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Beware of what they sell on phone

Have you ever tried to fathom how telemarketers operate? Here are some pointers to help you deal with them and protect your interest. Pushpa Girimaji reports.
Hindustan Times | By Pushpa Girimaji, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2011 11:36 PM IST

Have you ever tried to fathom how telemarketers operate? Here are some pointers to help you deal with them and protect your interest.

Usually, the information provided by them is highly selective and aimed at selling the product by hook or crook. They display an amazing memory while listing out positive aspects of a product, but suffer from an acute amnesia when it comes to the negative features or the risk factors. They mislead and misinform the consumer and make promises that they know they will not keep. In short, they resort to a variety of unfair practices to sell a product or a service, knowing fully well that they can escape responsibility for their verbal communication.

In order to prevent telemarketers from selling products on the basis of half-truths and false promises, several countries have made it mandatory to provide in writing, full information pertaining to the product and the terms of sale.

And this has to be sent before the conclusion of the contract. Unfortunately consumers in India are not protected by any such legislation.

In the UK, for example, the Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations 2004 mandate that prior to finalization of a contract or before the consumer is bound by a distance sale, the marketer has to communicate to the consumer on paper or any other 'durable medium' all the contractual terms and conditions as specified in Schedule 1 of the regulation. This schedule lists all essential information. Even after finalisation, the consumer has the right to cancel the contract within a stipulated period varying from 14 days to 30 days for different products.

The regulation also says that any person who receives unsolicited financial services is not under any obligation to make payment for that service. And demanding payment for such a service is an offence. The regulation also makes it clear that if the supplier or the marketer threatens any legal proceedings or places the consumer's name on a list of defaulters or debtors or threatens to do so or invokes any collection procedure, he would be guilty of an offence and liable to pay a fine prescribed under the regulation.

Here is a case that highlights the vulnerability of the Indian consumer in absence of consumer protection regulation.

Vikram Dangorey: I received a call from the credit card division of a foreign bank offering me a platinum card. They explained the offer and features of the card and filled the form over phone. Later, I received calls for verification, but at no time was I told that I will have to pay an annual fee of R5,500. I came to know of it only after getting the card and I immediately cancelled it, but they are insisting that they informed me of the fee and that I should pay. I am asking for the recording of the entire conversation, but they are not giving it.

Answer: After having deliberately withheld information about the annual fee, the bank cannot ask you to pay, particularly after you have cancelled the card. The very fact that they are not giving you the recording also proves your point. This is a clear case of unfair trade practice. Write to the nodal officer of the bank and, if not sorted out, complain to the Banking Ombudsman.

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