Any Ev­i­dence Is Enough

Bill Not Nec­es­sary for Con­sumer Fo­rum

Consumer Voice - - Contents - Dr Prem Lata, Con­sumer Awak­en­ing For­mer Mem­ber, CDRF-Delhi

At some point, many of you must have felt ag­grieved enough to want to for­mally com­plain against some prod­uct man­u­fac­turer or a ser­vice provider. But you did not do that think­ing you had lit­tle ev­i­dence of pur­chase – you had for­got­ten to take the bill. You were prob­a­bly a lit­tle right in your think­ing, but not en­tirely so.

One thing that ev­ery con­sumer in In­dia must re­mem­ber is that con­sumer fo­rums are open to ev­ery cit­i­zen as long as they can prove that their com­plaint is right and they are a ‘con­sumer’ of ei­ther a ser­vice or a prod­uct made or sold by the party they are com­plain­ing against. Yes, bills are good but are not nec­es­sary ev­i­dence. Also, do not be sur­prised if some re­tailer re­fuses to is­sue a bill be­cause is­su­ing bill is not legally manda­tory in In­dia. As much as you have the right to ask for it, there is no manda­tory pres­sure on the re­tailer to is­sue the same.

So, how can you val­i­date a pur­chase with­out a bill? In­ter­est­ingly, any sec­ondary ev­i­dence is ac­cept­able in the con­sumer fo­rum. The fo­rum may ac­cept or­di­nary doc­u­ments such as a vis­it­ing card of

the seller wherein he may have signed show­ing an ad­vance pay­ment made, or even a hand­writ­ten note on an or­di­nary pa­per ad­mit­ting a sale or a ser­vice ren­dered. A neu­tral wit­ness to the sale can be help­ful in strength­en­ing your com­plaint.

When Sham­poo Killed Her Hair

clinic. How­ever, the treat­ment did not help and Kaur even­tu­ally had to get her hair cut.

A dis­tressed Kaur filed a for­mal com­plaint against P&G, the re­tailer, as well as VLCC for de­fi­ciency in ser­vice and un­fair trade prac­tices. The Sangrur dis­trict fo­rum held P&G and the re­tailer li­able and di­rected them to pay Rs 25,000 as com­pen­sa­tion to Kaur.

P&G, backed by a bat­tery of le­gal con­sul­tants, ap­pealed against the dis­trict fo­rum’s decision at the Pun­jab State Com­mis­sion. Look­ing at the merit of the com­plaint, the ap­peal was dis­missed. More­over, P&G was asked to pay an ad­di­tional sum of Rs 2,000 (along with the Rs 25,000 as di­rected by dis­trict fo­rum) as com­pen­sa­tion to the com­plainant.

P&G held their ground and reached the Na­tional Com­mis­sion seek­ing re­vi­sion of or­ders of the dis­trict and state com­mis­sions. The company pre­sented le­gal and tech­ni­cal ob­jec­tions. They claimed that the bill for the pur­chase had not been pro­duced and also chal­lenged Kaur’s right to file a con­sumer com­plaint, con­tend­ing that the sham­poo had been bought by her fa­ther. The company also ques­tioned the ju­ris­dic­tion of the dis­trict fo­rum as the company did not have any of­fice in that par­tic­u­lar dis­trict.

De­fend­ing their prod­uct, the company con­tended that their sham­poo had been de­vel­oped after thor­ough re­search by lead­ing hair spe­cial­ists and was sub­jected to test­ing ac­cord­ing to global

Do not be sur­prised if some re­tailer re­fuses to is­sue a bill be­cause is­su­ing bill is not legally manda­tory in In­dia. As much as you have the right to ask for it, there is no

manda­tory pres­sure on an un­will­ing re­tailer to is­sue the

same.

When Taran­jit Kaur had to get her hair cut as they were com­pletely dam­aged after us­ing an ex­pired sham­poo, she had ev­ery rea­son to ques­tion the sham­poo’s seller and the man­u­fac­turer.

