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Consumer helpline soon

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An operator attending to queries from consumers through the dedicated helpline on a trial run at the Ezhilagam in Chennai on Wednesday.
An operator attending to queries from consumers through the dedicated helpline on a trial run at the Ezhilagam in Chennai on Wednesday.

Ajai Sreevatsan

CHENNAI: The next time you come across a poorly manufactured product, an adulterated commodity or if a service request has not been attended to, help might be closer at hand.

The Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department has set up a dedicated number which you can call to know the exact course of action to take in such cases.

The State-wide consumer helpline (044-28592828), the proposal for which was announced a few months ago, is on a trial run at present. It will be officially launched by the Deputy Chief Minister M.K.Stalin next month.

The helpline, which is functioning at ‘Ezhilagam,’ is active from 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Complaints can also be registered through e-mail ( consumer@tn.gov.in) and responded to within 24 hours.

Speaking to The Hindu, K. Rajaraman, Commissioner of the Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department, said voluntary consumer organisations have been acting as grievance cells for a long time.

“We are stepping in with this helpline to counsel and clarify doubts of consumers, both pre and post-purchase. It will act as a dedicated helpline and bring together grievance cells currently active under various departments,” he said.

Complaints about products and services offered by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, the Public Distribution System, Chennai Telephones and even private companies could be registered through the helpline.

The services which would be available through the helpline are clarification of doubts about procedures (what should be in the agreement while buying a flat) and standards (how to interpret energy star ratings), contact details of the person who could address a particular grievance and counselling on how to file a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act in case the grievance is not resolved.

According to Mr. Rajaraman, the Department would also file a case on behalf of customers whose rights have been violated in the event of class action complaints like mass adulteration.

Many consumer activists have welcomed the setting up of the helpline. T. Sadagopan, vice-president of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Consumer Centre, said that the all-India consumer helpline currently available was not useful to a wide section of the population. “The State-wide helpline provides much more local information and can act as a forum for interaction between the public, consumer activists and lawyers.” He, however, added that the number must be made toll-free for wider access.

N.L. Raja of the Consumer Action Group, said unfair trade practices such as through-the-year discount sales should also be brought under the ambit of the helpline. “Efforts also have to be made to keep the service alive. Database has to be constantly updated,” he said.

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