District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Hyderabad: Coram of M. Anuradha President (FAC) and Lakshmi Prasanna, Member, held that,
Retailers/shopkeepers charging for plastic/paper/cloth carry bags with their Brand logos printed on them for which the consumers have to shell out extra amount from their pocket is not only unfair trade practice but also undue profiteering at the expense of the common man.
Instant complaint was filed under Section 12(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 alleging unfair trade practice on the part of the OP for collecting Rs 3.50 towards carrier bag from the complainant and hence sought appropriate direction to refund the wrongfully collected price of the bag along with compensation of Rs 30,000 and direct the OP to shop the unfair trade practice and provide free carry bags to all customers who purchase products from them.
Complainant purchased certain products from the OP which included an amount of Rs 3.50 for the plastic carrier bag having their business logo.
Complainant submitted that OP was indulging in unfair trade practice by charging for the said plastic carry bag and also using the customer as a medium of advertisement because the carry bags sold by the OP bear its business logo and the customer who was buying the same was in fact publicizing the brand of the OP.
Hence, the present complaint sought appropriate direction to the OP to stop the unfair trade practice, refund the wrongly collected amount for the carry bag and pay compensation towards costs of litigation.
Issues for Consideration
- Whether the additional charging of carry bag by the OP amounts to unfair trade practice?
- Whether the complainant is entitled to the claim/compensation made in the complainant and to what relief?
Analysis, Law and Decision
The Commission observed that, with the intention of discouraging the consumers from using plastic bags as they are non-biodegradable and a threat to the environment The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were issued and Rule 15 of the said Rules stipulate inter alia that: No carry bag shall be made available free of cost by retailers to consumers.”
The above-said Rules were amended by notification dated 18-3-2018 and the Rule 15 of Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016 was omitted vide subsequent Notification dated 27-3-2018 and hence as per the current legal position, the OP cannot take shelter of the said rule.
Coram expressed that,
“…rather than discouraging the use of plastic bags, charging the customers for the carry bags has now become a commercial exercise.”
In Commission’s opinion,
“In a way the retailers/shopkeepers are abusing the government rule and illegally charging the customers for the plastic carry bags.”
Further, as per the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018 dated 27-3-2018, the current legal position with regard to Rules 15 is that the “explicit pricing of carry bags” has been omitted and hence this forum allowed the complaint and gave the following directions to OP:
- To stop charging for the carry bags and provide free carry bags to all customers forthwith who purchase articles from its shops.
- To refund the complainant the amount of Rs 3.50 wrongly collected for the plastic carry bag.
- To pay Rs 1,000 to the complainant towards compensation.
[Baglekar Akash Kumar v. D-Mart Avenue Supermarts ltd., CC No. 239 of 2019, decided on 13-12-2021]
Advocates before the Commission:
Counsel for the Complainant: Party-in-Person
Counsel for the OP: M/s M.S. Srinivasa Iyengar, Advocates