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Friday, February 9, 2018

Pettition to Department of Consumer Affairs for intervening in stopping unfair business by major retailers like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Myntra, Jabong, Pantaloons, Home Saaz etc.

Petition to Department of Consumer Affairs for intervening in stopping unfair business by major retailers like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Myntra, Jabong, Pantaloons, Home Saaz etc. 

Dear Readers,

I have been bringing to the notice of Govt. of India about the unfair business being carried out by major retailers like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Myntra, Jabong, Pantaloons, Home Saaz etc. Several articles have been written on this blog since 2014, The copy of the Posts were being mailed to the respective retailers.However, the practice still continues as on date. The unfair business practices of these retailers are being derived out of charging taxes on the discounted sale price. The discounted sale price after factoring with the discount rate become revised MRP and hence charging of any tax on the MRP is unfair trade practices. Hon'able State Commission and Hon'able National Commission have already termed charging of tax on such discounted prices as unfair business practices and imposed penalties onto them for such unfair business. To a great dismay, these retailers are flouting the rules and continue with their such unfair trade practices (UTP). The attention of Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) have been drawn to consider issue of necessary notification so as to curb the unfair business of the retailers. The content of my petition raised through a Local Circle Community is reproduced below:

"It has been noticed that the major retailers like Home Saaz, Myntra, Jabong, Pantaloons, Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle are adapting to unfair business practices by charging taxes on the discounted prices so arrived after earmarking for the offered discounts. Since the MRP is alwayz inclusive of taxes as per MRP rules for the packaged commodities, the discounted prices also become inclusive of Taxes in that proportion. The charging of taxes on such discounted prices is not only amounting to violation of MRP rules but also mislead the consumers as the product does not get purchase at the net discounted prices. Honable State Commissions and Honable National Commission have already adjudicated the matter and termed charging of taxes on discounted prices as unfair business practices. The petitioner on various occasions have got refund of the excess amount as and when the issue taken up but the practices still continues affecting almost all consumers who either or not aware or unable to raise the voice against such deceptive practices. I appeal to all the members to kindly sign the petition with their comments so that we are able to stop such deceptive trade practices. The Controller of Legal Metrology and Director, Legal Metrology are appealed to issue necessary notification for the benefit of the consumers across the country. Meanwhile I have already reported matter against Home Saaz Faridabad to Controller Legal Metrology, Haryana for taking penal action."

The readers and visitors of this blog are appealed to kindly visit the following link and sign the petition so that we together can make a change in the deceptive trade practices prevailing in the system

Please share the article as much as possible on face book, twitter, email etc. so as to gain the momentum of our contribution to the society by being vigilant to the unfair businesses.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Transacting Digitally

Transacting through Digital Payment System



The Indian government recently had initiated the demonetisation drive in November 2016 withdrawing currency of Rs. 500/- and Rs. 1,000/- from the market. The demonetization drive resulted into pushing the citizens to carry out banking transactions through Internet or plastic cards. Such technologically driven banking transactions also make banking transactions susceptible to financial frauds. 


As the banking sector moves deeper into the digital era where banks provide 24x7 technologically advanced products, the consumers need to exercise greater caution to avoid digital and net banking fraud. It is up to individual customers to ensure the safety and security of their payment systems and enjoy the ease and convenience of digital banking.

The normal mode of cashless transactions is through internet banking, cash cards, wallets, debit cards, credit cards etc.  While you enjoy such 24x7 newly-acquired convenience, it is essential to take necessary cautions on cyber security at every step.  Here are some of the steps you could take to ensure your financial data is safe.

