The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has come to online consumers’ aid by creating an Online Consumer Mediation Centre (OCMC). The centre is all set to be launched on 24th December, which is National Consumer Rights Day. Developed in collaboration with National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, OCMC’s primary aim is to resolve ecommerce related issues that consumers face. The centre hopes that it would encourage people to register complaints and find an amicable solution.
Ashok R. Patil, Director, OCMC stated,
“Currently, a majority of the consumers do not approach redress forums as they feel it is time-consuming or that they may not get good compensation. We hope that this will change with our software.”
Some facts about OCMC
The initiative is funded by the Department of Consumer Affairs
Reputed lawyers and judges would be part of OCMC’s mediators panel
Customers can use this online service for a fee of Rs. 100
The step 1 of this complaint redressal mechanism would be to encourage a dialogue between consumers and e-commerce firms via text-based negotiation on the OCMC website
Consumers can upload documents and relevant documents to support their claim
“The consumer should mention whether she wants a full or partial refund, or replacement of product. If the dispute is not resolved after a week, a neutral mediator will be appointed. Both consumers and company representatives can chat only with the mediator or chat together with the mediator in a chat window,” said Krishna Bharadwaj, one of the mediators at OCMC.
The ministry is now waiting for ecommerce companies to agree to be part of this initiative.
Government’s previous initiatives to protect interests of online consumers
In February this year, the Maharashtra Government had launched an online consumer court that allowed consumers, activists and lawyers to file cases. But it wasn’t an ecommerce specific grievances portal, unlike the soon-to-be- launched OCMC.
Talks are also on to alter the Consumer Protection Bill to add ecommerce related elements in the bill.
Sellers, consumers and etailers, all need protection from fraudulent practices
The Online Consumer Mediation Centre would greatly help customers who are being harassed by ecommerce companies and fake sellers. But the need of the hour is to build a dedicated redressal mechanism for all ecommerce related practices and which caters to all the parties involved, be it a buyer, seller or etailer. Case in point- 2 customers were recently arrested for cheating Flipkart. Sellers too have a big list of complaints against Snapdeal, Amazon, Flipkart, and others.
The success of such initiatives depends heavily on ecommerce companies and their willingness to participate. Would online marketplaces agree to be part of OCMC’s plan? Would sellers’ complaints be also entertained by the mediation centre in the future?