Kaur had used a nine­millil­itre sa­chet of Pan­tene Pro V sham­poo that her fa­ther Amar­jit Singh bought from a lo­cal mom-and­pop re­tailer. Lit­tle did she know that the sham­poo had ex­pired five years ago and it could dam­age her hair, gum them all to­gether, and make them lose their nat­u­ral form.

Ag­grieved, Kaur’s fa­ther com­plained to Proc­ter & Gam­ble (P&G), the sole dis­trib­u­tors of Pan­tene. P&G ad­mit­ted to the mis­take and agreed to find a so­lu­tion to help Kaur in get­ting her hair back in shape. The company asked Kaur to go for treat­ment at Van­dana Luthra Care Clinic ( VLCC) and com­mit­ted to pay­ing for one-time treat­ment at the

stan­dards. Also, they said, the com­plainant had failed to file any test re­port to prove that the prod­uct was de­fec­tive.

The Na­tional Com­mis­sion stud­ied the facts and dis­missed all ar­gu­ments of P&G cit­ing var­i­ous rea­sons. In its 7 July 2014 judge­ment, de­liv­ered by Dr SM Kan­tikar for the bench along with Jus­tice JM Ma­lik, the com­mis­sion ob­served that P&G could not es­cape li­a­bil­ity be­cause the bill was not avail­able. It held that the sham­poo had been pur­chased from a re­tailer at Dhrui in Sangrur, so the dis­trict fo­rum would be vested with the ju­ris­dic­tion to de­cide upon the com­plaint, whether or not P&G had their of­fice there.

The com­mis­sion noted that Taran­jit had pro­duced the empty pouch and a tuft of the dam­aged hair as ev­i­dence. They agreed with Taran­jit that she could not have sent the sham­poo for test­ing as the sa­chet con­tained only nine millil­itres of sham­poo. At the same time, the com­mis­sion ques­tioned P&G’s fail­ure to send other sim­i­lar pouches for test­ing. P&G then re­quested the com­mis­sion to send the empty pouch for test­ing the traces, but the re­quest was turned down as the sham­poo had crossed its ex­piry date.

The Na­tional Com­mis­sion ob­served that the tuft pro­duced by Taran­jit showed it to be dam­aged and dis­coloured. They also ob­served that any com­pul­sion to re­move hair might cause cos­metic em­bar­rass­ment to a girl. Fur­ther, the com­mis­sion de­clared that P&G could not es­cape be­ing held li­able for de­fi­ciency in ser­vice merely be­cause it had borne the cost of a one­time treat­ment at VLCC. On the con­trary, it would be con­strued as a clan­des­tine ad­mis­sion of li­a­bil­ity and an at­tempt to save skin. P&G was in­dicted for con­tin­u­ing the lit­i­ga­tion and drag­ging the con­sumer to the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for a mea­gre Rs 25,000 com­pen­sa­tion.

Point to Be Noted

The com­plainant in the above-dis­cussed case did not have a bill, nor did she have any other con­crete ev­i­dence as proof of the pur­chase. The Na­tional Com­mis­sion did not hes­i­tate in re­ly­ing upon other fac­tors to help the con­sumer.

Con­sumer Voice has al­ways un­der­lined the fact that con­sumer fo­rums are not civil courts. The Civil Pro­ce­dure Code or the Ev­i­dence Act is not strictly fol­lowed by the con­sumer fo­rums – they adopt sum­mery pro­ce­dures pro­vided un­der Sec­tion 13 of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act. In the case dis­cussed here, the Na­tional Com­mis­sion did not look for the ev­i­dence; they un­der­stood the cir­cum­stan­tial fact and stood by the con­sumer.

Con­sumer fo­rums are not civil courts. The Civil Pro­ce­dure Code or the Ev­i­dence Act is not strictly fol­lowed by the

con­sumer fo­rums.

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