Ø Create strong password & PIN, change them frequently. A PIN which is easily guessable is capable of depleting your account balance. Avoid using your date of birth, wedding anniversary, date of birth of  family members etc as PIN for your debit/credit cards. While setting passwords, long combinations of alphabets, numbers, and alphanumeric and special characters with mixed casing are advisable. Words that can’t be found in dictionaries or that are deliberately misspelt can potentially be stronger passwords. You must memorise a strong password which is unique in nature and can’t be guessed by anyone.
Ø Never write your PIN or password on the cards.
Ø RBI has already mandated about two-step authentication. The card industry has adopted 3-D secure methodology enabling you to register your smart phone for authentication. It is essential to receive OTP (one time password) which needs to be keyed in at the time of transactions. Delete the OTP which has been received on your registered phone.
Ø If you receive any such texts or notifications without your trying to log in, you must immediately notify the bank.
Ø Never respond to the calls seeking details about card numbers, account numbers. Sometime the fraudsters are advising the account holders to switch off the mobiles for sometime on the pretext of updations advising the recipient to switch on the mobile after certain time and seek the OTP to complete the updation process. Please be informed there is no such legal process and hence avoid acting on such advise. If possible inform to the police as a responsible consumer. Incidents have also been reported when such fraudsters also attempt to dupe of your family on the pretext of some mishappening with you.
Ø Careful where you swipe at ATMs/ POS terminals.  Scammers can steal your card data through skimmers on bugged ATMs and point-of-sale machines. Make sure you use your cards at secure ATMs and shopping outlets only. Using chip-less card always put you at a higher risk. Indian banks have already been mandated to upgrade all cards to chipped cards.
Ø When making a purchase, ensure that the salesperson processes your transaction in your presence. Check your card when it is returned to you by the cashier to ensure that it is yours and that it has not been tampered with any way. Total your charge slip before signing in, as blank spaces serve as an invitation for unscrupulous individuals to add additional amounts. 
Ø Do not withdraw the money from the ATMs if you find anyone standing inside the ATM. Many a times, it has been reported that the cards have been exchanged intentionally by the persons standing in the ATM area assisting the account holders for transactions.
Ø  Avoid sharing any sensitive information to the callers seeking details on the pretext of expiry of cards, blocking of transaction limits etc. No one including the bank officials have been authorised to seek such details.
Ø Use a power-on/access password for your computer, laptop and mobile as well as a screensaver password so that no one else can access your systems without consent. Change your passwords and security settings regularly.
Ø Always visit your bank’s secure Internet Banking site directly. Avoid accessing the site through a third-party link or via email. Verify the domain name before you try to log in.
Ø Log out of your Internet Banking account the minute you complete transactions. Do not close the window without logging off.
Ø Avoid using Internet Banking on unsecured WI-FI networks such as railway stations, airports and cybercafés.
Ø Install authentic security programmes to guard your system and account against hackers, virus attacks and other malware. Update the security programme or antivirus regularly.
Ø Install a suitable firewall to protect your computer or laptop and its contents. Never provide remote access to your system to anyone; not even family members, as it is still vulnerable to hacking.
Ø Disable the ‘File and Printing Sharing’ command on the operating system.
Ø Always log off your PC or laptop when not in use; don’t keep it lying around or trust a stranger with it.
Ø Never save your mobile banking log-in and password on the phone. Either memorise it or write it down somewhere else.
Ø Never leave your handset unattended and logged into a mobile banking app.
Ø Always lock your phone to prevent unauthorised use.
Ø Notify your bank as soon as your mobile is lost or stolen.
Ø Update the mobile banking app as and when a new version/upgrade is released. Also update your phone with latest security patches.
Ø Never download apps from untrustworthy and dubious sources.
Ø Always log out of your banking app after using it.
Ø Keep an eye on your account balance and transaction history regularly.
Ø If you suspect unauthorised transactions on your account, report it to your bank immediately or at least within three working days, so that your complaint/grievance is addressed in your favour. Any delay can leave you with a liability or financially poorer. 
Ø Third-party apps and downloads.  There is always a temptation, especially for Android users, to download something from the net instead from the Play Store. While Play Store vets most of the apps that are available on the platform, internet providers have no such obligation. Most of the sites that allow these downloads come with viruses and malware that can easily infiltrate and collect user information from your device. Play Store may not have everything or may have apps that are expensive, but that is the price you pay for security.
