Sunday, 28 June 2015

E-shopping sites liable for deficient service, cannot shirk responsibilty

Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular because it saves time, the bother of travelling, the prices are competitive, and returns are accepted. In some cases, the seller's name is disclosed, but the address and contact numbers are withheld. This is done in business interests, so that the buyer and seller do not make a deal, depriving the portal of its commission. The consumer deals with the portal, makes payment to the portal and follow-ups too are via emails to the portal. Yet, when a problem arises, the portal shuns responsibility by claiming it is only a trading platform to bring the buyer and the seller together, and is in no way liable. This is against consumer interest and unwarranted, as held by various consumer fora.

Case Study 1:

Atul Malhotra ordered a Lava mobile phone offered at a 94% discount on Flipkart, for an amount of Rs 400. Flipkart cancelled the order two days later, claiming inability to cope with the demand, refunding Rs 400. Since Atul wanted the phone, not the refund, he complained to the Chandigarh District Forum. Flipkart claimed it was not liable, and the complaint be dismissed as the actual seller had not been joined as a party to the dispute.

The forum observed that Flipkart had made the offer. The entire email correspondence was with Flipkart, including the cancellation. Hence, it would be liable for deficient service. Flipkart was ordered to pay Rs 3,000 as compensation and Rs 2,500 towards costs.

Case Study 2:

Shivanand Narain had purchased a Stealth mobile phone online for Rs 20,390, which turned out to be defective. He returned it and sought a replacement, as the website promised. Since his grievance was not redressed, he filed a complaint. The forum ordered the portal to refund Rs 20,390, the price of the mobile and also awarded Rs 15,000 as compensation.

The portal challenged the order in an appeal to the Chandigarh state commission, contending it was only a "facilitator". Rejecting this argument, the commission observed that the portal solicits business. Customers make payments to the portal. Correspondence with the portal is through the given email address. Thus, it actively participates in the transactions. The state commission dismissed the portal's appeal.

Case Study 3:

Urmil Munjal had made an online purchase through As she was not satisfied with the product supplied, she filed a complaint against the portal before the Gurgaon district forum, which allowed the complaint. The portal's appeal was dismissed. It filed a revision before the national commission, contending that it was only a facilitator. Rejecting this argument, the national commission observed that the portal had admitted it acts as an intermediary, collecting payment. So its services could not be considered gratuitous merely because no separate charge was collected from the consumer. Inviting buyers and sellers to trade online made the portal amenable under the Consumer Protection Act. The commission concluded that the e-commerce portal would be liable to the consumer.


E-commerce platforms are liable for the products advertised and business solicited through their websites.

(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt. of India's National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is

Friday, 26 June 2015

Tech touch to make Nashik's Kumbh Mela a success

  Kumbh Mela is fast approaching and the city youths are doing their bit to promote the once-in-12-years mega-religious and touristic attraction through social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Wikipedia is one such website that has been utilizing local youth to help build an accurate webpage on Nashik. Through its project 'Wiki takes Nashik', the website has decided to upload up to 5,000 pictures of Nashik that would provide a glimpse of the city to people all around the world ahead of the Mela.

Team Wikipedia had in January sought college students from the city to update information on Nashik on the backdrop of visitors seeking information about it during Kumbh. This time too, a similar event has been organized for uploading pictures about the city on the webpage. The team aims to upload 5,000 pictures by the first week of July.

Over 100 students from various colleges across the city came forward in January and uploaded correct information about the city. The information was uploaded under 18 categories including geography, history, mythology, arts and culture, agriculture, people, industry and tourism.

Abhishek Suryawanshi, ambassador and vice-president of Wikipedia, New York chapter, said, "Uploading of the pictures is the next step to give the readers the look and feel of the various aspects of the city," he said.

Suryawanshi said that Wikipedia's main page on Nashik has been viewed 11,02,481,287 times in the last 60 days since the information was uploaded. "There are at least 500 viewers daily and the traffic would only increase as the Mela nears. So it is equally important for viewers to get a feel of the festivals, places, people and the culture of Nashik," he added.

