National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
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National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): Discussing a matter wherein allegedly a defective mobile phone was received From Amazon sellers, Bench of Dr Justice R.K. Agarwal (President) and Dr S.M. Kantikar (Member) emphasized the concept of punitive damages.

Present Consumer complaint under Section 2(1)(d)(i) read with Section 12(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act had been filed against Amazon Seller Service Private Limited seeking refund of the amount of Rs 9,119 paid towards purchase of Mobile Phone along with litigation and transportation cost of Rs 1 lakh and Punitive Damages to the tune of Rs 7,43,00,00,000 for causing legal injury and financial loss to the complainant and other innumerable consumers.

Complainant purchased a mobile phone from OP. It was contended that after using the Mobile Phone for a couple of days, it started heating up which compelled him to return the same as per the Easy Return Policy of the OP advertised on T.V. Serial, Media and Print Media.

Since, the Complainant was not able to click the option of Return/Exchange on their website, he called the Customer Support of the Opposite Party and was informed that they had changed its Return Policy on the items purchased.

Complainant sent an email to the OP stating that they had always advertised about Easy Returns and that at the time of purchase, it had not been mentioned that the Refund/Return Policy of the Opposite Party has been changed which amounted to Unfair Trade Practice on their part. Vide an email the OP apprised to the Complainant that if he had received a defective/damaged Phone, he would be eligible only for free replacement and not for a refund.

Further, in the invoice bill of the phone along with the order list, the option of returning the phone was given.

Hence, he stated that the action/inaction of the OP was in violation of the Right of Consumers to be informed about the product and to decide as to whether to purchase the same or not.

Complainant alleged that the OP was involved in Unfair Trade Practice by making a false promise and running misleading advertisement about Easy Refund of the Product. The OP was bound to disclose all the necessary information about its Product enabling the Consumers to take a decision as to whether buy the said product or not.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Commission while referring to the decision of Supreme Court in Magma Fincorp Ltd. v. Rajesh Kumar Tiwari, (2020) 10 SCC 399, answered the question as to whether the punitive damages claimed by the complainant can be treated as part of the compensation for determining the pecuniary jurisdiction of the commission.

In the said decision it was held that the Punitive damages cannot be treated as a form of compensation.

Punitive damages under Section 14(1)(d) of the Act cannot be granted by the Consumer Fora in cases of breach of contract unless the act is so reprehensible that it calls for punishment of the party in breach, by imposition of punitive or exemplary damages.

In the instant matter, Bench stated that some of the purchasers are purchasing the products on the online website and after using the said product for a few days, seek a refund of the amount paid by them.

The above was the reason why OP changed its policy of Easy Return.

Commission added that, in case the Complainant had received the defective mobile phone, the remedy was still available with him to get it replaced despite the change in Return/Refund Policy”.

OP had published in the newspaper, namely the Indian Express about the change in its Return Policy with the Heading “Amazon no longer has a return and get refund policy for mobiles” along with this, the said information was also published in NDTV Gadget 360 with the heading that “Mobile Purchased from Amazon India No longer Eligible for Return”

In so far as the option appearing in the Invoice Bill of the Mobile Phone regarding the refund, was concerned, Commission opined that since there was a gap of only 16 days from the date of change of policy, i.e. 07-02-2017 and purchasing of mobile phone, i.e. 23-02-2017, it was not possible to rectify the said mistake or reprint the Invoice Bill.

Therefore, present matter was not a fit case for awarding exemplary punitive damages and action/inaction of the OP did not warrant any punishment. [Paras Jain v. Amazon Seller Services (P) Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine NCDRC 312, decided on 22-09-2021]


Advocates before the Commission:

For the Complainant: Mr Paras Jain, In-person

For the Opposite Party: Mr Joy Basu, Sr. Advocate with Mr Amit Kr. Mishra, Mr. Mohit Singh, Mr. Turab Ali Kazmi, Ms. Samridhi Hota and Mr. Kank B, Advocates

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Redressal Commission (NCDRC): C. Vishwanath (Presiding Member) dismissed the revision petition filed by Tata Motors Limited against the West Bengal State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Kolkata.

Case of the complainant was that he was allured by advertisement issued by petitioner to purchase a model of Tata Indigo-CS Car. In the advertisement issues by Tata Motors and Tata Motor Finance that the vehicle would give a mileage of 25 kmpl. Complainant brought to the notice of OPs the shortfall in mileage being given by the car.

Hence in the above view, the complaint was filed with District Forum.

Petitioner had denied all the allegations made by the complainant, apart from questioning the maintainability of the complaint, that there was no expert opinion, the ARAI certified mileage of 25 kmpl was not for the vehicle concerned and that the complainant was not the owner of the vehicle, as the same was hypothecated to the bank.

OP 2 had denied all the allegations and stated that the Complainant had bought the vehicle after a test drive and satisfying himself about the car. The shortfall in mileage was attributed to the rough handling of the car and the bad condition of the road.

District Forum directed OPs to refund the cost of vehicle, compensation and cost to the Complainant. Complainant was also directed to pay all the bank dues and make arrangements to return the vehicle.

Aggrieved by district forum’s order, OP-Tata Motors Ltd., filed an appeal before the State Commission and State Commission partly allowed the appeal. OPs were jointly and severally directed to pay punitive damages for taking recourse to deceptive trade practice by way of misleading advertisement.

Decision

Commission stated that both the fora below came to a concurrent finding that the OPs resorted to deceptive trade practice by alluring customers and promoting the sale of their cars. Advertisement also had not mentioned whether the mileage shown was for diesel or petrol car.

Thus, the Commission did not find any infirmity or illegality in the order passed by the fora below.

Jurisdiction of NCDRC under Section 21(b) was also found to be very limited. The commission in its opinion was not required to reassess or re-appreciate the evidence and substitute its opinion to the concurrent findings of fact by the fora below.

Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in, Lourdes Society Snehanjali Girls Hostel v. H & R Johnson (India) Ltd., (2016) 8 SCC 286, wherein it was held that,

“The National Commission has to exercise the jurisdiction vested in it only if the State Commission or the District Forum has failed to exercise their jurisdiction or exercised when the same was not vested in their or exceeded their jurisdiction by acting illegally or with material irregularity. In the instant case, the National Commission has certainly exceeded its jurisdiction by setting aside the concurrent finding of fact recorded in the order passed by the State Commission which is based upon valid and cogent reasons.”

Therefore, in the above view, petitioner failed to point out any miscarriage of justice or that the findings were perverse. [Tata Motors Ltd. v. Pradipta Kundu, Revision Petition No. 2133 of 2015, decided on 02-03-2020]