Does that mean that any assurances in the house have no sanctity?
Does that mean that any assurances in the house have no sanctity?
The 2019 Consumer Protection Act brings about fundamental changes to the existing 1986 legislation. But it also envisages a Central Consumer Protection Authority and vests too much power and control in this authority without proposing adequate administrative safeguards.
Mid-August, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (2019 Act) received Presidential assent and came into effect. Notably, the 2019 Act, repeals the previous consumer protection legislation which had been in effect since 1986 (1986 Act). This prior legislation had been amended from time-to-time to bring it in accordance with changes brought about by economic liberalisation, globalisation of markets and digitalisation of products and services. However, its practical implementation was far from fulfilling its desired objective of being a socio-economic legislation which sought “to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers.” While using the same phrase in its preamble, the 2019 Act, has substantially enhanced the scope of protection afforded to consumers, by bringing within its purview advertising claims, endorsements and product liability, all of which play a fundamental role in altering consumer behavior and retail trends in the 21st century.
The definition of “consumer” under the 2019 Act includes those who make purchases online. Endorsement of goods and services, normally done by celebrities, are also covered within the ambit of the 2019 Act. In fact, an additional onus has been placed on endorsers, apart from manufacturers and service providers, to prevent false or misleading advertisements. In contrast to the 1986 Act, the definition of “goods” has been amended to include “food” as defined in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. This would also bring the meteorically rising number of food delivery platforms within the fold of the 2019 Act.
Interestingly, “telecom” has been added to the definition of “services” to bring telecom service providers within the purview of the 2019 Act. But surprisingly, such inclusion has not been worded as “telecommunication service” defined under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, which would have included internet, cellular and data services.
A significant addition to the 2019 Act is the introduction of “product liability” whereby manufacturers and sellers of products or services have been made responsible to compensate for any harm caused to a consumer by defective products, manufactured or sold, or for deficiency in services. Another newly introduced concept is that of “unfair contracts” aimed to protect consumers from unilaterally skewed and unreasonable contracts which lean in favour of manufacturers or service providers.
The definition of “unfair trade practices” has been enlarged to include electronic advertising which is misleading, as well as refusing to take back or withdraw defective goods, or to withdraw or discontinue deficient services, and to refund the consideration within the period stipulated or in the absence of such stipulation, within a period of thirty days. It is now also an offence if any personal information, given in confidence and gathered in the course of a transaction, gets disclosed.
All these changes signify an attempt to create more transparency in the marketplace, through legislative protection, with a view to ensure that consumer interests are above all else.
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Pradeep Tripathi, from Parel, found that the money he wanted transferred to the account of a business supplier in Chandigarh was sent to the account of an unknown person in Hyderabad. The bank was recently ordered to refund the amount along with a compensation of around Rs32,000.
A district forum had ruled in Tripathi’s favour in June 2018. But the bank moved an appeal before Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
The commission upheld the district forum order. “The forum rightly held that the correct account number was written by the complainant (Tripathi) on the RTGS transfer slip but opponent (Canara Bank) did not verify before making the transfer and had done it carelessly, and transferred the amount to a different account. The forum correctly held that the complainant was not responsible for the mistake by the bank and it was guilty and responsible for the deficiency in service,” the state commission said.
Tripathi told the commission that after he realised his money was wrongly transferred, he informed the bank, and told it to credit the amount back in his account, but it was not done. Tripathi said he moved the district forum in 2015 after his efforts for a favourable solution from the banking ombudsman failed.
The bank claimed Tripathi provided the wrong account number, which was clear from the RTGS slip. But the state commission said it had gone through the main copy of the slip and found that the number ‘6’ in the account number seemed to have been corrected as ‘8’ by overwriting. It observed that there was no initial or authentication for the correction.
Booking movie tickets online through an application on your mobile phone or a website on your computer has only come as a boon to many frequent cinema goers. However, ever wondered if the “Internet Handling Charges” that we pay are legally chargeable?