Ø SIM swap: The fraudsters will first collect your personal banking information through phishing, vishing, smishing or any other means. Once they have your personal information, they get your SIM blocked, and obtain a duplicate one by visiting the mobile operator’s retail outlet with fake identity proof. The mobile operator deactivates the genuine SIM card, which was blocked, and issues a new SIM to the fraudsters.  
Ø It is now simple to generate a one-time password (OTP) required for transactions using the stolen banking information. This OTP is received on the new SIM held by the fraudsters and they can now transact before the bank customer realizes the theft and alerts the bank. Please report the matter to the Bank and Police if you find your mobile was deactivated even for sometime. 
Ø If you have been a victim of any of the financial frauds, what should you do? As per RBI directives on “Frauds—classification and reporting”, the Reserve Bank of India has put the responsibility to provide protection against and fight frauds on banks, exposing them to a completely new horizon of financial risks. Further, banks are now required to report to the RBI complete information on frauds and the follow-up action. The RBI has also issued operative guidelines to regulate this channel, suggesting reporting of suspicious transactions to its financial intelligence unit. “To keep a check on frauds, banks need to incorporate a greater level of scrutiny by deploying advanced tools and technology capable of protecting the customers against unethical activities,”
Ø While banks are mandated to prevent frauds, you, too, can take some steps to protect yourself. Ethical hackers—people who hack to evaluate level of security and without any malicious intent—say that users should be especially careful when using banking or other apps on which financial transactions can be conducted.
Ø Check what you download and run on your phone. “For example, don’t use WhatsApp for confidential communication; use an encrypted app instead,” .
Ø You may want to limit debit card usage at PoS machines and use it only as an ATM card for cash withdrawal. “Try to use credit cards at PoS because if a fraud takes place, you can raise a dispute, and it is not your money,”. Be cautious at ATMs; look around for suspicious objects or hidden cameras above the keyboard.
Ø You may rub off the CVV number as written on the reverse of the card.  Memorize the CVV number before rubbing,  so that you can continue using the card. Use computers that have anti-virus software. Don’t share passwords, PINs and OTPs with anyone regardless of the reason stated. Banks never call asking for OTP details. Do not log into links sent on emails that require you to revalidate your credentials on account of a system upgrade. For apps, download directly from an app store; don’t click on unknown links or those sent by unknown numbers.
Ø Complaints: Many a times following complaints are reported.
* Transaction succeeded with deduction of the amount from the bank account but the credit could not be afforded to the Merchant.
* Fraudulent  transactions.
Ø In case you are transferring the amount to another account, please ensure that the details of the beneficiary like name, account number and bank name are correct. In case of any wrong transfer, it would not be possible to reverse the transaction. You might have to request the wrong beneficiary to seek and refund/return.
Ø Avoid transactions at cyber cafes as the cyber cafe may be adapting to some illegal software's to save the details of user ids and password.
Ø In case you are initiating payment of utility bills like telephone/ mobile bills, electricity bills etc. please ensure that the bill details are entered correct else the payment made to wrong bills can never be refunded or reversed.
Ø Register your mobile number and email id with the bank/ card issuer for any transaction     alerts. Update the same as and when there is change in the number.  
Ø Many merchants, banks are charging transaction fee for making payments through debit/credit/ cash cards, internet banking etc. Please study such terms before initiating any such payment.
General Transaction Failures.
Ø Following could happen:
* Payment deducted from the account but there is a failure at payment gateway due to bad connectivity, server problem etc.
* The payment succeeded at payment gateway but failed while being transferred from the payment gateway to the merchant/beneficiary.
Ø Payment gateways companies are required to settle payments with banks every day and hence any payment not reaching the payment gateway due to bad connectivity, server problem should get back to the account holder within two working days.
Ø In case the payment could not reach the merchant or beneficiary account, the payment should get transferred to the merchant//beneficiary within two working days. The consumers may take up the complaints of unsuccessful transactions keeping all the three institutions like Bank, Payment Gateway and the Beneficiary or Merchant in loop. 
Ø The complaint of unsuccessful transaction of withdrawal of cash from ATM cards using debit cards should get resolved within 7 days of making complaint to the bank with which the consumer has account irrespective of the card of which ever Bank is being used for cash withdrawal. Any delay beyond 7 working days of the complaints, the bank is required to pay penalty @ Rs. 100/- per day of default.
Ø In case of payment failure while making payment through the wallets, the debited amount should get credited back immediately.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

