Regular-article-logo Saturday, 02 December 2023

The right to refund

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CHECK-OUT / PUSHPA GIRIMAJI Published 20.02.12, 12:00 AM

Soon, you can haul up manufacturers and service providers who fail to give you a receipt for payments made towards purchase of goods and services.

According to the proposed changes in the Consumer Protection Act, introduced in the form of a comprehensive amendment bill in the last session of Parliament, failure to issue a cash receipt constitutes an unfair trade practice. Since the Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to be protected against unfair trade practices and the right to redress and compensation against such practices, the proposed amendment directs the trade and industry to issue the cash memo even if the consumer doesn’t ask for it.

The amendment also strikes at the very root of the ubiquitous, unilateral condition printed on the cash receipts of retailers, that “goods once sold cannot be taken back or exchanged”. It gives the consumer the right to return the goods and get a refund.

The amendment bill also provides for relief against unfair contracts thrust on consumers and gives consumers the right to compensation for any loss or damage caused on account of such unfair contracts.

Another important provision in the bill pertains to the consumer’s right to information — it provides for compensation to consumers who suffer loss or injury on account of “conscious withholding of relevant information to the consumer”, as the bill puts it. This provision will cover a number of marketing practices, particularly in the banking and the insurance sector, where products and services are sold through subterfuge and half truths by marketing agencies or sales persons.

The bill also seeks to impose a penalty of a minimum of Rs 500 per day for every day’s delay on the part of a retailer or a manufacturer or a service provider in paying the compensation awarded by the consumer court. This should certainly force the trade and industry to pay the compensation amount awarded by the consumer courts quickly.

While these are the positive aspects, there are a few disappointments too. For example, given the delays in the adjudication of complaints brought before the consumer courts, the bill could have provided for complaints coming within rupees one lakh to be decided without advocates and prohibited adjournments and appeals in these cases. That would have helped in quicker disposal of small value complaints.

Similarly the definition of unfair contract is not comprehensive enough. Hopefully, the Parliament will look at the amendments in depth and incorporate some of these provisions to hasten the process of adjudication.

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