Movers and Pack­ers Are Ser­vice Providers

Movers and Pack­ers Are Ser­vice Providers

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

From an or­di­nary spoon in the kitchen to some de­cid­edly ex­pen­sive pos­ses­sions, some things bought with hard-earned money and some that have strong emo­tions at­tached to them, al­most ev­ery­thing moves with you when you move house. To en­sure that this tran­si­tion to the new house is has­sle-free, you look for a pro­fes­sional pack­ing and mov­ing com­pany and go on­line to find one that prom­ises the best ser­vice within your bud­get. Sounds straight­for­ward enough? Yet, what if things don't go as planned? What next if you feel cheated? What if your be­long­ings get dam­aged due to the pack­ing com­pany's neg­li­gence while shift­ing? Is there a rem­edy avail­able un­der Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act to get com­pen­sated for dam­ages done by the neg­li­gent com­pany?

Most peo­ple choose to look for their mov­ing com­pany on highly ad­ver­tised web­sites that do yel­low-page list­ings or clas­si­fied ad­ver­tise­ments. How­ever, most of these web­sites hardly check the cre­den­tials of com­pa­nies post­ing ads with them – more list­ings means more revenue for the web­sites. Many also state that con­sumers must do their own ref­er­ence check or read re­views as the claims made in their ads are of the ser­vice provider and not their own. Not sur­pris­ingly, most peo­ple look­ing for ser­vice providers end up choos­ing the ones that of­fer lesser price and have some good re­views (un­for­tu­nately, we live in times where even good re­views can be bought – this how­ever is another story).

As re­cip­i­ents of a ser­vice that is availed of for a fee, con­sumers are bet­ter off know­ing their op­tions if faced with any un­to­ward in­ci­dent. Firstly, it is im­por­tant to note that any com­pany that en­gages in shift­ing, mov­ing, trans­port­ing and pack­ing type of ser­vice is con­sid­ered to be a ser­vice provider and can be chal­lenged and fined for any de­fi­ciency of ser­vices un­der Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act. In In­dia, the movers and pack­ers sec­tor has ex­panded and hun­dreds of new com­pa­nies have en­tered the space. How­ever, not many of them seem to be de­liv­er­ing what they prom­ise; the num­ber of com­plaints against them in the con­sumer fo­rums has also been in­creas­ing steadily. The ma­jor­ity of these com­plaints state that the com­pany did not de­liver what it com­mit­ted, more so in re­gard to safe de­liv­ery of goods. The cases range from break­age of frag­ile ma­te­rial, not pack­ing them right, or loss (stolen/lost) of items in tran­sit. Nev­er­the­less, in­stead of com­pen­sat­ing for the dam­ages, many com­pa­nies have tried chal­leng­ing the con­sumer’s com­plaint and their in­tent. Some large com­pa­nies have gone to the ex­tent of drag­ging a sim­ple case of com­pen­sa­tion for a few years, un­til their ap­peal got nul­li­fied by the Na­tional Com­mis­sion.

The Whole Case

In 2011, Na­tional Con­sumer Dis­putes Re­dres­sal Com­mis­sion (NC­DRC) was ap­proached by Agar­wal Pack­ers and Movers Ltd with an ap­peal to with­hold judge­ments pro­nounced against them by dis­trict and state fo­rums.

The com­plainant in the case was Alok Chaturvedi, who had got his en­tire house shifted in 2009. Chaturvedi had safely got the en­tire stuff loaded in one truck and had put his own lock on the door of its con­tainer. How­ever, he re­ceived his stuff in two dif­fer­ent trucks, which meant that the lock had been bro­ken and the goods un­loaded and loaded while they were in tran­sit. This aber­ra­tion would not have both­ered him much had the goods been in a proper con­di­tion, but most of his crock­ery, fur­ni­ture and a few elec­tron­ics prod­ucts (cost­ing about Rs 20,000) were dam­aged, while a few other items in­clud­ing clothes (cost­ing about Rs 23,000) went miss­ing.

Chaturvedi in­formed the com­pany about the dam­ages and the lost items. He was asked by the com­pany to re­tain all dam­aged prod­ucts un­til their rep­re­sen­ta­tive as­sessed them. The en­tire bro­ken stuff re­mained scat­tered in the house for about three month, but the pack­ers never turned up de­spite sev­eral re­minders.

Ag­grieved, Chaturvedi reached the in­sur­ance com­pany to which the goods were in­sured for the tran­sit pe­riod. The in­sur­ance com­pany also asked him to re­tain the bro­ken goods for them to as­sess. They also in­formed him that since the in­sur­ance was taken by Movers and Pack­ers, and there was no con­tract with him, the claim—if any—would go to Movers and Pack­ers. Hence, he would have to ask for re­im­burse­ment of the same from the trans­port com­pany.

The fact that the dam­ages claim against his prod­ucts would ac­tu­ally go to the com­pany that did the dam­ages in the first place in­fu­ri­ated Chaturvedi. He de­cided to file a for­mal com­plaint with the con­sumer fo­rum.

In-be­tween, Movers and Pack­ers of­fered Rs 13,000 as com­pen­sa­tion for the miss­ing items and dam­ages caused to other goods. That was not ac­cept­able to Chaturvedi and he went ahead with his com­plaint with the dis­trict fo­rum.

The fo­rum ac­cepted the com­plaint and pro­nounced this or­der: “This com­plaint is al­lowed with a di­rec­tion to pay to the com­plainant a sum of Rs 43,000 on ac­count of bro­ken and miss­ing items. Ops are also di­rected to pay to the com­plainant a sum of Rs 40, 000 as com­pen­sa­tion for caus­ing dis­com­fort and Rs 5, 000 as costs of lit­i­ga­tion.”

