Posted: February 29, 2016 Filed under: Consumer Law and Cases
Cinemas, theatre and other places of public entertainment generally overcharge customers. This is rampant, but rarely does a consumer take action. Here is a case where a consumer took on the mighty Reliance Media Works, and succeeded in asserting consumer rights.
Case Study: Manoj Kumar went for a movie at Big Cinemas, Jaipur, run by Mumbai-based Reliance Media Works. He bought a bottle of Aquafina water. The printed price showed an MRP of Rs 16, but Manoj was charged Rs 30. The bill gave a break up of Rs 26 09 for the water and Rs 391 as taxes.Manoj was upset at being overcharged, and asked for the complaint book, but it was not provided.
Manoj filed a complaint before the district forum. Reliance contested the complaint, contending that the bottles were purchased from Varun Beverages, with a printed MRP of Rs 30, approved by Aquafina Pepsico company .These bottles had a higher MRP as they were meant for sale in cinema halls, while regular ones for “ordinary people“ sold in “ordinary shops“ had an MRP of Rs 16. However, no proof was furnished in support of this .
The forum upheld Manoj’s complaint and directed the cinema hall to refund the excess amount of Rs 14. In addition, Rs 5,000 was awarded as compensation for mental agony and Rs 1,500 towards litigation costs. Reliance challenged this order before the Rajasthan State Commission, but the appeal was dismissed. Reliance then filed a revision petition, claiming that there was adequate provisions for free drinking water and nobody was forced to purchase bottled water. It reiterated its stand about the special MRP for sale of water bottles in cinema halls, and alleged that the bottle with the MRP of Rs 16 had not been sold by the cinema, but had been purchased by Manoj from a local shop, and was being used to file a false and frivolous complaint. The commission observed that the main questions were whether a service provider could charge more than the MRP , and whether cinema halls can have a special MRP different from the ordinary MRP . Expressing these to be serious issues, the commission summoned the Director of Weights & Measures, and also Pepsico India Holdings for an explanation.
The commission noted that no evidence had been produced by Reliance to show that it had sold a bottle of water bearing a special MRP . It observed that Manoj appeared to be a vigilant consumer and a whistleblower who would not allow cinema halls to repeatedly commit illegalities, and wanted to bring such malpractices to an end. It rejected Reliance’s argument that Manoj was not a consumer and that it was permissible to charges more than the MRP in view of a Delhi high court judgment in Delhi Gymkhana Club vs Union of India.
The commission observed that Pepsico was making contrary submission by stating that its Aquafina bottles were priced at Rs 16, but it was permissible to have two different MRPs. It said this “flip flop stand“ had created a doubt whether the company was working in cahoots with Reliance and other cinema halls. It then warned Pepsico to have only one MRP , and stated that it would not allow such a practice to overcharge people.
Accordingly , by its judgement of February 1, delivered by Justice J M Malik for the bench along with Dr S M Kantikar, the commission upheld the decision of holding Reliance liable. In addition, the commission saddled Reliance with further deterrent costs of Rs 5 lakh for illegal enrichment by charging and extorting money from their customers. This amount would have to be deposited in the commission’s Legal Aid Account within 90 days, or with 9% interest if delayed.
Impact: Overcharging consumers is not permissible. Earlier, in another case, the Maharashtra State Commission had ruled dual pricing would constitute an unfair trade practice.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt. of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His e mail is jehang email@example.com)
Posted: February 29, 2016 Filed under: Green Technology
A directive that aimed to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs across the European Union was passed on September 1st 2009. The ban was phased in over a three-year period, first targeting 100W filament bulbs. They were followed by 60W incandescent bulbs being phased out two years later, and finally, in 2012, the removal of the 40W light bulbs and any other incandescent bulbs still in use.
The news was met with a mixture of praise and criticism (LEDLights was on the side that praised), but the ban could not be effected fully as, despite the legislation, there was a loophole which, up until this month, remained open and allowed companies to continue to sell incandescent bulbs. At the end of February 2016, however, this loophole will reach a dead end and companies will be forced to join the LED revolution.
