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Don’t fall for misleading claims by shop owners

More power to the consumer is our motto, whether buying rajma or a watch. Pushpa Girimaji tells you how to get empowered.

delhi Updated: Oct 29, 2011 22:52 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

More power to the consumer is our motto, whether buying rajma or a watch. Pushpa Girimaji tells you how to get empowered.

You go to a store to buy a camera and zero in on a particular model. What about the price? Even as the retailer claims that his price is the lowest, you use an application such as ‘RedLaser’ on your smartphone to scan the barcode of the camera and get a list of stores selling the model for much less. You then call the retailer’s bluff and head for the store that’s offering the best price!

Well, this is happening in North America, where consumers are increasingly using smartphones to out-smart the store owner and get a good deal. In fact, mobile phone applications are now slowly exposing false and misleading retailer claims about ‘lowest price offers’ and helping consumers compare product prices at both brick and mortar and online stores and get the best deals! This in turn is making it almost impossible for retailers to use the ‘price challenge’ (such as ‘if you find anyone selling cheaper, I will give you the product free’) as a mere sales gimmick, unless they are really selling at the lowest price.

It will probably take us a little longer to get to that stage. Until then, here is an example of the kind of problems that consumers may face.

Mahinder Singh: For my daughter’s wedding, we went shopping for bridal lehengas in chandni Chowk. The one we liked cost Rs 58,000 and the shopkeeper insisted that we cannot get it at a price lower than this anywhere and if we did, he would give us Rs 70,000. We were not convinced and told the shopkeeper to hold it for us till we checked more shops. When he took the measurements for the lehenga, I told him that he should not stitch it till I confirmed that I would purchase it. We also selected a saree and two suits, costing Rs 12,805 and the shopkeeper suggested that we pay Rs 25,000 so that he could hold the lehenga for us till we made up our mind.

Meanwhile, we found an identical lehenga in another shop for Rs 36,000, and so I promptly called the shopkeeper to say that we do not want the lehenga. However, he is now saying that the lehenga is already stitched and therefore I have to buy it. He is neither giving the saree and the suits that we had chosen, nor the advance paid towards the lehenga. What is the way out?

Answer: First and foremost, he stitched the lehenga without your confirmation, thereby violating your agreement with him. So, he has to take responsibility for it and not force you to buy the dress. Second, he made a false claim on the price and said that his price was the lowest and even offered to pay Rs 70,000 if you proved him wrong.

He was actually coercing you into buying the lehenga through unfair means, by misleading you. Now that you have exposed him, he actually needs to pay you Rs 70,000 Instead, he is pressurising you to buy the dress after stitching it without your consent.

Given these facts, he should be grateful that you are not demanding Rs 70,000, but only refund of the advance money paid towards the lehenga.

Write a letter to him pointing out these things and tell him that he would be wise to refund the money or else, if you go to the consumer court (it’s a case of unfair trade practice), he would end up paying the promised Rs 70,000. If he does not respond positively, complain to the Mediation Centre set up by the Delhi Government (Phone numbers: at Vikas Bhawan: 23379074 and KG Marg: 23381759). Mediation should help resolve the issue quickly.