Sometime ago, a consumer came to me with a complaint about a sub-standard piece of furniture sold to her — the retailer was refusing to replace it or return her money.
I told her to immediately lodge a complaint before the consumer court. “Don’t forget to attach an attested copy of the cash receipt,” I said. That’s when she told me that she did not have a cash receipt. The retailer apparently told her that she would unnecessarily pay a lot of tax if he issued her a receipt and so, she did not take a receipt. By trying to save a (relatively) small sum on the tax, she not only lost the entire money that she have paid for the furniture, but also her right to redress through the consumer courts.
I quote this example to highlight the importance of cash receipts and the lack of consumer awareness about it. The Consumer Protection Act defines a consumer as a person who “buys” any goods or “hires” any service for a “consideration”. In the absence of any payment or consideration, the consumer does not have the right to redress under the law. So, a receipt is one of the most important documents required to prove that the complainant is indeed a consumer — a receipt showing that the product or the service that they are complaining about, was actually paid for.
Second, you need the receipt not only to show what you have bought and for how much, but also to indicate the person (or the shop) from whom you have bought it. So, a cash receipt is a must.
While consumers are mostly unaware of this, the traders are too well versed on how to protect their interests. So a large number of them run their business without ever issuing a receipt. That way, they not only avoid paying taxes, but also prevent the consumer from complaining against them before the consumer court.
Well, there is some silver lining on the horizon — an amendment to the Consumer Protection Act introduced in Parliament last year makes failure to issue a cash bill an unfair trade practice.
Since the Consumer Protection Act gives the consumer the right to be protected against unfair trade practice, once the amendment bill is passed by parliament and notified, consumers can haul up traders and service providers who fail to issue a receipt. The amendment bill which is now before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, is expected to be passed in the next session of Parliament.