Citizens' Issues
Allowing Fakes and Other Issues: Amazon’s Different Standards for Indian Consumers
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon with the mission to be ‘Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company’. Amazon has, indeed, set global benchmarks for how to treat a consumer. A quick Google search will throw up innumerable articles, blogs and management books that extol Amazon’s consumer focus and offer tips on how to emulate it (three ways, five ways, seven ways to be customer-centric like Amazon, etc). Jeff Bezos is so obsessed with customer service that he is known to leave an empty chair at the conference table, telling attendees that it was occupied by the “the most important person in the room”—the customer. 
 
But, if you were at a panel discussion organised by the ministry of consumer affairs (MCoA) to celebrate World Consumer Day on 15th March, you would wonder if we were talking about the same company in India. Before going into details, a caveat. My experience with Amazon has been excellent, especially for Amazon fulfilled products (delivered directly by Amazon), usually cash on delivery (CoD), barring one exception. But more about that later.
 
At the MCoA discussion, which was titled, “Consumer Disputes Resolution in the Digital Age”, a couple of activists raised issues about Amazon that should have put Jeff Bezos on the next flight to India. Instead, Avinash Ramachandra, Amazon’s director, public policy (who was also on the panel), hasn’t found time to respond to my emailed questions for five days now, despite a reminder. Here are Amazon’s issues in India, a country that is important to Mr Bezos.
 
Fraud and Fakes: An activist with one of India’s largest consumer organisations purchased a cosmetic product made by a large multinational company (MNC) through Amazon. When it was over, she purchased the same product again. The second time around, she noticed that the label looked different, so she compared it with her previous purchase. It was, indeed, different. She wrote to the manufacturer and was told that the product was a fake. The MNC, quite correctly, refused to accept responsibility. The MNC told her that it has told Amazon about fakes and provided it with a list of its official distributors. Amazon’s response was rather stunning. 
 
Mr Ramchandra claimed that Amazon cannot be held responsible for allowing fakes to be sold from its platform, because the government does not allow it to be a direct retailer and it can only operate as an online marketplace. Consequently, it cannot control products that come into its pipeline, beyond preliminary checks. Why did it not accept products only from official distributors of the company? The Amazon representative said that the MNC should get them a court order to that effect. 
 
If anyone figures out why the world’s most customer-centric company needs a legal order to ensure it sells only genuine products, rather than harmful fake ones, please tell us. Meanwhile, we would like to know what Amazon means when its website promises 100% purchase protection, which includes a guarantee of genuine products. The website says, “Sellers are committed to sell only genuine products to customers on Amazon.in. All sellers listing their products on Amazon.in are required to enter an agreement to list and sell only genuine products.” Are these mere words?
 
Three Strikes and Out: The consumer activist asked why a distributor caught selling a fake product was not blacklisted immediately. Moreover, when Amazon realises it has sold fakes (especially cosmetics), shouldn’t there be a recall of all products supplied by that seller? Amazon had no answer. Instead, Mr Ramachandra went into an elaborate explanation of Amazon’s policies and how sellers who indulge in dubious practices are given three warnings before being blacklisted. Should every seller get three chances, no matter how serious the offence? Forget about product recalls, the consumer activist said that the seller continues to operate on Amazon. 
 
We were also told about Amazon’s system of user-driven customer reviews, where even the most negative ratings are faithfully listed. This, again, is a half-truth. Certain issues, especially problems in Amazon’s service delivery, are not allowed to be uploaded by its algorithm. Consider my own example. I purchased a dhurrie from Amazon that had no CoD option and was to be delivered a good nine days later, which I could track online. There was a courier number of DHL. However, things came to a halt when the product was actually to be delivered. On receiving no further information, I called DHL only to find that the parcel number listed there was false, since DHL only handles international deliveries (first lie). 
 