Let’s backtrack a little and think about why the ban was introduced and furthermore, why so many people did not support it. On one side of the equation some people considered the ban to be an effort on the part of the EU to get rid of inefficient technology. For the record, 90% of the power generated by incandescent bulbs is lost to heat. On the other hand, for those who didn’t support the ban, it was an erroneous move that did not include more affordable alternatives. Many of these consumers were still attached to the warm, filament glow produced by incandescent light bulbs.
This sentiment was upheld even though the UK government had motivated the decision by stating that the United Kingdom would receive a net benefit of £108-million between 2012 and 2010. The media questioned the logic and the public remained divided as it does when we start to challenge the things we used to do, or the way we used to do them.
And, while the expectation was for the removal of inefficient lighting technology, there was a class of incandescent bulb that had been excluded from the ban. This was to soften the blow of the ban to industrial and trade sectors of the economy.
25 Jan 2016 10:16:11 By Chris Angus
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Posted: February 25, 2016 Filed under: Co-operative Societies
A member of a co-operative housing society cannot refuse to act upon a resolution passed by an overwhelming majority, the Bombay high court (HC) held on Monday.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Vardhaman Developers, the firm appointed by the Andheri Krupa Prasad Co-operative Housing Society to redevelop their four buildings on April 6, 2008.
According to the terms of the agreement between the housing society and the developer, the members were to hand over their premises, once the developer got the plans sanctioned and obtained the permissions from the civic body.
While 57 members shifted to the transit accommodation, 19 refused to hand over the possession of their 17 flats, even after signing consent affidavits to abide by the terms of the development agreement, after which the developer moved court. Justice RD Dhanuka said a resolution passed by an overwhelming majority is binding on all members and a few dissenting members cannot stall the redevelopment of the society.
Rejecting the dissenters’ objections, the judge said the disapproval of a dissenting minority cannot be the basis to negate a resolution passed by the general body, unless it is shown to be a product of fraud, misrepresentation or opposed to some statutory prohibition.
“The minuscule non co-operative members cannot stall the redevelopment project on flimsy grounds,” justice Dhanuka said. The court has appointed a court receiver and directed him to implement the order in four weeks.
Kanchan Chaudhari, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Posted: February 22, 2016 Filed under: Co-operative Societies
A builder can neither change the layout nor alter or deprive a flat purchaser of the promised amenities by obtaining permission of the local authority to change the sanctioned plan.Case Study: Marathon Realty, formerly Chhaganlal Khimji, constructed a building in Mulund. Flat purchasers formed the Monte Vista Residence Welfare Association, but the proposed Monte Vista CHS was yet to be registered. When all attempts to resolve the grievance failed, the association and the proposed society filed a complaint before Maharashtra State Consumer Commission against the builder, its directors Mayur and Chetan Shah, and BMC’s executive engineer of building proposal (eastern suburbs).
According to the complaint, flat purchasers had been induced to book flats based on representation in the builder’s brochure stating that world-class facilities would be provided along with club house and basement parking. Later, when the agreements were executed, they were not in accordance with the Model Form provided under the Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act (MOFA). The builder not only illegally charged extra amounts, ranging from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh for allotment of parking space, but also did not provide basement parking. Instead, it was to be diverted to the BMC under the Public Parking Lot Scheme, jeopardising security of residents. Before the occupation certificate was obtained, possession of flats was given for fit out, yet deposit for maintenance charges of about Rs 1 lakh was collected from each purchaser. The builder had deviated from specifications of some of the promised amenities, such as swimming pool and gymnasium, so that three extra unauthorized flats could be constructed. The recreation ground, shown in the original plan to be in front of the building, was diverted for construction of a new building which was not mentioned earlier. The builder contested the case. The company stated that at the time of handing over possession, an undertaking had been taken from the flat purchasers not to object to the basement parking being handed over to BMC for public parking. The builders claimed they would be developing a children’s play area, jogging track, garden and other landscaping only on top of another structure in lieu of what was originally promised.
The commission did not agree with the builder’s argument that the complaint was not maintainable. It said the welfare association was entitled to file a complaint. The builder’s contention that the complaint was beyond limitation was also overruled, observing that the complaint was filed within two years from the date of possession.