He further said that a similar activity was held in Pune as well last year which received tremendous response and the same was expected in Nashik. "We have already started receiving pictures through volunteers. We have appealed to the residents to come out in large numbers with enthusiasm and contribute in the project by donating pictures of the city," Suryawanshi said.

Speaking to TOI, he said a separate event would be held on July 3 and 4 to upload the pictures on the website. "Pictures would be uploaded on a mass scale on the two days. Personal, copyrighted and edited pictures would not be allowed. Pictures that are website compatible and clear would be preferred from the contributors," Suryawanshi said.

Similarly, a group of students in the city is busy developing websites and mobile applications to ensure a comfortable trip and stay to Nashik for millions visiting Nashik for the Mela. Students from various colleges have been roped in for what has been termed as KumbhThon, a task to develop new ideas after identifying problems that the visitors might face during the religious congregation.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Bharti buys stake in satellite company OneWeb

Bharti Enterprises, said on Thursday it has acquired a strategic minority stake in OneWeb, which is supported by a global consortium of Qualcomm, Virgin Group, Airbus, Coca-Cola, Intelsat and Grupo Salinas and aims to provide affordable internet access to all.

As one of the founding members of OneWeb, Bharti will have representation on the board of the company. The firm has received funding of $500 million from its investors and aims to build a communications network with an initial constellation of 648 low earth orbit satellites that will provide connectivity around the world.

Bharti Airtel, a Bharti group company, will be a preferred distributor of the service in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Africa, with a strong focus on rural markets.

The OneWeb User Terminals contain embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi access capabilities that extend the reach of mobile operators. With more than 10 terabits per second of new capacity, the system will extend the networks of mobile operators and internet service providers to serve new coverage areas, bringing voice and data access to consumers, businesses, schools, healthcare institutions and other end-users.

"This will provide internet access to the last man, especially in rural areas, and have an astounding effect on healthcare and education," Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Enterprises, told TOI. He said the service could be used as a hot spot in urban areas to provide connectivity as well as address the issue of call drops. He did not elaborate on Bharti's investment in the venture.

"In India, which is on the cusp of a massive data revolution, hundreds of millions of consumers in rural areas will benefit from this initiative and it will boost the government's Digital India programme and its vision of broadband access for all. Similarly, nations across Africa will be able to fulfill their digital inclusion agenda and aid economic growth through these affordable services," he said.

Mittal said trails would be started by 2017 and services are likely to begin by 2019.

OneWeb satellites will provide high-speed connectivity to a small user terminal, which transmits broadband access through Wi-Fi, LTE, 3G and 2G to the surrounding area.

This access will operate on mobile operators' billing platform. The terminals can be optionally solar-powered and used as community access points in schools, health centres or other locations.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Seven student projects from Ahmedabad to vie for crowd funding

To help young innovators and entrepreneurs for crowd funding, Gujarat Technological University (GTU) Innovation Council (GIC) with Crowd Funding Initiator (CFI) has launched CFI 100 with support from crowd funding website Start51.

In second boot camp this summer, 17 selected teams were taken through a 10 day programme where their ideas were nurtured and mentored. On the last day of the boot-camp seven young students' project will be converted into start-ups.

From the total seven teams, two are of hardware automatization, two are of GPS based phone applications, two are web based community portals and one is a data analysis and forecasting services.

CFI is India's first boot camp dedicated to make young entrepreneurs and innovators crowd-fund ready.

Among the seven projects, PridePick by engineering student Dhruv Patel is online directory website which collates all type of contact information at one place using services via website, by calling and by SMS also.

Another project Agonmmers by Rajdeep Barad, Sonika Bhardwaj and Heena Nainwani of a city based college is a complete social media hub for gamers and developers with latest updates and online development.

NearBuy, a project by Samrat Thakkar of Kalol based college is a GPS based application that will track your location and basis of that it will give you best offers and discounts from stores nearby you.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Mobile app to report river pollution launched

The government on Tuesday launched a mobile application (Bhuvan Mobile App) and a web portal in coordination with Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) to enable people to collect and report information on various sources of river pollution.

