Unhappy with your weight loss program? Losing your patience and your savings instead of your weight? Well, here’s help. Read on!
Barely a day passes by without an advertisement in the newspapers about weight loss programs. Most, very impressively depicted, talk about discounts, freebies and early results that seem too good to be true. And most of the time they are! You spend all your hard earned savings, break your Fixed Deposit, take loans but don’t lose any weight. Well, you are not alone.
There are several people who have not lost a single kilogram but have spent thousands of rupees on these programs. However, did you know that you can reclaim your money if the service has not shown any results? We’ll tell you how.
When to file a complaint?
People think that if they don’t lose weight, they’ve basically lost the money they invested in the program. This is untrue. You can get your money back from the service provider. How? By filing a complaint against the service provider in the consumer forum.
But isn’t the consumer forum only for those who purchased goods? Well, even though registering for a weight loss program and not losing weight isn’t exactly the same as purchasing a physical commodity, if you feel cheated after buying any product or service, you can still file a complaint. This is true for weight loss programs as well.
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According to the laws in India, if you find that there is a deficiency of service, defect in goods sold or unfair trade practices, you can file a complaint against the seller. Here are some of the common situations in which you might want to file a complaint if you registered for a weight loss program.
- You do not lose the stipulated weight within the stipulated period
- You do not receive all services listed at the time of purchase, including spa services and cosmetic treatments.
- You suffered side effects when using the program and no solutions were given for the same by the service provider. This could include allergies and insomnia.
- You were not satisfied with the program and discontinued the same but no refund was given.
However, before you decide to file a complaint keep these points in mind.
- Make sure you file your complaint within two years from the date you availed the service
- Keep details of your correspondence with the service provider.
- Ensure that you have all the bills, vouchers and receipts given by the service provider.
- The best way forward is to make several copies of the bills, receipts and emails so that you can file them along with the complaint.
Here are some of the myths associated with filing a complaint and getting your money back. Here are the most common ones.
I need an advocate to file a complaint – The law says that any consumer can file a complaint in the consumer forum. You are the consumer and you can file the complaint. The law states that any mistreated consumer can write the complaint and submit it to the consumer forum.
Also, there is no specified format to file the complaint in the consumer forum. You can even write a complaint on a piece of paper. Just sign the paper and your complaint is ready. This needs to be done where the seller resides, has its registered office or branch office or carries out its business.
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The terms and conditions say money cannot be refunded. So I cannot file a complaint – If you have problems with the service, you are well within your rights to reclaim your money. Such terms and conditions are actually void. The following cases prove the same:
- If you have paid advance fees for the program and you want to discontinue the program, you have the right to get back your money. According to the law, the service provider has no right to deny a refund of the advance fee to the customer if the program is discontinued for any reason the customer sees fit.
Mythili from Bengaluru had paid advance fees for a six-month slimming course but discontinued the program within a month. The institute refused to refund the money. She filed a complaint in the consumer court and won the case.
- According to law, if any program offered to the customer is found to be unfeasible or unacceptable or is injurious to the customer’s health, the service provider cannot compel the customer to use the product. In such a case, the customer has every right to apply for a refund of the fees paid.
Take the case of Kamalini. She was impressed with a slimming pill and ordered a year’s supply. But after taking a few pills, she noticed that she started developing rashes all over her body. She asked for a refund but the seller refused. So, she filed a complaint against the seller in the consumer forum and got back her money.
- I didn’t pay the money but I used the service. I can’t file a complaint – There are many cases where the father or the husband pays the money and the child or wife uses the services. In these cases, the consumer who actually used the service can still go ahead and file the complaint as long as the consumer has the bills to prove that the money has been paid.
How to go about it?
First, you need to send a complaint letter to the head office of the service provider through registered post. Make sure you keep a copy of the same. If you do not get any response or if you are not satisfied with the response, go to a consumer forum to file a complaint.
Now, there are three levels of consumer forum. First is the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). Then you have the State Commission forums and then the District Commission forums.
If the compensation sought is over Rs. 1 crore, then you need to approach the NCDRC. If it is between Rs. 20 lakhs and Rs. 1 crore, the State Commission is where you will file your complaint. If the compensation sought is less than Rs. 20 lakhs, you need to approach the District Commission. You need to ascertain the state and district under which the seller is doing business so that you approach the right state or district forum.
When you are filing the complaint, you have to pay the appropriate fee in the form of a demand draft along with the complaint. Fees can vary based on the value of the services and the compensation sought. Don’t forget to sign the complaint and state your address as well as the seller’s registered address. Five copies of the complaint are required along with relevant documents such as bills and vouchers.
You might need to file an affidavit stating that the facts given by you are true and correct. You can choose to send the complaint to the registered post too. You will receive a case number. You can use this number to track the status of your case. You can do this online on the NCDRC website or by sending an SMS to the number on the NCDRC website.
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There are several organizations that help you in filing a complaint in the consumer forum. These are mostly Non-Profit and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) like Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat, Mumbai. These organizations can help you file complaints as a group or individual and also provide legal advice.
Some organizations issue a notice to the opposite party (the seller) on your behalf and ask for the seller’s response. After getting a response from the seller, the organization will direct the seller to rectify its mistake. It will also ask the seller to pay the compensation for loss of peace and mental agony suffered by you, the consumer.
Unlike popular perception, it does not take years for the cases to be resolved. The average time taken to resolve cases is about 5-6 months. In case you think the case is dragging on, you can approach any of the consumer NGOs for help.
What are the hassles you can expect?
There is a possibility that the court directs the service provider to pay compensation to you but you don’t receive the money. Harini (name changed), 30, enrolled for the most popular weight loss program advertised by a leading female actor. After paying a sum of over Rs. 40,000 for a three-month course, she followed all their instructions but did not lose even a single kilo.
She filed a complaint in the consumer forum in Delhi and the court directed the service provider to pay the entire sum along with interest and compensation charges within a stipulated period. Unfortunately, the firm hasn’t paid till date. Harini is looking to take further legal action. In this case, you, the consumer, can move the court for contempt. Organizations like the Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat assist consumers in filing and pursuing the case before the consumer forums.
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Swiped your Credit Card to pay for the program? You have a bigger problem on hand. It is best to repay the Credit Card dues as soon as possible rather than waiting for a refund from the slimming firm. This is to help you avoid the pile-up of interest on your Credit Card.
Always use your Debit Card for such purchases. You could even consider saving through a Fixed Deposit and accumulate a sum before joining such a program. Choose your service provider wisely if you don’t want to lose your peace of mind instead of your weight!