We know consumer laws and courts exist, but only by reading through some case law can you understand how you as a consumer can exercise your rights!
On an everyday basis, we purchase products and services. From our basic necessities like food and clothing to services like banking and education, we are dependent on companies and organisations to live comfortably in the present day, and we give them our hard-earned money in return. But sometimes, companies might fail to provide quality services or products. Many know there exist consumer courts and laws that protect consumers for such instances. But have you ever wondered who goes to these courts and what types of cases are filed? You would be surprised to know how basic these cases can be. So, here are 10 interesting cases filed by consumers in the consumer court curated for you.
Top 10 Consumer Cases in India
1. Banks Can’t Always Escape Using ‘Technical Difficulties’
We have come to rely on banks so much. More than ever, most of our transactions are digital and heavily reliant on banks for these. Have you ever had your transaction fail due to the server being down or other errors?
Dipika Pallikal, a squash champion and Arjuna awardee found herself in an awkward situation when she used her Axis Bank Debit Card in a hotel at Netherlands’ Rotterdam failed. She had had 10 times the bill amount in her account at that time. Due to this, she faced a loss of reputation and humiliation. The bank said the incident was a case of ‘Force Majeure’ (an act of god/ something beyond control)
Apart from that, the bank had also returned a cheque of ₹1 lakh issued to her by the government of India and blamed it on a technical error.
Dipika moved the consumer court in Chennai against Axis Bank
The court found that there was a deficiency of service on the part of Axis Bank and directed the bank to pay a compensation of ₹5 lakh and ₹5000 as expenses.
Banks are like any other service provider. We trust them with our money and they must perform the services we were promised. They cannot hide behind ‘technical difficulties’ or ‘force majeure’ and let customers suffer for it.
2. You Don’t Have to Be a Celebrity to Win a Consumer Cases
A humble tea vendor, Rajesh Sakre, is an example of this. He had ₹20,000 in his State Bank of India account and had withdrawn ₹10,800. On his next visit to the ATM, however, he realised all his money was gone. When he asked the bank authorities they blamed it on him.
So, he went to the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum with his grievance. He couldn’t afford a lawyer and he argued the case himself!
The forum ruled in his favour and ordered the State Bank of India to return the ₹9,200 with 6% interest, pay ₹10,000 as compensation for mental anguish caused by the issue, and ₹2,000 for legal expenses.
It doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you have a valid case you can approach the Consumer cases Forum. And even big companies and government entities like the State Bank of India can be made to answer for their mistakes.
3. Not All Free Items Are Welcome
Imagine you bought a bottle of Pepsi and found a packet of gutka floating in it! It happened to Rajesh Rajan from Ahmedabad when he bought Pepsi from a local store. He sent a legal notice to the company immediately and approached a Consumer cases Dispute Redressal Forum.
Moreover, he claimed that there was a deficiency in service that could have caused a health hazard to him. He demanded compensation of ₹5 lakh for the same.
The consumer forum passed an order in favour of Rajesh Rajan and directed the company to pay a total of ₹4008 (₹4000 for compensation and ₹8 for the Pepsi he purchased).
Rajesh moved the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, asking for higher compensation as ₹4008 was too low and that he had spent ₹500 on sample testing itself. The State Commission passed an order asking the company to pay ₹20,000 as compensation and ₹2000 towards costs as it found Rajesh’s argument reasonable.
Free items are not all welcome! It is a deficiency in service on the part of the provider if you find anything in your food (packaged or otherwise) that isn’t supposed to be there. The Consumer Cases Forums are a good place to take them.
4. Paying More Than the MRP? You Shouldn’t.
It has become common to charge more than the maximum retail price (MRP) for packaged goods. Especially in places like theatres, food courts, railway stations, etc we see this happen a lot and mostly ignore it.
Mr Kondaiah from Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, didn’t ignore it when he noticed that Sarvi Food Court charged him ₹40 for a water bottle where the MRP was ₹20. He filed a case against them in the District Consumer cases Disputes Redressal Forum for ‘unfair trade practice’. He supported his claim by producing the bill.
The court decided in favour of Mr Kondaiah and said that a practice is not justified just because it is widely common. Mr Kondaiah was awarded a compensation of ₹20,000, ₹20 (the extra money charged) and ₹5,000 in costs.
No authority has the power to charge above the MRP for any packaged goods. It doesn’t matter where it is sold, you are not required to pay a rupee above the MRP.
5. No MRP at All on the Product?
Baglekar Akash Kumar, a 19-year-old got a book and ₹12,500 because of the book. How? He purchased the book online and when it was delivered, he noticed that there was no MRP mentioned in it. He browsed the internet and saw that the book was sold at different prices in different places.
So, he went to the consumer cases forum and filed a case against Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd and the paper company.
The court held that not publishing MRP on the product without a valid reason is ‘unfair trade practice’. MRP exists to ensure that a consumer is not overcharged for the product. So, it is mandatory for companies to print MRP.
The publishers were asked to print the retail price on the book and Akash was awarded ₹10,000 as compensation and ₹2,500 as costs.
It is required under law for companies to put MRP on every product. If you see a product without MRP, then it is a violation of Consumer cases Protection Laws and you can take them to court.
6. Medical Services Fall Within the Scope of the CPA
Do medical services fall under CPA? When there was a little confusion in this regard, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) decided to get this question resolved once and for all.
