Anil Chauhan bought a watch from an online retailer. While under warranty, it stopped working and he took it to the authorised service centre. The third-party service centre refused to accept it for repairs. Chauhan was told the manufacturer had instructed them not to take products bought online.
Consumer lawyers say if the product is genuine, with a proper bill that reflects the taxes have been paid, manufacturers or their service centres cannot deny warranty, irrespective of where it is bought from. “It is violation of the consumer protection laws,” says Jehangir Gai, a consumer activist.
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If a service centre or manufacturer refuses warranty to you, experts say the buyer should put this in writing and send the letter to the service centre, manufacturer and the e-tailer. If none of them responds, the consumer should serve them a legal notice. However, the buyer should ensure having received a genuine product and a warranty card, properly stamped and signed. “In the consumer forum, the terms stated in the warranty card will hold true,” says Gai. The product should also have the proper labelling with packaging details, maximum retail price and, if imported, the name of the importer. If the labelling is missing or if the warranty is not supplied, it will be a tough fight.
Since online buying picked up in the country, manufacturers have been issuing advisory and warnings to buyers against online purchases. This was done to protect the physical retail stores that saw a dip in their sales because of the discounted model adopted by the shopping website. Since last year, Dell, Nikon, LG, Asus, Gionee, Canon and Toshiba have issued statements deterring buyers from purchasing online. Some warned that online stores are not authorised sellers, others said genuineness of the product is not guaranteed if purchased from e-tailers. Antivirus company QuickHeal even dragged online firms to court, alleging unauthorised sale of products. LG continues with its stance and says the company’s ‘online brand store is the only website to book guaranteed original LG India products and to avail LG authorised after-sale services’. One of the laptop manufacturers also says that for online products, it will not provide onsite warranty. In fact, Flipkart dragged Nikon to court for including its name in one of the warnings on its website. Following this, Nikon removed the message.
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“Sellers are mandated to sell only genuine and original products on Amazon.in and they sign an undertaking to do so... We are always monitoring product quality and compliance on our marketplace,” says an Amazon India spokesperson. “If the online seller displays onsite warranty on the website, they are bound to give it. If not, it will be misrepresentation and can amount to cheating the customer,” says Abhilash Panickar, a lawyer and founder of Entrust Legal Services. Gai, who is also on the panel of the Advertising Standards Council of India, says the body has directed online retailers to remove such product-related incorrect information.
Lawyers say customers need not worry even if the product is not bought from an authorised seller on an online store, as long as the product is genuine. Take the example of Casio India, which has seen many websites selling fake products. “In most of the cases, whenever heavy discounts are offered on Casio (on any website), there is high probability that fake, replica, stolen, used products are on offer. Further, chances of anyone selling a watch at such a heavy discount out of their own margin are very less. Warranty is applicable on a Casio India product sold with VAT (value-added tax) paid bill and un-tempered filled warranty card (with product serial number),” says Sachin Sharma, assistant general manager (marketing) at Casio India.