This week I would like to begin with this letter from a reader on his frustrating experience with a well-known retail brand.
A busy doctor pursuing higher studies, he bought from three pairs of trousers at a discounted price of Rs 2,000 each during a ‘sale’ from this particular outlet. However, to his utter surprise, the fabric just gave way within a few wears, even before it was washed. What followed was even more disappointing.
On his complaint, a person in charge of the company showroom took back one pair and said it would be sent to the ‘quality cell’ for testing! That was a year ago. Till date, he has neither heard from the company nor got back his trousers.
I quote this case to highlight how retailers violate consumer rights, particularly in respect to goods bought during a sale. Whether it is a regular sale or a discounted sale, consumers have a right to defect free goods.
Or to put it differently, the goods bought must be of reasonably good quality and fit for the purpose for which it is bought.
If it turns out to be defective, then the consumer has every right to a defect free replacement or a refund.
The only exception is where the shopkeeper has specifically described the sale as a 'sale of defective goods' and sold it as such by pointing out the defect at the time of sale.
However, retailers often try to give consumers the impression that they have no rights whatsoever when it comes to goods bought at a discount. Some shops even put out boards to this effect.
In Ireland, for example, retailers who put up boards that say ‘No refund’ or ‘No exchange’ or ‘No liability accepted for faulty goods’ during a sale, could face prosecution.
India may not have such strong consumer protection regulations, but under the Consumer Protection Act, if the goods are not of the quality claimed by the seller or if the discount is not what is promised, then it becomes an unfair trade practice.
Making any false or misleading claim about a bargain sale is an unfair trade practice and a consumer who suffers on account of such a practice is entitled to compensation.
The consumer courts constituted under the Consumer Protection Act can also put a stop to such practice by giving suitable directions to the shopkeepers.
In the case that I have quoted above, for example, the consumer would not only be entitled to a refund or a replacement, but also compensation for the harassment undergone.
Here’s another example of consumer exploitation vis-à-vis a markdown sale.
Sarita Sharma: I bought a silk saree during a sale. The very first time I wore it, it rained and the colour from the saree’s border ran and completely ruined it. The shopkeeper however refuses to take it back saying it was sold during a sale. What can I do? I paid Rs 3,000 for the saree.
Answer: The shopkeeper cannot escape liability for a sub-standard product by saying that it was sold during a sale. If he had told you at the time of sale that he will give no guarantee for the colour fastness of the saree, I am sure you would not have wasted your money on it. So demand a replacement or a refund.
If he does not respond positively, you can file a complaint before the consumer court.
Or seek informal resolution of your dispute through the Mediation Centres set up by the Delhi government at the District Consumer Forum on Kasturba Gandhi Marg (Telephone: 23381759) or at the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Vikas Bhawan near ITO (Telephone 23379074)
Do you have any problems? Send in your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org .