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A lot has been said so far about your rights as a consumer and the steps taken to protect those rights. The power of the consumer is steadily rising. But to exercise that power, we must show some signs of responsibility.

     Print Edition: November 1, 2007

A lot has been said so far about your rights as a consumer and the steps taken to protect those rights. The power of the consumer is steadily rising. But to exercise that power, we must show some signs of responsibility.

...Shop around: The first thing is to do some homework instead of jumping upon the first financial product that’s offered. “Go comparison shopping before buying financial products, as the cost of products can vary depending on the financial institution. Did you, for instance, know that it is possible to see a daily variation in interest rates on education loans; it could be 10.5% at one bank, and 12.5% at another?” says Sriram Khanna, project coordinator, National Consumer Helpline.

...Understand the product: Ask questions if you do not fully understand the product or service being offered. Read up about the product or service, or about the market conditions, so that you know what questions to ask. Buying a financial product without understanding how it works is a definite recipe for trouble.

...Be realistic: It’s the job of salesmen to hype a product; you will have to temper the hardsell with a measure of prudence and realism. In any case, advises Khanna, “keep a physical record of the company’s promise to deliver goods or services. This can be anything from a brochure to a printout of the relevant page in the company’s website. This will serve as proof that the company did indeed promise you specific goods or services”.

If you’re taking a loan, again be realistic about your repayment capacity. Simply because the lender is offering you a huge loan does not mean you can repay it comfortably. Ideally, ensure that your loan repayment obligations don’t exceed 40-45% of your monthly post-tax income.

...Read the fine print: Whether it is credit cards or an insurance policy or a car loan, consumers rarely make an effort to read the fine print till trouble is upon them. You should ideally know the various charges and penalties applicable on the product you have taken. Read the terms and conditions carefully before you sign on the dotted line. It’s more than important for you to know what is covered and what is not, what charges may apply and so on.

...Be honest: Remember, you will be offered a product or service based on the information you provide. Giving incomplete or false information could lead to you being offered or recommended something that is not suitable for you.

...Keep records: Maintain records of all transactions that you have with the service provider or outfit; especially of payments and receipts. This will help if there is ever a problem with the billing or charges.

Remember that the role of the regulator comes in only after you take precautions. Like the old saying goes: “Pray to god, sailor, but make sure you row for the shore.” You can claim your rights, but you will have to make an effort to earn them.

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