In 2006, a city consumer court had ordered Coca-Cola India to pay a fine of more than Rs1 lakh after a man found dead insects in a bottle of one its brands, Sprite. Three years later, this correspondent faced a similar problem.
This afternoon, I drank a 200-ml bottle of Coca-Cola. While drinking from the bottle, I gulped down something else along with the liquid. On further examination, (see picture) I found something at the bottom of the bottle which looked like a few insects.
I called up the Coke office at Gurgaon with the batch number and date & time of filling of the bottle. Viraj Chouhan, general manager, (Public Affairs and Communications), Coca-Cola India, said, “I really don’t know if this (bottle) was tampered with. We need to investigate this incident. Our consumer grievance guys are the best (people to be contacted).”Mr Chouhan gave me an email ID ([email protected]). I immediately shot off an email to this ID.
However, I have not received a response so far. Even after repeated attempts, Coke’s toll-free number (1800-182653) was not reachable even though this number was given to me by the assistant of Coca-Cola’s vice president (Corporate Affairs), Deepak Jolly.
I have sent a complaint to the Consumer Redressal Forum.
The reason why Moneylife is highlighting this case is to reveal how shoddy is the level of customer service of Coke in India, despite this country being a major market for this cola manufacturer. I am sure if I had faced a similar ordeal in the US with a Coke bottle, there would have been a major hue and cry and the company might even have been slapped with a lawsuit for hefty damages.
Over the years, cola companies have repeatedly been accused of shoddy bottling—finding insects or other material in bottles is not a rare occurrence. Often, their communications personnel hint at spurious products being sold by retailers, but seem to do little to stop the practice. Sources however say that cola companies have little control over the hygiene and procedures of their regular bottlers. Even in this case, we find the attitude of the soft-drink manufacturer fairly laid-back and unsurprised at our complaint.
Advocate Vijay Srivastava, who works for a non-profit organisation for consumer redressal, tells us that multinationals like these would normally face charges for such incidents under unfair trade practices and deficiency in services. — Aaron Rodrigues