On escalating the issue through a chat, Amazon gave me the seller’s number and asked me to connect with him. A conversation with the seller’s representative was an eye-opener.  He claimed he did not have my number (second lie). He also admitted that the parcel had not been couriered at all, but he had brought it along since he was going to be at a fair in Mumbai. He further said that he could only deliver the product three days later when the fair ended. It seemed pointless to cancel the order, if the product was in the city. I agreed. On the day of delivery, the seller told me that the product I had ordered wasn’t available (he probably sold it at the fair) and offered me other options (he sent photos on WhatsApp). By then, I was fed up of the whole experience and wasn’t looking at another battle to get my money back. So, I accepted an alternative which was smaller than the product I had purchased. 
 
From Amazon’s perspective, I needn’t have accepted the alternative product, so I have no complaints about it. But wouldn’t a customer-centric company want to know about the resolution of an escalated complaint? Was the seller even reprimanded for the multiple lies and shoddy delivery? Did it trigger any of the three strikes? I have no clue; nor did I hear any regret for the mess. Instead, a month later, just after the 15th March consumer seminar I referred to, I received a routine mailer asking me to review the product. On trying to post my experience as a review, I was startled to find it got rejected. On reading the review guidelines, I gathered that only product-related details are permitted; service issues need to be mailed as feedback. I didn’t find any feedback button!
 
Apni Dukaan or Haat/Marketplace?
Amazon’s peppy advertisements encourage you to consider it as ‘Apni Dukaan’, or your own shop. But that is false. Mr Ramachandra insisted that Amazon is merely a marketplace—like a ‘haat’ or fair—where different producers stock their goods and take responsibility for what they sell. He seemed to argue that it was the government’s fault that Amazon wasn’t allowed to be a retailer, and so its services in India weren’t what the world has come to accept. 
 
But hasn’t Amazon come to India with its eyes open and chosen to operate in this market, with all the constraints? Whatever may be my sympathies on the policy issue, how can Amazon use this as an excuse for something as egregious as the sale of fake products in Apni Dukaan? Remember, Amazon is already facing a class action overseas for the practice of bumping up product prices to be able to show a fantastic deal. There have been such complaints in India to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which has upheld the charges of misleading advertising, despite Amazon’s aggressive legal defence. 
 
Since all this was played out before the secretary and top officials of the MCoA, one will also wait to see whether they are even alive to the issues of online retail and the much-touted digital policy of the government. More importantly, if this is the situation with Amazon, which is consumer-focused, one can only wonder what is happening with scores of other online ‘marketplaces’ that have been proliferating over the past decade.

User

COMMENTS

Arun Venkateswaran

4 weeks ago

I ordered a laptop on Amazon,it came in an open package. Now they wont give me a refund only replacement as per their policy. The box has not even been opened by me yet they wont offer a refund for a damaged product sent by them. Customer protection needs to improve tremendously to protect indian consumers from mnc's having Indian managers who have no clue about Service levels

Vinay Chaudhari

7 months ago

My experience with Amazon India since last five years has been really great but then I am very cautious in selecting sellers - I preferred related entities (Cloudtail, Olympia and so on) as first choice. I buy only prime products (as delivery and returns are handled by Amazon). I check seller ratings. I of course check product reviews but I also go through product Q&A to see how seller has responded. I am generally ready to pay a bit extra for a better seller but in my experience better sellers also has the best price in 95% cases. I do this for all my purchases from elsewhere as well as.

sameer ranade

7 months ago

ebay is worse! I purchased an Apple laptop and when it was delivered it i noticed that there were dents in the underbody corner. i raised a claim guarantee and also spoke to Ebay and the seller. But as was expected...to no avail. The seller agreed to immediately replace the product (a high end Apple laptop!). Admission of guilt??!! but refused to refund the money. Ebay would give no reason for rejecting the claim. I pointed out that the product description did not mention anything about dents and hence was entitled to a refund. A legal notice (sent twice!) to Ebay elicited a courtesy response the second time and nothing thereafter. Probably normal course of business for them!

Sunil Prakash

7 months ago

Online marketing DUKANS are getting big frauds. The companies are looking for their own booty and not what vendors are selling on their sites.

amazon is a big cheat. Fake goods, defective and priced more than MRP.

Ministry of Consumers Affairs and Ministry of commerce and ministry of digital india is keeping a blind eye. cases are filed with police on frauds, but they are also being taken lightly by Cyber crime.

we seems to be with thugs both at commerce and the Government.

