information in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas R P N Singh said petrol price in India has risen 39 per cent, or Rs 18.49 per litre, since April 2010.

Petrol in Delhi cost Rs 47.63 per litre last year. The hike in rates in Paksitan is lower at 26 per cent - from Rs 38.74 per litre to Rs 48.64 a litre. Sri Lanka has seen a 36 per cent increase from Rs 45.23 per litre in April 2010 to Rs 61.38 a litre at present.

In Nepal, petrol price when up from Rs 49.98 per litre to Rs 65.26 a litre currently, an increase of 31 per cent.

To another question, Singh said nearly 45 per cent of the current retail price of petrol in Delhi is made up of taxes.

The refinery price of petrol is just Rs 36.82 per litre, on top of which Rs 2.25 in inland freight and marketing cost and margin is added. Besides, Rs 14.78 per litre is the excise duty component and Rs 11.07 a litre is the sales tax that Delhi government charges. Another Rs 1.50 is the commission that petrol pump dealers earn.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Failed ATM transaction - Consmer court orders SBI to pay

The Pune District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (consumer court) has directed the State Bank of India (SBI) to pay a compensation of Rs 10,000 to a woman whose account was debited of Rs 5,000 despite a failed ATM transaction of the said amount.

On July 14, 2010, Nirmala Mahadeo Hande from Pimple Saudagar had tried to withdraw Rs 5,000 from SBI’s ATM at Narpatgir chowk in Somwar Peth. However, the first ATM machine failed to dispense money even after entering the PIN. She therefore cancelled the transaction and moved on to the second ATM machine next to the first one. She had withdrawn Rs 7,000 from that machine but the ATM receipt reflected a debit amount of Rs 12,000.

Hande immediately lodged written complaint in this regard with SBI’s main branch in Pune. After continuous follow-up, the Bank deposited Rs 5,000 in her account on August 7, 2010, but on September 28, 2010, the Bank froze the account citing that internal investigation by the Bank was pending. When Hande demanded to see the CCTV footage of the ATM centre, the Bank refused to show it to her. She later approached the consumer court against the bank.

After hearing both sides, the consumer court bench headed by its president Anjali Deshmukh and member S K Kapse in their order held SBI guilty of negligence and responsible for deficiency in service. “The SBI took over an year to conclude its investigation and the complainant was unable to use principal amount from July 14, 2010 to September 10,2011,” the order stated.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Balance enquiry on your mobile

Soon non-financial transactions like balance enquiry could be moved out of bank ATMs to your mobile phones. This will work in the same way as you can check your mobile prepaid balance by dialing some specific codes. 

National Payments Corporation of India is in talks with mobile companies to facilitate banking transactions through USSD (unstructured supplementary service data) messages. USSD messages are at present used by mobile companies to enable users check pre-paid balances and get information on offers by dialing a specific code. 

These query are real-time on the telecom networks server and are therefore faster and more responsive than SMS queries.