Why aren't product recalls popular in India?

Earlier this month, we had our friends over from Bengaluru--Deepty and Namit. Deepty is a tech-savvy corporate lawyer.

Earlier this month, we had our friends over from Bengaluru--Deepty and Namit. Deepty is a tech-savvy corporate lawyer. She has a fetish for the latest gizmos and loves to fiddle around with all kinds of gadgets. Most of us, including her husband, Namit, get her to sort out our tech woes.

But over the last 18 months, Deepty has been rather unlucky with gadgets (especially mobile phones). Till April 2009, the couple was based in Gurgaon and we would meet every weekend. And each week, we would have a new gadget to discuss.

First it was the Nokia E71. The phone would hang every time Deepty received an e-mail with an attachment. Then she bought a Blackberry Storm (the day after its launch in India). And from day one, she had problems with its touchpad. It was not very sensitive. Despite these problems, she used the phone for nearly a year before its charging point spoiled.

Then Deepty purchased another new gadget, the Nokia E72. And the same evening she came online on Google Talk to discuss her latest acquisition with me. But lo, the spacebar didn't work. "Deepty, you can do it. Just try and figure out why it isn't working," I messaged her. But alas, even my tech-savvy friend couldn't figure this one out.

I could sense her disappointment as she typed out words sans any spaces on Google Talk. Besides, there was another thing that irritated her--a blinking icon if you had a message on the SIM-card (even if you had read it).

She took the phone back to the showroom, where the technician spent four to five hours trying to address the problems. After that, even he gave up.

The shop-owner admitted that these were common complaints with the Nokia E72. Fortunately, the shop took back the phone and she went in for a Blackberry Javelin. Finally, Deepty seems to be content with this new acquisition.

Deepty isn't the only one having problems with gizmos. Recently, I took two old Nokia phones to a roadside repair shop in Delhi. Some of these guys can really help you out when you are facing trouble with gadgets. These shops repair handsets at nearly a fraction of the cost compared to an authorized service outlet and even buy your old handsets at reasonable prices.

The owner of this shop had lots to say about various expensive handsets--how many of them come with bugs and how companies do little to bail out hapless consumer.

This raised a lot of questions in my mind. When was the last time we heard an electronics firm recall its product? Are companies undertaking enough tests on their products before launching them in the market? Are they under tremendous pressure (from competitors) to launch new products? With shorter time to market, they probably don't bother to carry out adequate tests.

And, most importantly, is this the fallout of the global recession?

Since the Indian telecom market is growing at a fast pace, there is (probably) also the feeling that anything produced will get sold. Are Indian consumers being taken for a ride because there are no laws protecting the consumer?

A six- to 12-month warranty is obviously not enough. Companies need to address the bugs. And so long as that doesn't happen, you are stuck with the gadget. It's high time we had consumer bodies and laws that guard the interest of the Indian consumer.