Yazdi Tantra

7 months ago

Another harrowing incident - http://www.dailyo.in/voices/amazon-india-online-retail-sony-india-smartphones-customer-service-illegal-trading-uae-national-security-threat/story/1/12123.html
In this case, a fake was identified and reported to Amazon, but they refused to help the customer and left him to fend for himself!
Although, by and large I have been satisfied with Amazon, such stories scare you and deter you from buying big ticket items from Amazon.
Is anyone listening?

MOHAN SIROYA

7 months ago

This is the second time that Sucheta Dalal's day high light story appears on net and I also have a story ready on the same topic.It happened with her online petition to the Governor RBI, for arresting unreasonable banking service charges and I got a chance to bolster up that with my terrible experience with the IDBI Bank. Now this Amazon story has also my story about the terrible "Customer Service" experience from amazon . I had placed a order for an Automatic Washing Machine slated for delivery between 10 am-1 pm. Instead without informing me they changed the slot from my choice of 10 am to 8 a.m. slot for 30 March. Since the deliveryman knocked at 8-30 a.m. ,none was available to take delivery. Re-scheduled delivery was confirmed by Service executive on 31 March between 10 am to 1 p.m. What transpired thereafter is complained by me on 31 March as under:
"The CEO
Amazon.in
 "Above order  is destined to be returned to the seller " was the bolt from the blue.
Had U kept your Service Executive who spoke tome on 30 March 2320 p.m informed about this?.  He Was extra helpful, ignorant of latest updates. When I told that it appears wrongly worded button I pressed which says something for "Product return", Web only had flashed next day Delivery schedule between 1-30--- 10 30 pm slot. Button asked Wish to Cancell? I thought it is for cancelling the delivery slot so pressed but it resulted in a never imagined disaster. When said this to Mr. Danish,, he assured not to worry for that, but asked me what help I want for the product. I was happy .Requested  him to deliver next day viz; 31 Mar between 10 -1 p.m.slot. He confirmed and took a very high rating for himself, for a product which was not deliverable.
Second episode  of  Chat with one Mr. Satyender on 31 March about 4 p,.m. He just avoided his duty to handle any query about this as the product falls under "Large Appliances Team ". He has escalated for help to them  and that department will speak to me . Chat Over.
For next 2 hours no alert /message came . So in frustration requested for phone call.
Third Episode Mr. Suhas spoke to me . First he heard and agreed with all what I said, But when we reached for "Help" he said "If you want frank opinion, NOBODY CAN HELP YOU IN THIS MATTER as the product is in Transit for Return".
Now was my turn to get more confused. I said till now in my order page ,it still shows status as "Product to be delivered  beween 1-30 -10 30 p.m. slot on 31 Mar. At 4 p,m, Chat service man said it is to be handled by some other team and never said what truth was as you are telling. Why did   Mr. Danish   promised the delivery  between 10- 1 p,m, slot as was desired by me on 31 March ,Why did he say or even assured me that  no effect will come because I had pressed the cancellation for delivery slot button? Mr. Suhas could not give any reply but felt sorry and apologized. When I said were those  Service Reps were ignorant about this "Status" then he sheepishly said may be .
The million $ question is why the big online worldwide seller AMAZON  employ such system or personnel who are not updated with actual STATUS of the order and incur more Customer wrath ? Amazon will cry hoarse in telling the world that they the best in the area of 'Customer Satisfaction.
What will they call  about this TERRIBLE experience of one loyal old customer ?
Perhaps your highly qualified people do not know the Definition of Customer Satisfaction . Perhaps ROBOTS ( Who do not have human brains)have devised your website for active orders without knowing that for a mere inconvenient delivery time why a customer who already paid for the product will CANCEL it?
Yes, after delivery or seeing the product if the consumer is not satisfied,    at that point after getting feedback, Amazon could give that CHOICE to return the product thru' Amazon Courier  for refund of money. That can be understood and appreciated as a fair and consumer centric seller. Lesser online sellers like Snapdeal, Shop clues or even Indian giant Flipcart do that way. Why amazon has different para metres ?
It will be interesting to see  what Amazon has to say on the above "Terrible Customer Experience".

