Got a complaint? Don't crib, just pick up your phone

Remember the last time you bought something from the nearest mall only to realise it was faulty and you could not return it?  If you are a mall rat, you would have a stack of such stuff, not good enough to be used and definitely not bad enough to give your kabadiwalla.  Still wondering how to get your money back?

In 2005, the Department of Consumer Affairs set up a National Customer toll free helpline to address these grievances. Now, Maharashtra gets its own helpline . The toll-free number for Maharashtra (1800-222-262) has been set up by the Mumbai-headquartered Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI). The plus point -- the helpline will also operate in Marathi.

"The idea behind the toll free number is that consumers can make small grievances known. We can offer them help and guide them on how to go forward with their complaint," said Dr MS Kamath, honorary secretary, CGSI, who will be looking after the helpline.

Their motive is simple: "To settle disputes speedily, without the trouble of a lengthy judiciary system," adds Kamath. The National Customer toll free helpline has had its fair share of success. However, the idea behind starting a state-wise helpline number came after the National Consumer Helpline website revealed that the complaints were concentrated in metropolitan cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. According to the website, out of the 11,640 calls made in July this year, 39.15 per cent were made from New Delhi. Maharashtra followed with 18.63 per cent.

The national helpline operates in English and Hindi, which was seen as the major reason for the lack of rural participation. With the addition of Marathi, the CGSI are looking at opening up to an untapped segment of society.

"Through state-specific helpline numbers, we hope to be able to spread to rural areas as well. The helpline number itself will operate in three languages -- English, Hindi and Marathi," said Kamath. The Maharashtra helpline will collect data at the state level and connect it with the national resource centre. The funding will come from the centre in the form of a lump sum at the start. Then there will be a recurring grant for five years, after which it shall be funded by the state government.

And the role of the helpline will not stop there. "We are already planning an upgrade, whereby we will talk to companies about similar problems," said Kamath. "It will be a win-win situation for everyone -- by tackling similar complaints, the company too will be able to win more customers."

Call: 1800-222-262 to register your consumer complaints

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