In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on 11 December, Piyush Goyal, minister of commerce and industry disclosed the number of complaints filed on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) related to fraud through online shopping websites. The numbers indicates that there is an increase of 575% in complaints related to online shopping fraud in last 4 years.

National Consumer Helpline

Under the provision of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, a three tier quasi-judicial mechanism, called Consumer Fora, where consumer can file a complaint against any unfair trade practices including those on e-commerce was established in August 2016. Simultaneously, the portal www.consumerhelpline.gov.in was also developed to provide a platform to consumers to register their complaints. Between 12 August 2016 and 31 March 2017 a total of 977 complaints related to online shopping fraud were registered on the portal. During Finance Year (FY) 2017-18 and FY 2018-19, number of complaints increased to 2,441 and 4,955 respectively. In the current FY, till 30 November, 5,620 cases have already been registered with the portal.

Further, Piyush Goyal also mentioned that NCH has partnered with some companies to resolve their customer complaints. This is an alternate grievance redressal method, and is a completely voluntary initiative taken up by these companies. “This is a form of alternate dispute resolution mechanism that helps in quick disposal of complaints. While many complaints get resolved here, I think it would be good to consider strengthening it further by setting up branch offices in all regions," said S. Saroja, director, consumer advisory and outreach, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, a Chennai-based citizens group.

According to NCH, in case of fraudulent transactions a consumer should lodge a First Information Report (FIR) or make a police complaint or to Cyber Cell, if company is not traceable. To register a complaint with NCH you can call on 1800-11-4000 or 14404, you can also send SMS on 8130009809. Besides that facility to file complaints online either on NCH website or APP is also available.

Any consumer can file a complaint with NCH, according NCH a person who buys any goods or services for a consideration, which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment also includes the user with approval of such goods or beneficiary of services. “Consumers should maintain papers, documents - bills, warranty card, agreement copy, brochures, working manual, and so on carefully. Besides that after a couple of phone calls maybe, start communication in writing with the service provider or manufacturer of the product," said Saroja

Remember, that you must file a complaint within two years from the date fraud, deficiency in service or defect in goods has arisen or detected

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