Thanking you
..
Mohan Siroya
Amazon now repeatedly says only "Sorry" and no more elaboration.

The CEO
Amazon.in
 "Above order  is destined to be returned to the seller " was the bolt from the blue.
Had U kept your Service Executive who spoke tome on 30 March 2320 p.m informed about this?.  He Was extra helpful, ignorant of latest updates. When I told that it appears wrongly worded button I pressed which says something for "Product return", Web only had flashed next day Delivery schedule between 1-30--- 10 30 pm slot. Button asked Wish to Cancell? I thought it is for cancelling the delivery slot so pressed but it resulted in a never imagined disaster. When said this to Mr. Danish,, he assured not to worry for that, but asked me what help I want for the product. I was happy .Requested  him to deliver next day viz; 31 Mar between 10 -1 p.m.slot. He confirmed and took a very high rating for himself, for a product which was not deliverable.
Second episode  of  Chat with one Mr. Satyender on 31 March about 4 p,.m. He just avoided his duty to handle any query about this as the product falls under "Large Appliances Team ". He has escalated for help to them  and that department will speak to me . Chat Over.
For next 2 hours no alert /message came . So in frustration requested for phone call.
Third Episode Mr. Suhas spoke to me . First he heard and agreed with all what I said, But when we reached for "Help" he said "If you want frank opinion, NOBODY CAN HELP YOU IN THIS MATTER as the product is in Transit for Return".
Now was my turn to get more confused. I said till now in my order page ,it still shows status as "Product to be delivered  beween 1-30 -10 30 p.m. slot on 31 Mar. At 4 p,m, Chat service man said it is to be handled by some other team and never said what truth was as you are telling. Why did   Mr. Danish   promised the delivery  between 10- 1 p,m, slot as was desired by me on 31 March ,Why did he say or even assured me that  no effect will come because I had pressed the cancellation for delivery slot button? Mr. Suhas could not give any reply but felt sorry and apologized. When I said were those  Service Reps were ignorant about this "Status" then he sheepishly said may be .
The million $ question is why the big online worldwide seller AMAZON  employ such system or personnel who are not updated with actual STATUS of the order and incur more Customer wrath ? Amazon will cry hoarse in telling the world that they the best in the area of 'Customer Satisfaction.
What will they call  about this TERRIBLE experience of one loyal old customer ?
Perhaps your highly qualified people do not know the Definition of Customer Satisfaction . Perhaps ROBOTS ( Who do not have human brains)have devised your website for active orders without knowing that for a mere inconvenient delivery time why a customer who already paid for the product will CANCEL it?
Yes, after delivery or seeing the product if the consumer is not satisfied,    at that point after getting feedback, Amazon could give that CHOICE to return the product thru' Amazon Courier  for refund of money. That can be understood and appreciated as a fair and consumer centric seller. Lesser online sellers like Snapdeal, Shop clues or even Indian giant Flipcart do that way. Why amazon has different para metres ?
It will be interesting to see  what Amazon has to say on the above "Terrible Customer Experience"
.Now repeatedly Amazon just says Sorry in reply ,and nothing else.
Thanking you

Mohan Siroya


Sugumar Iyer

7 months ago

An online seller is not a manufacturer or wholesaler. The company is only a coordinator. They depend on a supply chain either from a manufacturer or a wholesale/ retail seller.
I feel that though there are agreements and protective clauses in the agreements between the Etailer and supplier, it is a very difficult to act immediately against the seller. My point is that unless the manufacturer / retailer is honest and devoted to customer focus, Amazon by itself cannot act and prevent. However if they compensate the buyer/public and black list or stop dealing with the product/ supplier, it may act as a deterrent for such spurious suppliers.

Subba Rao

7 months ago

In their haste to be the No.1 e-tailer in the country, Amazon India seems to be cutting corners going by the instances stated in the article. But it is also a common view that some of the MNCs seem to hold that they can go scot-free even if they provide sub-standard service/products to Indian masses.

