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Use the portal and vent your anger!
Urmila Rao, Outlook Money
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August 27, 2007

In October 2005, a beaming Ranjan Das drove his family through the imposing gates of Uniworld City, a high-rise apartment block adding glamour to the imposing skyline of Delhi suburb Gurgaon. As the lift darted up to the 15th floor, the foursome couldn't contain their excitement. This was not just another apartment with swank facilities that they were going to see, but their own home. This would be their refuge after the rigours of daily life in a metro.

Pretty and peaceful as its first impressions were, the Das family was not to know that they would prove to be delusional. For them, as for other families who took overdue possession of their apartments, it was a matter of days before the dream started crumbling. Apartment owners of Uniworld City, constructed by Unitech, a leading property developer of Delhi, maintain that they were handed over a defective product with a crippled service.

"It's been just a year-and-a-half and the paint is peeling and the plaster has cracked," rues Das. "The construction material dumped in the bathroom shaft has not been cleared, triggering seepage. We sent emails and letters to the Unitech management, but no help was extended. In fact, we even learnt that some Unitech investors had already formed a Residents' Welfare Association without even informing the actual residents."

Then one of the residents took an intrepid step. He shot a nine-minute video of much that was wrong in the building and posted it on the popular broadcast website (search on Unitech woes). The no-holds-barred web post showed definitively that the shoddy work posed a danger to residents, especially children and the elderly. Soon after the link was posted, the company's management stepped in to do the much-needed repairs.

Contacted for its comments, the company responded by email, "Unitech is a customer-friendly company committed to utmost customer satisfaction. We have been approached by the RWA concerning some requirements and we are moving ahead in the direction to ensure that these are suitably and adequately addressed."

"Though late, at least our complaints are being addressed now," says Sandeep Batra, 40, another aggrieved resident. Attribute it to the power of technology: a web expose today is far more effective than conventional forms of grievance redressal.  

Earlier, an aggrieved consumer could at best write a letter to the manufacturer or service-provider, and in the absence of a response, spend days wondering if the complaint had reached the addressee at all. Alternatively, he could voice his grievances in the media or approach the consumer court, which entailed considerable investment of time and effort.    

But technological advances have revolutionised the way an upset consumer can react to a flawed product, expanding the effect, impact and reach of a complaint. Without question, the Internet is a delight for the distressed consumer. As Faisal Faruki, director of a product and review website,, says, "The Internet is ubiquitous and pervasive." A look at some of the options technology provides to discontented consumers.

Web portals. One of the most democratic offerings of the Net, not only do portals or websites provide platforms for you to vent your anger, they also allow research and enable problem-solving. If you are considering purchase of a big-ticket item, all it takes is a click of a mouse to access feedback from real-time consumers on the same product. Websites like can be visited by consumers while choosing a product.

"The consumer today is flooded with choices," says Faruki. "Decision-making is easier when he can go through reviews of the product/service posted by opinionated and informed purchasers. The opinion of 100 consumers can't be wrong."

The opinions, posted so freely, make it imperative for companies in a competitive market to respond to complaints. "Some companies get in touch with us and contact the person whose complaint is posted to resolve the issue," says Faruki.

Video clippings. If you can't articulate your complaint in words, video-record it and post it on video-friendly websites. The popularity of websites like indicates that videos will be bigger than words in webspace. The Unitech whistleblowing video, for instance, created quite a stir in the company's headquarters and it reflected soon on the ground. "We got water for the swimming pool just a month ago," says Das. "We also got rightful representation in the RWA that Unitech investors had set up without our knowledge."

Blogs. Web-logs, or blogs, are online journals for public consumption. There are numerous blogs featuring product reviews, which you can visit to make an informed purchase decision. Blog sites like serve as online consumer resource and grievance redressal systems. Besides, you can create your own account on blog sites like

Special software. Consumer rights groups are also going online. "We are envisaging a platform on our website ( for online registration of consumer complaints," says Roopa Vajpeyi, editor, Consumer Voice, a Delhi-based organisation championing consumer awareness. "The idea is to give the customer access to the corporates without having to resort to the judicial system."

Toll-free numbers. Forward-looking organisations and consumer outfits have toll-free numbers that can be dialled to lodge a complaint.

The flip side. Technology opens up new avenues for consumers, but it doesn't come with any assurances of the grievance being redressed. As Bharath Jairaj, director, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, Chennai says, "Technological inputs help put across certain kinds of complaints - for instance, an insect in a soft drink or a biscuit packet - where the facts can be captured by technology. But if the complaint centres around, say, late handover of possession of an apartment, technology only enables mass email."

With all the comfort that technology offers, it can also be misused by vested interests, for example, to malign a company. Says Anand Patwardhan, chairman, Consumer Guidance Society of India, "I have come across cases where the users have not complied with the company's product usage guidelines and then complained of the product being defective."

These hazards notwithstanding, technology undeniably provides a podium, a voice and an audience to the common consumer. Just try silencing him now.  

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