Movers and Pack­ers filed an ap­peal against the dis­trict fo­rum’s or­der and made these points: a) Agar­wal Pack­ers & Movers Pvt. Ltd is an ar­ti­fi­cial name and has to act through its manag­ing direc­tor/ prin­ci­pal of­fi­cer, and hence the ser­vice of sum­mons was to be ef­fected at the reg­is­tered of­fice of the com­pany, and b) there is no de­fi­ciency on the part

of Pack­ers and Movers. In sup­port, they cited ear­lier Supreme Court judge­ments.

In Ravneet Singh Bagga ver­sus KLM Royal Dutch Air­lines and Another (2000), the Supreme Court ob­served: “The de­fi­ciency in ser­vice can­not be al­leged with­out at­tribut­ing fault, im­per­fec­tion, short­com­ing or in­ad­e­quacy in the qual­ity, na­ture and man­ner of per­for­mance which is re­quired to be per­formed by a per­son in pur­suance of a con­tract or oth­er­wise in re­la­tion to any ser­vice. The bur­den of prov­ing the de­fi­ciency in ser­vice is upon the per­son who al­leges it.”

The State Com­mis­sion did not agree with Movers and Pack­ers’ ap­peal and dis­missed it. Movers and Pack­ers did not agree with the rul­ing and took up the mat­ter with the Na­tional Com­mis­sion.

The Na­tional Com­mis­sion ob­served the rel­e­vant find­ings of State Com­mis­sion and stated: “...records show that Movers and Pack­ers was duly served no­tice through reg­is­tered post as there is ac­knowl­edge­ment re­ceipt signed by their rep­re­sen­ta­tive. De­spite re­ceiv­ing sum­mons, no one ap­peared be­fore the fo­rum. Records prove that sum­mons sent out for ap­pear­ance had been re­ceived by its rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kr­is­han Ku­mar. Also, the plea of ops that there was no em­ployee with the name of Kr­is­han Ku­mar is not sup­ported by duly sworn af­fi­davit of any re­spon­si­ble func­tionary of the com­pany.

“Fur­ther, as the Com­pany is sit­u­ated in Chandi­garh and the ma­te­rial booked was de­liv­ered at Chandi­garh, so the dis­trict fo­rum at Chandi­garh had the ter­ri­to­rial ju­ris­dic­tion to try and ad­ju­di­cate upon the dis­pute un­der the pro­vi­sions of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act.”

More so, re­fer­ring to the Supreme Court judge­ment cited by the com­pany, the apex court stated: “The ren­der­ing of de­fi­cient ser­vice has to be con­sid­ered and de­cided in each case ac­cord­ing to the facts of that case, for which no hard and fast rule can be laid down. In­ef­fi­ciency, lack of due care, ab­sence of bona fides, rash­ness, haste or omis­sion and the like may be the fac­tors to as­cer­tain the de­fi­ciency in ren­der­ing the ser­vice.

“Courts of law should be care­ful enough to see through such di­a­bol­i­cal plans of the judge­ment debtor to deny the de­cree hold­ers the fruits of the de­cree ob­tained by them. These types of er­rors on the part of the ju­di­cial fo­rum only en­cour­age friv­o­lous and can­tan­ker­ous lit­i­ga­tions caus­ing law’s de­lay and bring­ing bad name to the ju­di­cial sys­tem.”

Thus, the Na­tional Com­mis­sion con­firmed and up­held the de­ci­sions of the dis­trict and state fo­rums and di­rected Pack­ers and Movers to com­pen­sate the com­plainant as per the judge­ments given.

Another Case to Note

Sharmilee Nielsen said she en­gaged the ser­vices of Leo Pack­ers and Movers, Tiru­van­miyur, to trans­port goods to her new res­i­dence at Kot­ti­vakkam. While some of the goods were packed by Sharmilee her­self, some oth­ers were packed by the com­pany staff. The com­pany de­liv­ered the goods on Au­gust 13, 2011, af­ter charg­ing Rs 78,313. For in­sur­ance coverage, the com­pany charged Rs 30,000.

When the goods were de­liv­ered at her house in the pres­ence of com­pany per­son­nel, most ar­ti­cles were found dam­aged be­yond restora­tion. The list of the de­stroyed goods was pro­vided to the pack­ers com­pany, fol­low­ing which an in­de­pen­dent as­ses­sor in­spected the goods and con­cluded that the goods were de­stroyed be­cause of im­proper han­dling and jerks dur­ing road tran­sit. The worth of dam­aged goods was as­sessed at Rs 1.44 lakh. De­spite Sharmilee's re­quest, Leo Pack­ers did not at­tend the in­spec­tion, nor did it set­tle the claim amount. She then moved the dis­trict con­sumer fo­rum at south Chen­nai, seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for dam­ages and de­fi­ciency in ser­vice.

Deny­ing the ar­gu­ments, Leo Pack­ers said it had re­quested Sharmilee to al­low spe­cial pack­ing of all the goods in an air­tight con­tainer. As she did not fol­low the com­pany's in­struc­tion for pack­ing the goods, Leo Pack­ers was not li­able to pay dam­ages.

A bench of pres­i­dent B Ra­ma­lingam and mem­bers K Amala and T Paul Ra­jasekaran said that de­spite be­ing in­formed, the com­pany did not in­spect the goods to set­tle the claim. With­out as­sess­ment, it had of­fered to pay Rs 20,000 as com­pen­sa­tion to Sharmilee; that was a mea­gre amount. The com­pany did not prove that the goods were loosely packed, nor did it re­fute that it had trans­ported all the goods. There was no ev­i­dence to dis­prove Sharmilee's claims, the bench said. It di­rected the com­pany to pay Rs 1.44 lakh along with nine per cent in­ter­est and Rs 5,000 as lit­i­ga­tion cost.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.