The commission considered various precedents and concluded that disclosures made in the brochure or other promotional materials are important and binding as they induce consumers to book flats. Accordingly , by its order dated February 10, delivered by Dhanraj Khamtkar for the bench along with Usha Thakare, the commission held the builders guilty of deficiency in service and unfair trade practice. Marathon Realty was also ordered to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation and Rs 50,000 as costs.
Impact: Representations made in a brochure are binding.
Jehangir B Gai
Posted: February 22, 2016 Filed under: Green Technology, Greenpeace India
Solar power is lighting up the world, and not just on rooftops. Forward-thinking minds are discovering ways to harness the sun’s energy in many exciting ways, from the ground beneath our feet to the shirt off our back. The following innovations are shining beacons in a renewable energy future.
These mirrored dishes, located in the Kalahari desert, could be the most efficient solar system in the world. Photo Credit: Ripasso Energy
1. Strides in solar efficiency
Most solar generators can convert up to 23 percent of sunlight into electricity. However, Swedish company Ripasso Energy claims they can covert 34 percent of the sun’s energy into power with their contraption (see photo above), making it the world’s most efficient solar electricity system. According to The Guardian, independent tests found that a single Ripasso dish can generate 75 to 85 zero-emission megawatt hours of electricity a year, or enough to power 24 typical homes in the UK. To compare, to create the same amount of electricity by burning coal would release roughly 81 metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, the newspaper reported.
2. Battery technology and shared solar untether us from Big Power
Elon Musk really is Tony Stark. The billionaire entrepreneur recently unveiled a revolutionary suite of Tesla batteries that he says could “fundamentally change the way the world uses energy” and get us off dirty fossil fuels. Musk’s sister company SolarCity is now offering Tesla batteries at a price point that’s more than 60 percent less than previous solar power storage products, paving the way for more people to peel themselves off the grid.
For people who don’t have the funds or the right roof for photovoltaic panels, peer-to-peer solar startup Yeloha is offering a genius solution: solar sharing. The company allows customers to “go solar” without owning a single panel by essentially feeding off their neighbors who do (and at a price that’s less than what they’d normally pay to their utility).
3. Portable solar brings light to developing world
For places recovering from disaster or communities lacking access to electricity, solar systems provide an alternative or a complement to traditional power sources such as fossil fuel generators (diesel or gasoline is not only expensive, it emits noxious fumes and can cause fires). For example, after the first of two devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, solar company Gham Power deployed solar power systems to help power lights and mobile charging stations for relief workers and the displaced. And in Haiti, the nonprofit organization Field Ready is trying to use a solar powered 3D-printer to make a whole range of simple, life-saving medical supplies at a fraction of the cost.
4. Solar desalination: solution to drought?
Scientists are solving the planet’s fresh water worries with a little help from the sun. Recently, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jain Irrigation Systems have come up with a method of turning brackish water into drinking water with a solar-powered machine that can pull salt out of water. It then further disinfects the water with ultraviolet rays. With parts of the planet running perilously low on fresh water, realization of this technology can’t come soon enough.
5. Solar transportation
In the air and on the road, solar technology is going the distance. Currently, the Solar Impulse 2, the first solar airplane able to sustain flight at night with a pilot on board, is making its historic round-the-world trip powered only by the sun.
Over in the Netherlands, SolaRoad, the world’s first “solar road,” has defied expectations and has generated about 3,000 kWh of power, enough to provide a single-person household with electricity for a year. Considering it’s only a 230-feet bike path, the potential for this technology could be big, kind of like photovoltaic technology itself.
Want to see India leading the way? Join the movement >>grnpc.org/solarise
Posted: February 17, 2016 Filed under: Food
Maybe you’re so used to the convenience of microwave ovens you don’t care about the trade-off: Higher risk of cancer and the long term effects of malnutrition.
What if I told you there’s been mounting science based evidence, strong evidence, that it’s time to ditch all use of microwave ovens. Would you think the suggestion absurd or stop cold turkey and suffer from convenience withdrawal?
