Every few days, Moneylife receives emails from subscribers or readers asking for basic information on investments, insurance or how to file complaints against banks or companies. We also receive queries from students on information that is freely available on government websites. Here is a list of links to information sources that will help you protect your rights.
Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG): In its own words, the CAG verifies all expenditure and receipts of the Government of India. It also tries to help local, panchayati raj institutions to strengthen their accountability. Its website www.cag.gov.in is easy to access and provides a right to information (RTI) link through which one can access sub-links to different government departments, ministries, municipal entities and public sector undertakings. Although the media devote little space to the findings of CAG audits, it is the best source of information, especially for journalists, activists and concerned citizens on how the government uses or misuses public money.
The Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF): It is a part of the ministry of corporate affairs and has been carved out of investors’ money that has remained with companies in the form of unclaimed dividends and other corporate benefits for seven years. Its website – www.iepf.gov.in – provides information on investment opportunities, regulatory structures for various types of investment, the complaint redressal mechanism, FAQs and a link to the InvestorHelpline – www.watchoutinvestors.com. Like most government organisations, the Fund is now packed with representatives of various ministries and has little representation from anyone who is directly involved with investor issues with the result that it is rather ineffectual.
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA): The insurance regulator’s website – www.irda.gov.in – informs policy-holders of their rights and duties. It contains plenty of information on insurance regulations and guidelines, but does not have a clear and systematic way of addressing problems.
Karmayog: This is an NGO that provides a web-based meeting ground (www.karmayog.org) for thousands of activists, allowing them to share information, experiences, seek funding and volunteers and acts as a support group for various issues. It has turned into a regular e-meeting space for media, activists, corporates and even those government officials who are serious about public feedback on their actions. It also hosts blogs to discuss specific issues and provides links to websites of a list of NGOs.
National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC): This is the apex consumer court in the country. Its website (www.ncdrc.nic.in) provides an important and interesting list of cases decided by it, which acts as valuable feedback for anyone planning to file a consumer complaint at the district level. While consumer courts are easy and inexpensive to access, the case studies give people a good idea of how the process can drag on through multiple stages of appeal by anti-consumer companies that often refuse to acknowledge genuine complaints. It is important feedback for anyone who wants to embark on litigation for grievance redressal. Having said that, the website is difficult to search and is not at all interactive. It does have a list of contact numbers and addresses of various officers as well as state and district consumer commissions and their rules.
The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov): This is a US organisation which strives to protect the interests of consumers outside the country. It believes that as the number of US companies doing business with other countries increases, more and more international consumers come within its jurisdiction. To register a complaint with the FTC, one has to email them and also fill out a few paper forms. This website also lists a number of cases it has handled till date.
Spamcop: This too is an international website (www.spamcop.net) which allows people to report spam and unsolicited emails that plague users. This is a free website that strives to block spam email, but it requires you to follow certain rules and regulations to be a member of this server. – Sucheta Dalal & Yashika Krutik Shah