The Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department (CSCPD) has formed a consumer advisory centre in the city to reach out and create awareness among people on buying behaviour, said K. Rajaraman, Commissioner, CSCPD.

At a lecture cum discussion on credit information companies and online banking in the city on Monday, Mr. Rajaraman said the centre has been set up as a pilot project in the city in association with the Department of Consumer Affairs and GTZ, Germany, to teach people how to be “alert consumers”.

“The idea is to give suggestions to the consumers to take pre-purchase and post-purchase decisions,” he said. Initially, the department set up stalls in the commercial zones of T.Nagar and Purasawalkam to create the required awareness among consumers. Apart from telling the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, the officials give details to be noted before purchasing home appliances and electronic goods.

“Now, the centre is getting in touch with the resident associations and colleges to make them understand the rights of the consumers and specific issues. In essence, we teach them how to be an alert consumer,” Mr. Rajaraman said. The department also has a state consumer helpline and an online registration for consumers to take up various complaints, including banking. The awareness building programmes include investor protection, involving financial institutions, he said.

S. Saroja of Citizen Consumer and Action Group (CAG) said that a recent directive from RBI has made it mandatory to have an additional authentication pass code verified by VISA or MSC (Master Secure Code) which should be implemented by all banks as it would certainly help in curbing online frauds.

Customers should never share personal information like PIN numbers, passwords with anyone and it was important to safeguard documents containing confidential information. Customers should not provide sensitive account related information over unsecured e-mails or over the phone, she stressed. Even when a bank’s page asks for account information online, customers should verify with the bank before providing information as the web page could be a false one, Ms. Saroja said.

Charles Bell, programs director, Consumers Union in the United States, gave a talk on the situation in the U.S on credit information companies and online banking. The session was organised jointly by the U.S. Consulate General, CAG and Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University.

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