An RTI query with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reveals that the platforms providing movie ticket booking services do not have any authority to levy handling fees on customers and that they are in violation of the RBI’s Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) regulations. Online film ticketing majors are fleecing movie buffs by charging them a whopping Rs. 35.20 on each ticket booked online through their websites and apps.
According to an activist Mr. Devaranjan,
“AS PER NORMS, THESE COMPANIES DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO LEVY INTERNET HANDLING FEES ON CUSTOMERS. THIS IS A CLEAR VIOLATION OF RBI’S MERCHANT DISCOUNT RATE(MDR) REGULATIONS.”
“THEY ARE COLLECTING THIS AMOUNT IN THE NAME OF AN ‘INTERNET HANDLING FEE’, VIOLATING THE NORMS OF THE RESERVE BANK OF INDIA,” SAID SOME OTHER ACTIVISTS.
The MDR is a payment gateway fee paid by merchants to the bank for accepting payments via debit or credit cards. As per the RBI, this fee has to be paid to banks by merchants for internet-based online transactions.
“HOWEVER, THIS FEE IS BEING COLLECTED FROM CONSUMERS BY ONLINE TICKET BOOKING PORTALS. MANY ONLINE TICKETING COMPANIES LIKE BOOKMYSHOW COLLECT ILLEGAL FEES FROM THE CUSTOMERS,” DEVARANJAN ADDED.
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Subsequently, a Letter of Intent (LoI) was issued on May 22, 2012, promising possession within 36 months. Sharma paid Rs 58,65,000 more as demanded.
The Authority failed to deliver possession within the promised period. So Sharma sent a letter on July 1, 2016 seeking a refund of the entire amount paid by him, but his request was ignored.
Instead, a letter backdated June 30, 2016, was sent on July 4, 2016, offering possession of the apartment, but Sharma did not take possession. After a few months, the Authority sent a letter agreeing to refund the money without interest, subject to a deduction of
10% of the total price paid.
Sharma then filed a complaint before the Punjab State Commission, which was contested by the Authority.
The Commission overruled the objection raised by the Authority that the dispute should be referred to arbitration or a civil court, and held the consumer fora were competent to adjudicate the dispute. It concluded a consumer who is not given possession in time has a right to seek a refund. Accordingly, it directed the Authority to refund the entire amount along with 8% compound interest. In addition, Rs 50,000 was awarded as compensation and Rs 21,000 as litigation costs.
The Authority appealed against this order. The National Commission scrutinized the postal receipts and the envelopes and found the letter sent by the Authority had been despatched on July 4, 2016, but had been backdated to June 30, 2016, to make it appear it was sent a day prior to Sharma’s letter dated July 1, 2016.
Accordingly, by its order of January 2, 2019, delivered by the bench of Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Shreesha, the National Commission dismissed the Authority’s appeal.
Conclusion: A flat purchaser can seek a refund along with interest and compensation if possession is delayed. Such a demand could be made at any time prior to the issuance of letter offering possession.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt.of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is )
Jehangir B Gai
ePaper, The Times of India, Bombay, Monday, January 07, 2019, Page 4:
A consumer Court in Raipur has recently imposed a penalty of Rs.2500/- on SBI for exactly the same reason overruling 🎯the arguments of SBI that
1) the complainant was not its customer and
2) failure of internet connectivity is not within its ambit, rather it is upon the internet service provider against whom, any complaint if any, should lie.
The Forum countered SBI by saying that when Banks are charging for usage of ATMs for a whole year in advance and a client is Free to use any ATM he automatically becomes a customer.
The second point was countered with the reasoning that when the ATM itself was showing “No Cash Available” on 3 different dates and times how it can be a case of internet failure? Moreover, when customers are penalised for no balance or less than minimum balance in their accounts, how can a Bank get away with no cash in the ATM?
It being the first such judgement for ATM failure, it is expected to generate a lot of interest in the matter.
The incident happened in May 2017, complaint filed in June 2017 and the verdict was passed recently.
It’s a reminder to our banker friends here to be more careful in loading Cash in ATMs especially before consecutive holidays to escape such penalty as well as customer dissatisfaction.
Courtesy N Sankarapandian Natarajan in SBI Pensioners group💐🙏