The Independent Swiss Study on Microwave Ovens’ Effect on Humans Through Foods Nuked
In 1992, Swiss scientist Hans Hertel, assisted by Bernard Blanc, conducted a very thorough study on eight healthy human volunteers in their 20s and 30s. The study included raw milk and pasteurized milk and frozen and fresh vegetables. The foods were all consumed raw, cooked normally, and microwaved.
Microwaved water on left; purified water on right
Before and after each meal, their blood was tested. Nutrient damage well beyond normal cooking was present in their blood after consuming microwave cooked food, with abnormalities paralleling the findings of earlier Russian studies.
Hertel concluded that technologically induced energy damage can be passed on to humans with microwaved food in addition to direct microwave emissions.
The Truth Shall Not Be Known
The two Swiss scientists published their findings and were quickly sued. An EU appliance trade organization persuaded the court to issue a gag order on their findings with vicious repercussions if violated.
Blanc was so intimidated he recanted, but Hertel stood his ground. Six years later in 1998, his appeal was honored by the court’s lifting the gag order and awarding Hans Hertel with 40,000 francs from the Swiss government.
Many scientists scoff at cellular damage and cancerous conditions from microwave cooking without analyzing these and other blood and food tests, or even conducting their own! Their denial is typical of sold out scientists.
From Russia With Love and Other Cracks in the Microwave Armor
Starting in 1957, Russia had been conducting tests on radar microwave emissions and microwave oven cooking. Their scientific conclusions resulted in emission restrictions for radar workers and a ban on microwave ovens in 1976.
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Posted: February 15, 2016 Filed under: Consumer Law and Cases
Cheating does not pay , and trying to inflate a claim on the basis of fa bricated documents disentitles the insured rom getting any benefits whatsoever under a policy .Case Study:Anjal Garments of Ghaziabad was in the business of manufacturing and exporting home furnishing products. The firm had obtained two Standard Fire and Special Perils policies from Oriental Insurance to cover its fac ory, machinery , furniture and fix ure, and stocks including raw ma erials, finished, semi-finished goods and packing materials for a um of Rs 7 crore.
On March 22, 2015, the firm intimated the insurance company that a major fire had occurred the previous evening due to a short circuit, and the estimated loss was about Rs 4 crore. The firm later filed a claim pegging the loss at Rs 5,11,08,267.The insurance company appointed a surveyor to assess the loss and al o asked the Loss Prevention Asso ciation to examine the claim. The company later appointed an inves tigator to probe the incident. On the basis of the reports, the company repudiated the claim, alleging that the fire was not accidental due to short circuit, and an exaggerated and fabricated claim had been lod ged by manipulating the bills and the stock statement.
The firm filed a complaint befo re the National Commission for a direction to pay the claim along with interest, and a further amount of over Rs 7.9 crore for loss of business. The insurance company contested the case, pointing out how the claim had been inflated. It relied on the statement of the store incharge who said there had been a power failure that day , and the generator, MCB and electric connection had been shut down at the time of leaving the premises.
This was also corroborated by the security guard. Even though the exact cause of fire had not been established, it did not appear to be accidental fire.
The surveyor had recorded the firm’s unwillingness to produce the account books. There were discrepancies in the records submitted. There was no correspondence in respect of many export orders, and transactions worth over Rs 6 crore had been made without any letter of credit to purchasers who had defaulted. The purchase bills also revealed irregularities, showing exaggerated purchases.
The insurance firm said the cla im had rightly been repudiated due to manipulation of records and false declarations.
The National Commission concluded that the cause of the fire appeared to be a wilful act. Also, at least three of the challans were found to be false and fabricated to inflate the claim. So, the commission indicted the firm for submitting a false estimate of loss. Accordingly , by its order on February 12, delivered by Justice VK Jain for the bench along with Dr BC Gupta, the commission held the firm’s conduct to constitute a breach of the insurance contract, and ruled that the insurance company was entitled to repudiate the claim.
Even if the claim is partly fraudulent or based on manipulated documents, the insurance company would be entitled to repudiate the entire claim. Even the genuine loss would not be reimbursable under such circumstances.
Jehangir B Gai
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt. of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org)