IMA approached the Supreme Court, asking them to declare that medical services are out of the scope of the CPA. They gave the following arguments to support their claim:
- Medical professionals are governed by their own code of ethics made by the Medical Council of India.
- In the medical profession, it is hard to guarantee the end result of treatments. Many external factors which are out of the control of the professional can impact the outcome. So, allowing consumer claims will cause people to file a case whenever a treatment didn’t work out.
- There are no medical science experts in the consumer complaints online.
- Medical service provided by government hospitals will not fall under the Act especially when the service is provided for free.
These were decent points. After consideration, the court settled the claims in the following manner.
Medical services provided by any professional (private or government) will be covered by CPA. Meaning people can file a case in a Consumer Court if the service provided is not in confirmation with the Act.
- Doctors and hospitals who treat patients for free cannot be sued by a person who availed their services for free.
- In a government hospital, where services are provided free of charge – the Consumer Protection Act India would not apply.
Apart from these two exceptions, the Act will apply when a person gets treated in government hospitals for free, when a poor person gets treated for free, and when insurance money is used for treatment.
7. Tired of the False Claims Made by Skin and Hair Care Products Yet?
Maybe you are not tired yet or you are too tired to question. However, a 67-year-old man from Kerala’s remotest areas was tired of these consistent lies and how companies got away with them.
In 2015, K Chaathu complained against Indulekha (beauty product manufacturers) and Mammootty (an actor who was the brand ambassador of the company) for putting up misleading ads. The tagline of the soap was ‘soundaryam ningale thedi varum’ which meant ‘beauty will come in search of you. The ads also claimed that people using the soap will become ‘fair’ and ‘beautiful’ but the 67-year-old didn’t become fair or beautiful.
Indulekha paid him ₹30,000 in an out of the court settlement while the initial claim of Chaathu was ₹50,000. When he was asked about this, he said that this case was never about the money but about how these companies put up advertisements every day with false claims. And it is not okay to let these people get away with it.
Advertisements are made to sell the products, so exaggeration of results is too common. But this doesn’t make it okay to make false claims just for the sake of selling the products. Making false claims in violation of the CTA.
8. Homebuyers Are Consumers
Imagine you decide to buy a house (a dream come true for many). You do a lot of research, pool your hard-earned money, and pay a real estate developer to build the house for you. They promise to deliver within 42 months but 4 years later they haven’t even started construction.
This is what happened to two people and they decided to move the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) for it.
NCDRC decided in favour of the homebuyers and asked the real estate developer to refund the money with a simple interest of 9% per annum. They were also awarded a compensation of ₹50,000 each.
The real estate developer challenged this in the Supreme Court, saying that the issue is covered under another Act (Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act) and therefore cannot be taken in a consumer court. But the Supreme Court denied their argument saying that as long as the other Act explicitly stops people from getting remedy under other laws, they will be allowed to do so.
Our laws are in such a way that even though there are other remedies available, in most cases where you are a buyer of a product or a service, you will have protection under the Consumer Protection Act.
9. Insurance Claims Cannot be Rejected on Mere Technicalities
We pay the premium and get insurance to protect us from losses we can’t foresee. Sadly, many people have had bad experiences with the insurance company. Om Prakash, for example, had his truck stolen and claimed insurance for the same. The truck was stolen on 23.03.2010, the FIR filed on 24.03.2010, and the insurance claim was filed on 31.03.2010.
The insurance investigator was sent and he confirmed that the claim was genuine. The claim approved for the amount of ₹7,85,000/-. But the amount was never given to Om Prakash. When he sent the insurance company a legal notice for the same, they replied saying that there was a breach of terms and conditions:
“immediate information to the Insurer about the loss/theft of the vehicle”
Om Prakash was late to apply for insurance because he was held up with the police to try and recover his vehicle.
While the consumer courts didn’t allow his case, the Supreme Court allowed his appeal and held in favour of him. It was ruled that insurance companies cannot escape from paying the claimants on technical grounds. Especially when the claimant has valid reasons for it.
The Court directed the Respondent company to pay a sum of ₹8,35,000/- to the Appellant along with interest @ 8% per annum. He was also awarded ₹50,000 as compensation.
Over the years, many judgements have been made to ensure that insurance companies are accountable and do not escape from paying valid claims. If you experience a similar situation with your insurance provided, you can approach the consumer court.
10. iPhone 5S Gold for ₹68 + ₹10,000
Let’s close the list with a fun one! How would it be to get an iPhone at just ₹68? In 2014, Nikhil Bansal (a student) saw this unbelievable offer on Snapdeal (a discount of ₹46,651) and ordered it immediately as any sane person would. He received an order confirmation but later he was told that the order was cancelled. They claimed that the offer itself was a technical glitch.
When he approached the e commerce consumer complaints india Forum, he claimed that these kind of offers are misleading people and it was the duty of Snapdeal to honour the order. The forum ruled in his favour and asked Snapdeal to deliver him the iPhone for ₹68 and asked to pay a compensation of ₹2,000.
When Snapdeal appealed this order, the compensation was raised to ₹10,000!
Ecommerce stores are just as answerable as any other shop owner under the Consumer Protection Act. So if you face any issues like this with them, consider taking it to the consumer court.
Consumer forums exist to protect consumers and ensure that we are not cheated by the companies we pay for getting products or services. Knowing your rights is the first step towards becoming a conscious consumer.
Don’t hesitate to approach the consumer court if you have a valid claim. Even if it is for an ₹8-product like Pepsi, a valid claim should be taken to the forum.
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