Several studies in the past have shown that Indian consumers do not insist on cash receipts when they make purchases. Has this consumer attitude changed in recent times? Not really. A recent survey on the ‘buying behaviour of consumers” conducted by the Indian Institute of Public Administration has shown that only 26 per cent of the consumers demand a receipt when they make a purchase. But even this percentage varies, depending on the awareness and assertiveness of the consumer.
While 47 per cent of the consumers in Karnataka demand a cash receipt when they buy goods, this percentage is as low as 9 per cent in Tripura and between 11-12 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. The survey, which was part of a larger study on the impact of the Consumer Protection Act, covered ten districts of five States--- Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh.
The study unfortunately did not look at a related facet— do those consumers who collect the cash receipt keep them safe? A probe into this aspect of consumer behaviour, I am sure, would throw up another important issue — the need to keep the receipts safe. I often come across consumers who start searching for that piece of paper when they have a problem and then find out they have lost the receipt. Forget going to the consumer court, even the retailer will behave differently when he knows that you have no receipt and therefore no proof of purchase.
So, do collect the receipt and always keep it safe — the duration depending on the life of the product. Of course, for the receipt to be of value, it should mention the name and address of the seller, the date of sale and clearly describe the product being sold and its price. It is equally important to collect and preserve receipts of after-sales service because in case of a dispute, they provide crucial evidence — proof of defect in the product or the fact that despite repeated repairs, the problem could not be rectified. So do maintain a file and keep the receipts safe.
Meanwhile, consumers would do well to demand that state governments take the responsibility of ensuring that all traders, irrespective of the volume of sale, issue cash memos to consumers.
Sadik Shaik: It is difficult to take a receipt or a cash memo for items such as milk, cool drinks, etc. So in such situations when retailers charge more than the maximum retail price, how does one raise a complaint?
Without a receipt — proof of purchase — you cannot really lodge a complaint against the retailer either before the department of legal metrology (the enforcement agency in this case) or the consumer court. So do insist on a cash receipt, whatever the item. Initially, shopkeepers may resist and even ask you to go and buy elsewhere, but if consumers persist, they will be forced to issue proper cash receipts. Also remember that these are food items and if they are found to be substandard or adulterated, without a receipt, there is nothing you can do in the matter. So remember, you have a right to a receipt and insist on it.
I must mention here that under the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection Act (which is before the Parliament), failure to issue a bill for any payment made towards services or goods, becomes an ‘unfair trade practice’. And the Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to be protected against unfair trade practices and the right to be compensated for any loss or injury caused on account of an unfair trade practice. So consumers can file class action suits against retailers who do not issue receipts.