Consumer Laws in India

A few months ago over dinner, a friend mentioned that most outsourcing/BPO jobs are now going to Phillipines rather than to India, which was previously considered the world’s back office.

The reason is simple, he said, “the people in Manila have good english skills and they can think.”

For a minute, I was left speechless, even though there was a part of me that wanted to protest strongly. But having dealt with customer service executives recently, I knew that he was speaking the truth.

Today, this notion is more enforced because I hope at least in Manila there is better enforcement of consumer laws.

It isn’t that there is a lack of laws to protect the consumer to India. Just that most of us are not aware of it, or even if we do find out, it becomes easier to convince someone to do something rather than threaten them with the law.

As Indians, we have an instinctive dislike towards the judiciary process, perhaps scared by stories that take years to be resolved in court, if ever. Suing people is absolutely unheard of. Consumer courts are used sparsely. And companies take advantage of this little fear and convince you that this is the law.

A friend who is moving away recently told me harrowing stories about running around to close certain bank accounts and get phone connections changed. Everywhere he went, he met resistance and the customer service people tried to tell him that he cannot close those accounts.

In a place where people are paid according to the number of accounts they bring in or keep, execs hate the thought of closing those accounts.

I’ve been trying to close an airtel internet account for the past month. It is hard to get one, and it is harder to close it. As the place I live in is not eligible for an Airtel account, I asked them to close it. They told me repeatedly that there was no way to give me a connection here, so I was left with no option. Except, there is such a horrible disconnect between Airtel’s teams, there is someone calling me every other day asking me if I am sure I want to close the account, and if I would want to transfer the account to someone else instead.

The first call, I explained I didn’t and the reasons. The second, I did. The third, I blankly said cancel the connection. The calls still go on. They want to “double check.” And today, I get the monthly bill for the internet connection.

Which means I have to go to the office and argue it out and refuse to pay the bill. And I have to do this for a service I have not been using for over a month.

When you do ask these execs about why I cannot cancel/close/transfer an account, they give you a whole spiel about why it isn’t their policy but do not mention the one important thing – they need to show those numbers to the head honchos at the end of the month. It is all about numbers. The sales you make, the customers you retain, the people you get… and in the numbers game, companies seem to be forgetting that it is good service that takes in the long way, not herding people along like sheep.

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