Anand Vaidya

7 months ago

Amazon does source and sell from its own subsidiary - Cloudtail, isn't it? I always try to get my orders fulfilled from Cloudtail if there is a choice.

venkat

7 months ago

I feel Amazon India's service , nowadays, is deteriorating. Recently i purchased a product, & what i observed after delivery, was they were providing this product above MRP, though i commented them with this details. They didn't respond.

Abhijit Gosavi

7 months ago

Unbelievable! I'm guessing there are more people up to fraud in India. Sounds so cliche, but true. Having said that, if complaints are lodged with Amazon about a supplier's lack of ethics, Amazon should immediately stop working with that supplier, unless the supplier gives the customer a full refund.

I'll tell you of my own experience with a supplier once. I got a second-hand book that looked very old. I complained, and they (the supplier) immediately refunded me. Also, whenever I write to Amazon, even if they say they'll respond in 48 hours, they respond in less than 4 hours. But, again, that is Amazon in the U.S.

REPLY

Abhijit Gosavi

In Reply to Abhijit Gosavi 7 months ago

Must add that this is another brilliant piece. Maybe you should combine many of these pieces and compile them into a book on case studies in Revenue Management and Project Management. Management students should find it very useful.

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Abhijit Gosavi 7 months ago

Thanks Abhijit for being so supportive. I think the book is a great idea. Must look at an e-book that will be available to a lot of people.

Raman Kalia

7 months ago

Well... It requires a lot of awareness and an equal amount of responsibility as well. On getting a good deal that delivers a working product, we don't even bother to verify it's genuineness. I personally feel markets of fake products don't impact that way. We are supposed to question every purchase and validate it on grounds of same principle that we would lean on in the events of failure or receipt of a fake products.

https://knowfakes.com/corp/Counterfeit_p_2.html

I've tried covering this in my article above.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Raman Kalia 7 months ago

Hi Raman. It was good to meet you at the delhi Seminar. will connect on email! Lets do things together for the consumer!

Ashok Kumar Gupta

7 months ago

You are correct. All Ecom sites are same in behaviour. I found on Amazon that they jack up the price and then say free shipping. It's your bad luck if get fake /inferior product. What to tell about Ecom sites, even retailer is not responsible for the product genuiness they sell

Ashok Kumar Gupta

7 months ago

You are correct. All Ecom sites are same in behaviour. I found on Amazon that they jack up the price and then say free shipping. It's your bad luck if get fake /inferior product. What to tell about Ecom sites, even retailer is not responsible for the product genuiness they sell

Simple Indian

7 months ago

I have been both a Buyer as well as a Seller on Amazon.in and can relate to all the issues (plenty more, really !) mentioned in the article above. Amazon is legally allowed to operate only as a Marketplace, hence it can't source and sell products on its own, like Flipkart used to do (through its WS Retail arm). For company boasting of customer-centricity, Amazon.in is woefully short on its assurances. After a few unpleasant experiences as a Buyer, I have stopped buying anything from Amazon.in or any other e-com site in India, as all are in the same boat. The Marketplace business model allows e-com sites to wash their hands off product quality/genuineness, but it does penalize Sellers. High time India makes a law to regulate the e-com sector to ensure certain basic/standard services to Buyers.

FTC Sues Operators of Alleged Patent Scam
Before the Mac, there was the Lisa, an Apple computer that flopped so hard in the early ’80s that thousands of unsold units are said to be buried in the Nevada desert. So suffice to say that not every invention takes off. 
 
Yet Florida-based World Patent Marketing (WPM) promised the moon to aspiring inventors no matter the product. Every idea was a great one. Based on these assurances, thousands of consumers paid thousands of dollars for WPM’s patent and invention promotion services. But eventually consumers found that WPM’s enthusiasm was itself a product of invention. A recent FTC complaint against the company alleges:
 
A very few receive a patent, some receive an assortment of useless marketing materials; but none successfully enter into third-party licensing or manufacturing agreements brokered by Defendants, and none actually make money. Indeed, many of Defendants’ customers end up in debt, or losing their life savings or inheritances, after investing in Defendants’ broken promises.
 
Even inventions touted as “success stories” on the company’s website are flops, the complaint alleges. And despite WPM’s claims of offering “global” patent protection, the patents did not exempt customers from having to pay fees to foreign countries for patent protection, according to the complaint.
 
