You might have seen advertisements of small manufacturers and service providers where (Regd.) follows the name of the company. As you might have guessed, this means that the company is registered. Under the Companies Act, the registrar of companies has been appointed to register all companies formed in India—whether partnership, private limited and more rarely private unlimited—and ensure compliance with the law. Their offices serve as a register of all documents related to the company, which are also available to the public for inspection. Upon registration, a company will receive a registration number which is its unique identification.
I am giving you this little higher secondary commerce class nugget because I found that there are several complaints in consumer courts about fraud passport agents, domestic manpower agencies, employment agencies and similar service providers. Many customers got taken in by (Regd.) written in the advertisement. The fact that it is a registered company provides a reassurance to customers that its credentials are verified and someone in a position of authority has checked the documents and antecedents of the company’s promoters, no matter how small a business it may be. Chances are that if there are two advertisements, one with (Regd.) and the other without, most customers will go with the one claiming to be registered.
Well, fraudulent service providers know exactly how our minds work. So they add (Regd.) in their ads and since newspapers are not required to ask for proof of registration before printing the ad, no one’s the wiser.
Also Read | Vandana Vasudevan’s earlier columns
Here’s how you can be wise, though:
1. If you are seeking a service from a seller in the unorganized sector, who claims to be a registered business, politely say to the tout, if you are indeed registered, may I please have the registration number? Most will slink away at this point. If there is a rare one who manages to give you the number, express astonishment and note it down.
2. Then, go to www.mca.gov.in the website of the ministry of corporate affairs. On the top panel, click on “company”.
3. On the left, under quick links, there is “find company identification number (CIN)”. Click the icon to reach a searchable database of all companies who have been registered. Check if the number exists.
4. There are also registrar of companies in different states who have the same information at the state level.
5. On the website of the ministry of labour and employment,www.labour.nic.in , on the right of the crowded home page, are the links to state labour departments, though curiously not all states are mentioned. On the Delhi government’s labour department page is a database of all shops and establishments registered, though it is not very search-friendly.
Sushil Kumar of a domestic help agency called SP Services in New Delhi is bit of an oddity. His agency actually features in the Delhi ministry of labour’s website. When I told him that his peers were scamsters, he wholeheartedly agreed and rued the manner in which they cheat customers with impunity. He said the way it works is that a bunch of unemployed young men who need money publish an ad offering domestic services. About four or five desperate urban families needing maids, home nurses or drivers respond. The help appears and disappears, sometimes within hours, if lucky in a few months. Replacements are promised but never provided. The police typically refuse to intervene. The time-starved customer moves on (read my previous column “Desperate people, desperate choices”). The fat commission earned by the scamsters covers the cost of the ad several times over.
Unfortunately, Sushil Kumar did not have maids last week. Else, I would have gone with him and not got ripped off last Friday. Responding to a newspaper ad of Mrs Sangeeta Placement Services (the name should have warned me), I negotiated with the owner who sounded too daft to be cunning. The company was (Regd.) so, how bad can it be, I thought. Two women arrived and as agreed with the owner, we handed over Rs 15,000 as commission to the chaperoning older woman, who was dropped off to the nearest bus stop. The girl who was to be the maid, washed some utensils, went away to bathe, never to return. She slipped away through the building’s main gates while the guards didn’t realize something was amiss since they had no opportunity to know who she was.
The address given in the receipt was Kotla Mubarakpur, a congested wholesale market area in south Delhi, similar to Byculla market or Kalbadevi in Mumbai. I scoured Kotla’s winding, narrow streets but was told at various turns that such an address was pure fiction. As I was about to leave, fuming and defeated, I saw three beat constables. When they heard my story, they laughed knowingly. “You’re not the first madam who has faced this. Why, one came last week with two small children and Rs 17,000 in her hands looking for some non-existent agency like this to pay the commission. Even our own ACP’s family has been conned!” How come they keep getting documents for new mobile connections, I asked, “It’s very easy,” they smiled sympathetically at me. “In Xerox shops, many customers leave behind an ID or address proof copy because it is unclear. All that gets used.”
It’s an awfully costly way to have got a few utensils washed, said my mother-in-law wryly. That it was. Maybe these things happen to me, so readers of this column can learn from my bizarre customer experiences. But, seriously, do check on (Regd.). It might mean, registered under section 420.
Vandana Vasudevan is a graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and writes on mass urban consumer issues. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org