The android-based mobile app will provide a platform for crowd sourcing to monitor pollution in the Ganga and enable decision makers to prioritize interventions.

"The first version of the application is made available for download in the Bhuvan Ganga web portal ," the ministry of water resources said.

Besides, the ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of Isro to utilize the geo-spatial and crowd-sourcing technologies for pollution monitoring in Ganga.

'Bhuvan Ganga' is an exclusive web portal deployed in Isro Bhuvan's geo-portal with all geo-spatial layers related to river Ganga. It will be used as a tool to support decision making and planning for the Clean Ganga Mission.

Monday, 22 June 2015

A new curator every week ensures this Twitter handle is forever chirpy

Bengaluru has innumerable voices and bazillion perspectives, especially in the virtual space. But many a time, ideas get lost in dragging debates and annoying trolls.Making room for such myriad thoughts, a Bengaluru-specific Twitter handle - @WeAreBangalore - is rotating its curator every week, unravelling the many layers that make the city .

The handle, one of the earliest to replicate the Swedish model of rotation curation, has joined hands with various stakeholders of the city to make it a better place to live in. Recently, it ran a weeklong campaign, #ImTheChange, in partnership with Social Media Week and Bangalore traffic police to spread awareness on road safety and behaviour.

Making a difference

#ImTheChange encouraged citizens to click pictures, shoot videos and share their pledge towards road safety on social media; some members even hit the roads to spread the word.@WeAreBangalore will soon kickstart another such campaign.

Robust rotation curation is the highlight of @WeAreBangalore, which often sets the agenda for social interactions. Over 100 Bengalureans, including guest curators, have been managing the group for 89 weeks now. The handle boasts of one of the largest tweet banks, 60,000 to be precise, among similar handles from across the country.

"With a new and interesting curator monitoring the handle every week, we get to see the every week, we get to see the city from different points of view," said Tinu Cherian, one of the administrators.

"Apart from regular rotation, we've had guest curators too. For instance, dur ing fitness week we had Major DP Singh, a Kargil War veteran and blade runner as the curator. During the budget sessions, we had financial experts number-crunching on our handle. Similarly, we had experts analyzing the India-Pakistan cricket match.But they curate just for the day," said Cherian.

Taking a cue from Sweden

The concept of rotation curation originated in Sweden in 2011. The country's official Twitter account, @Swedento, is managed by a different person every week, the idea being to showcase the diversity of Sweden.Bengaluru was one of the many cities in India to lap up the concept.Jeroz Nishanth Coelho, one of two individuals behind the initiative, said once he got excited about the idea, he tried to create a handle under the name@ WeAreBangalore, but found it had been taken."I kept following the handle but there wasn't much activity. Then, along with Gaurav Jain, I started tweeting at @WeAreBangalore, requesting to work with the owner, quite unaware who the person was," says Coelho.Then, one fine day, we got a reply from @ WeAreBangalore which was controlled by Sandeep Saini. We agreed to run the handle together and here we are. Members wanting to curate can apply online but the decision rests with the administrators.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Smartphone with 10,000mAh battery in the works

Would you trade in a bit of your smartphone's lightness and thinness in return for some extra battery life? Oukitel thinks you will if prototype images spotted on the web are anything to go by.

The Chinese manufacturer is said to be working on a phone that sports a whopping 10,000mAh battery. The indications are that you could go a whole week between charges with this beast.

These leaked pictures are all we have to go on for now -- included in the title of the post is "Android 5.1" so it sounds like Google's most recent mobile OS is going to be part of the picture.

Slab test
Judging by these pictures the new Oukitel phone is very much a work in progress and there's no official confirmation from the company yet. It would be nice to at least have the option of a bulkier, longer-lasting handset.

The chunky black slab is slightly reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active but it's difficult to make out any distinctive features. Chinese outfits ZTE and Gionee have also been experimenting with bulkier battery packs.

Even if the phone does exist, it's unlikely to ever make it out of Asia -- but if it sells in decent quantities then the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google and the rest are sure to sit up and take notice.