DCDRC finds Matrimony.Com Ltd. liable for deficiency in service for failing to deliver video album of a marriage reception held in 2017

District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DCDRC), Lucknow: While considering the instant complaint seeking refund and compensation from Le Meridian Resorts and Spa, Jaipur (opposite party) for causing immense financial and mental agony to the complainant for forfeiting and refusing to refund the advance deposit of Rs 30 Lakhs after he had to cancel the booking for his daughter’s wedding due to Covid19 pandemic in 2021; the Bench of Neelkanth Sahai (President) and Sonia Singh and Kumar Raghavendra Singh (Members), placing reliance on the principle of Equity, pointed out that, since the resort did not spend any money on the wedding arrangements, a refund of 25 lakhs would be justifiable in the matter and the remainder shall be left with the opposite party.

Background: The complainant is a retired Army Officer. On 14-12-2020, the complainant and the opposite party entered into an agreement via the complainant’s agent, whereby the opposite party had agreed to host and arrange for the complainant’s daughter’s wedding festivities and including providing rooms for the attending guests from 17-11-2021 to 23-11-2021.

In furtherance of the afore-stated agreement, the complainant deposited Rs 30,000,00 with the opposite party (Rs 14,000,00 by the agent and Rs 16,000,00 by the complainant). The opposite party had made it clear that if the booking is cancelled within 30 days, then the entire deposit amount would be refunded to the complainant.

On 10-06-2021, the complainant informed the opposite party vis-a-vis cancelling the upcoming wedding due to Covid-19 pandemic. The complainant was assured by the representative of the opposite party that the deposited amount would be refunded without any deduction. However, on 23-06-2021, the opposite party via an e-mail conveyed their refusal to refund the deposited amount and informed the complainant that the entire amount shall be forfeited.

The complainant contended that the opposite party cannot forfeit the entire deposit amount as the circumstances that caused the cancellation of the wedding were beyond the complainant’s control.

Per contra, the opposite party contended that the agreement was between the resort and the complainant’s agent, therefore the complainant has no right to institute the instant complaint. Furthermore, the opposite party stated that the agent has not been party to the suit and the jurisdiction over any dispute between the parties lies with the Courts in Jaipur and not DCDRC, Lucknow.

The opposite parties further claimed that the agent does not come under the definition of “consumer” given he was the one who executed the agreement on behalf of the complainant.

The opposite parties also submitted that since the complainant did not receive any service from the resort, therefore there is no question as to any deficiency in service.

Commission’s Assessment: Perusing the matter and contentions advanced by the parties, the DCDRC had to consider whether the complainant was a “consumer” and whether there existed any deficiency in service.

Placing reliance on Chandigarh Housing Board v. Avtar Singh, (2010) 10 SCC 194, the Commission pointed out that beneficiaries can maintain a consumer complaint and hence they come under the category of consumer as per Consumer Protection Act. The Commission pointed out that since the resort was booked for the complainant’s daughter’s wedding, therefore the complainant becomes a beneficiary and hence he will come under the category of a “consumer”.

Furthermore, the Commission stated that since a part of the deposit money was paid by the complainant, therefore he shall be considered as a “consumer”. The complainant paid a part of the deposit sum, which was received by the opposite party, hence the complainant under the category of a “consumer”.

Vis-a-vis the contention regarding DCDRC’s jurisdiction as raised by the opposite party, the Commission pointed out that since the instant dispute does not relate to specific performance of a contract, therefore DCDRC has jurisdiction over the matter. Citing Covid-19 mandates which clarified that a consumer complaint can be instituted at the place of residence, therefore the Commission stated that DCDRC, Lucknow has jurisdiction over the instant dispute as the complainant resides in Lucknow.

The Commission pointed out that the period during which the wedding was cancelled by the complainant, Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak. The Commission also noted that the complainant’s father passed away during this period as well, and as per Hindu customs, no auspicious events take place within 1 year of a family member’s demise.

Taking note of the agreement between the parties, the Commission pointed out that when it comes to booking wedding functions in a 5-star hotel, that enjoys a considerable goodwill, often customers forego the reading of all the terms and conditions and simply submit the booking amount. Furthermore, taking note of several Supreme Court precedents, the Commission pointed out that if any printed prior condition which has not been typed before the complainant, then a complainant cannot be held to be bound by such conditions.

The Commission noted that the entire cost of the wedding festivities, which were to last for 4 days and included food, rooms, alcohol etc., amounted to Rs 67, 90,900; out of which an advance depot of 30 Lakhs was made by the complainant.

The Commission noted that the wedding did not take place in the resort, thereby saving the money which otherwise would have been spent on food, decorations and room services for the guests. Therefore, no loss was accrued to the opposite party as no expenses were incurred. Therefore, invoking the principle of Equity, the Commission noted that a refund of 25 lakhs would be justifiable in the matter. Hence the complaint was partly allowed.

[Dr Colonel (retd.) Ajay Bahadur v. Le Meridian, CC 516/2022, decided on 13-05-2024]

Order by Neelkanth Sahai (President)

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For complainant- Advocate Akhand Vikram Singh

For opposite party- Advocate Akhilesh Kumar Parik

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