When buying Health Insurance Policies!!


Are you planning to buy Health Insurance Policies?
  


Health insurance sector has witnessed steep growth during the past few years in India. This has largely been contributed by the fact that people now understand the importance of health care and health insurance as medical treatment has gone expensive over the years. Another factor leading to growth of this factor is increase in disposable income of the people.

The main aim of health insurance industry is not to sell and market health insurance policies but also provide timely and efficient claims during their requirement. Health insurance policy holders often complain about claims being denied by insurance company on perky grounds.  
To a great extent, if the insured take care of certain points before buying any insurance policy can prevent the complaints to arise during the process of claim. With this view, the following points may be considered and taken care of at the time of buying the insurance policy.


Health Insurance Policy prominently known as Mediclaim policy reimburses the Insured for medical and surgical expenses arising from an illness or injury that leads to hospitalization. The insurance company known as insurer provides the insured with the facility of cashless hospitalization at a network hospital or provides a reimbursement for the expenses incurred. The premium paid by the insured is tax exempted at specified limit under section 80D.


Overseas Health Policies also cover not only hospitalisation but could also cover travel related risks like:


 Loss of passport

 Loss of cash      

 Loss of baggage and
 Repatriation expenses

                                                            


  • Health insurance policies are dependent on individual profile including age factor and the amount of risk to be covered. It differ from person to person  While buying health insurance policies, select the insurance company, amount of the risk to be covered under the policy, type of reimbursement like cashless or reimbursement and inclusions & exclusions.
  • The health insurance policies in India cover the expenses incurred on Hospitalization, though a variety of products are now available which offer a range of health covers, depending on the need and choice of the insured. The health insurer usually provides either direct payment to the hospital (cashless facility) or reimburses the expenses associated with illnesses and injuries or disburses a fixed benefit on occurrence of an illness. The type and amount of health care costs that will be covered by the health plan are specified in advance.
  • Insurance companies have tie-up arrangements with several hospitals all over the country as part of their network.  Under a health insurance policy offering cashless facility, a policy holder can take treatment in any of the network hospitals without having to pay the hospital bills as the payment is made to the hospital directly by the Third Party Administrator (TPA), on behalf of the insurance company. However, expenses beyond the limits or sub-limits allowed by the insurance policy or expenses not covered under the policy have to be settled by you directly with the hospital. Cashless facility, however, is not available if you take treatment in a hospital that is not in the network.
  • Check if the insurance company selling health insurance policy is registered with IRDA.
  • Make sure you buy the policy through a genuine licensed agent or broker. Ask for an identity card or licence. You can also buy policies directly from the insurance company.
  • Spend time in reading the policy brochure/ prospectus carefully and get to know what the policy covers (inclusions) and does not cover (exclusions).
  • Fill the proposal form yourself correctly and truthfully. The correctness and truthfulness is the basis of your insurance contract. Do not leave any column blank. Never sign a blank proposal form.  
  • Disclose all material information about the risk you want policy to cover. Pre-existing diseases be disclosed to the best of your knowledge and belief. It is in the interest of the insured to undergo for a medical examination irrespective of any age so as to overrule the existence of any unknown disease affecting the policy. Remember disclosure of the pre-existing diseases is in the best interest of the insured. Pre-existing disease has been defined as “Any condition, ailment or injury or related condition(s) for which you had signs or symptoms, and /or were diagnosed, and /or received medical advice /treatment within 48 months to prior to the first policy issued by the insurer” and hospitalization as “A minimum stay for 24 hours in the hospital 
  • Consider the insurance premium you can afford to pay and the amount to be covered as risk.
  • Understand clearly the terms of the policy having exclusions as well as provisions for regular health check-ups, cashless services, pre and post hospitalization expense reimbursement etc.
  • Look at the list of cashless hospital contracted by the Insurer/ TPA in your city. The policy be preferred if the hospital near to your place of residence is included in the list of such hospitals for cashless treatment to meet exigencies. 
  • When you get a new policy, generally, there will be a 30 days waiting period starting from the policy inception date, during which period any hospitalization charges will not be payable by the insurance companies with an exception of  emergency hospitalization occurring due to an accident. This waiting period will not be applicable for subsequent policies under renewal.
  • The policy will be renewable provided you pay the premium within 15 days (called as Grace Period) of expiry date. However, coverage would not be available for the period for which no premium is received by the insurance company. The policy will lapse if the premium is not paid within the grace period.
  • The insurance companies have been directed to allow portability from one insurance company to another and from one plan to another, without making the insured to lose the renewal credits for pre-existing conditions, enjoyed in the previous policy. However, this credit will be limited to the Sum Insured (including Bonus) under previous policy.
  • Family Floater is one single policy that takes care of the hospitalization expenses of your entire family. The policy has one single sum insured, which can be utilised by any/all insured persons in any proportion or amount subject to maximum of overall limit of the policy sum insured. Quite often Family floater plans are better than buying separate individual policies.  The plan takes care of all the medical expenses during sudden illness, surgeries and accidents.
  • The following are generally excluded under health policies. The actual exclusions may vary from product to product and company to company. In group policies, it may be possible to waive / delete the exclusions on payment of extra premium.

a.        All pre-existing diseases (the pre-existing disease exclusion is uniformly defined by all non-life and health insurance companies).

b.      Under first year policy, any claim during the first 30 days from date of cover, for sickness / disease. This is not applicable for accidental injury claims.