In addition, the company sought to stifle negative reviews with threats of legal action, for example, telling a refund-seeking customer who mentioned filing a complaint with the BBB that she had “proceeded far beyond what the law defines as free speech,” the FTC alleges.
 
A federal court has temporarily halted WPM’s operation following the FTC complaint, which seeks a permanent end to the company’s deceptive business practices and restitution for consumers.
 
Find more of our coverage on invention here.
 

 

User

AT&T pulls out Google ads over offensive content
As the controversy over the ads appearing alongside hate or terrorism videos widens, American telecommunication giant AT&T has decided to pull out its ads from most Google-owned sites.
 
According to a report in Fortune on Wednesday, the British government and major advertisers in Britain have also temporarily ended their campaigns with Google because the search engine cannot prevent ads being put alongside the offensive content.
 
"We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate," the report quoted AT&T as saying. 
 
"Until Google can ensure this won't happen again, we are removing our ads from Google's non-search platforms," AT&T added.
 
Earlier this week, Google announced new controls and assured the customers it would end the controversy, but the steps taken so far by the search engine have not convinced the advertisers.
 
"In the end, there's nothing more important to Google than the trust we've built amongst our users, advertisers, creators and publishers," Philipp Schindler, Google's Chief Business Officer, wrote in a blog post. 
 
"Brand safety is an ongoing commitment for us, and we'll continue to listen to your feedback," Schindler added.
 
According to a Google spokeswoman, the search engine has started extensive review of advertising policies.
 
"We have made a public commitment to put in place changes that give brands more control over where their ads appear. We're also raising the bar for our ads policies to further safeguard our advertisers' brands," the spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
 
The controversy started in Britain after ads from the government, schools, businesses, and others started to appear on YouTube videos and Google ad-supported web sites of offensive groups.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

 

User

COMMENTS

kuldip verma

7 months ago

EPFO should include name change and other changes online only. And save lot of paper work. Presently all this is manually. Any changes should be digitally attested by employer.

Sushil Sharma

7 months ago

Sarkar desh me digital kranti laane ki koshish kar rahi hai aur EPFO sarkar ki naak ke niche uski yojna ko thenga dikha raha hai.
Ise kahte hai diya tale andhera.
Dekhana hai digital kranti ki himayati sarkar EPFO ke khilaf kya action le pane me samarth hogi?

Sushil Sharma

7 months ago

Sarkar desh me digital kranti laane ki koshish kar rahi hai aur EPFO sarkar ki naak ke niche uski yojna ko thenga dikha raha hai.
Ise kahte hai diya tale andhera.
Dekhana hai digital kranti ki himayati sarkar EPFO ke khilaf kya action le pane me samarth hogi?

Sushil Sharma

7 months ago

Sarkar desh me digital kranti laane ki koshish kar rahi hai aur EPFO sarkar ki naak ke niche uski yojna ko thenga dikha raha hai.
Ise kahte hai diya tale andhera.
Dekhana hai digital kranti ki himayati sarkar EPFO ke khilaf kya action le pane me samarth hogi?

Sushil Sharma

7 months ago

Sarkar desh me digital kranti laane ki koshish kar rahi hai aur EPFO sarkar ki naak ke niche uski yojna ko thenga dikha raha hai.
Ise kahte hai diya tale andhera.
Dekhana hai digital kranti ki himayati sarkar EPFO ke khilaf kya action le pane me samarth hogi?

Sushil Sharma

7 months ago

Sarkar desh me digital kranti laane ki koshish kar rahi hai aur EPFO sarkar ki naak ke niche uski yojna ko thenga dikha raha hai.
Ise kahte hai diya tale andhera.
Dekhana hai digital kranti ki himayati sarkar EPFO ke khilaf kya action le pane me samarth hogi?

Sushil Sharma

7 months ago

Sarkar desh me digital kranti laane ki koshish kar rahi hai aur EPFO sarkar ki naak ke niche uski yojna ko thenga dikha raha hai.
Ise kahte hai diya tale andhera.
Dekhana hai digital kranti ki himayati sarkar EPFO ke khilaf kya action le pane me samarth hogi?

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