c.      During first year of cover – cataract, Benign prostatic hypertrophy, Hysterectomy for Menorrhagia or Fibromyoma, Hernia, Hydrocele, Congenital Internal diseases, Fistula in anus, piles, sinusitis and related disorders.

d.      Circumcision unless for treatment of a disease.

e.      Cost of spectacles, contact lenses, hearing aids.

f.       Dental treatment / surgery unless requiring hospitalization.

g.      Convalescence, general debility, congenital external defects, V.D., intentional self-injury, use of intoxicating  drugs / alcohol, AIDS, Expenses  for Diagnosis, X-ray or lab tests not consistent with the disease requiring hospitalization.

h.      Treatment relating to pregnancy or child birth including cesarean section.

i.       Naturopathy treatment.


The Insured has a right

       Cancel a life insurance policy within 15 days from the date of receipt of the policy document. 
      If you disagree to any of the terms or conditions in the policy, you can

  1.  Return the policy stating the reasons for objection.
  2. You will be entitled to a refund of the premium paid.
  3. A proportionate risk premium for the period on cover and the expenses incurred by the insurer on medical examination and stamp duty charges will be deducted.
  4. If it is a unit linked insurance policy (ULIP) in addition, the insurer can repurchase the units at the price on the cancellation date.
  5. Once the proposal is submitted, you should hear from the insurance company in 15 days.
  6. If any additional documents are asked for, comply immediately. Once the proposal is accepted by the insurance company, the policy bond should reach you within a reasonable amount of time.
  7. When policy bond is received, check it and be sure that the policy is the one that you wanted.
  8. Go through all the policy conditions and be sure that these are the same that were explained to you by the intermediary/ insurance company official at the time of sale.
  9. In case of doubts, contact the intermediary/ insurance company official immediately for clarification.



Maintaining the policy:

  1.  Pay your premium regularly on the due dates/ within the grace period. You are entitled for a no-claim bonus if no claim has been preferred during the previous year. Do not wait for a premium notice. It is only a courtesy. It is your duty to pay the premium to avoid lapsation or other penalties.
  2. Do not wait for your intermediary or anyone to pick your cheque up. Make your own arrangement for paying the premium on time.
  3. If there is a change of address, please intimate the insurance company immediately.
  4. If you lose your policy bond, report it to the insurance company immediately.
  5. Get a duplicate policy by complying with the formalities.
  6. The duplicate policy confers the same rights as the original policy bond.

Claim

You can make a claim under a Health insurance policy in two ways:

  1. Cashless  basis and
  2. Reimbursement basis

 Cashless basis: For a claim on cashless basis, your treatment must be only at a network hospital of the Third Party Administrator (TPA) who is servicing your policy. You have to seek authorisation for availing the treatment on a cashless basis as per procedures laid down and in the prescribed form.  


Reimbursement basis:   When a claim arises you should inform the insurance company as per procedures required. After hospitalization, you have to ensure that you obtain and keep ready documents such as claim form, discharge summary, prescriptions and bills that you should submit for a claim.

 

Grievance  Redressal


If you are unhappy with your insurance company


  • Approach the Grievance Redressal Officer of its branch or any other office that you deal with. 
  • Give your complaint in writing along with the necessary support documents
  • Take a written acknowledgement of your complaint with the date.

The insurance company should resolve your complaint within a reasonable time. In case if it is not resolved within 15 days or if you are unhappy with their resolution you can take up your complaint before Insurance Ombudsman, the details of which are provided on the Policy Document.  Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDA) is the regulatory authority for Insurance Sector. The complaints can be escalated to IRDA. 

When you buy a health insurance policy you should: 

Do’s
Dont’s
Know that there are restrictions on coverage
Conceal material facts or you could face a dispute at the time of a claim
Pay special attention to terms and conditions in the policy like:
The clause excluding pre-existing diseases
Waiting period before certain diseases can be covered
Restrictions or limits on various expenses relating to hospitalisation
Co-payment, which means you have to share a part of the claim
Pre-conditions for renewal
Claim procedure and documentation requirement
Allow a gap of even one day in your policy renewal or your cover may be insufficient or useless
Disclose details of all pre-existing health problems including
Major ailments
Conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes

The company may want medical test reports depending on age at entry, you should comply with all procedures and documentation requirements

Check where and how the medical tests will be carried out

Check who should bear the cost for the tests

Pay the premium only after the insurer accepts your proposal

Renew the policy meticulously for the rest of your life