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Speak up against unfair practices

To all those who are victims of overcharging by parking lot attendants, here is an inspiring case of a consumer who fought against not just one such greedy contractor, but also the administration (the railways in this case) which turned a blind eye to such exploitation of consumers and refused to act on their complaints.

delhi Updated: Aug 11, 2012 23:30 IST

To all those who are victims of overcharging by parking lot attendants, here is an inspiring case of a consumer who fought against not just one such greedy contractor, but also the administration (the railways in this case) which turned a blind eye to such exploitation of consumers and refused to act on their complaints.

This case has its origin in the way R.L.Aggarwal, a professor, was treated by the parking lot attendant as well as the railways at the parking bay outside the railway station in Ludhiana, when he went to park his scooter. The board displaying the parking rates proclaimed the fee for parking a scooter as 50 paisa, but the contractor demanded Rs 3.

When the professor protested, he was abused and even threatened by the attendant.

Upset by the turn of events, Aggarwal complained to the station master, who expressed his helplessness in the matter. The subsequent complaints made by Aggarwal in the complaint book kept at the station and later to the additional divisional railway manager at Ferozepur, brought forth no results.

In his complaint, seeking a refund of Rs 12, Aggarwal said his motivation in filing the complaint was to stop this exploitation of consumers and ensure that the law of the land prevailed.

Around 300 people parked their scooters at the railway parking lot everyday and the contractor not only fleeced them, but also abused and sometimes even manhandled those who protested.

Yet the railways was unwilling to act against the contractor. So he wanted both the railway administration as well as the contractor to be held accountable. He, in fact, wanted the railways to recover from the contractor the excess amount charged from the consumers and put that amount in the Consumer Welfare Fund.

Censuring the railways for its behaviour (the railways said they had eventually investigated the case and imposed a fine of Rs 500 on the contractor) the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held the contractor and the railways jointly and severally liable for the way consumers were being swindled at the parking bay.

The commission also directed them to pay a compensation of Rs 15,000 to the consumer and also pay Rs 2,000 towards the cost of litigation (Union Government of India, Department of railways Vs R.L.Aggarwal, RP no 2231 of 2000, decided in 2001)

In this case, the commission did not direct the railway administration to recover the excess amount charged by the contractor and deposit the amount in the Consumer Welfare Fund, but it can do so. It can, in cases such as these, calculate the total number of vehicles parked at a particular parking bay in a year and the excess amount charged from consumers as a class and ask the contractor or both the contractor and the civic authority to credit that amount, along with interest, into the Consumer Welfare Fund. It can also award compensation and costs to the consumer, in addition to punitive damages.

In Hotel Nyay Mandir Vs Ishwar Lal Jinabhai Desai (Revision petition number 550 of 2006, decided on December 14, 2010) pertaining to overcharging on MRP, the consumer court not only awarded compensation to the consumer, but also directed the hotel to pay Rs 1.50 lakhs to the Consumer Welfare Fund.

Vignesh Ram: : Is it possible to take action against civic authorities who allow parking contractors to charge more than the contracted rate? How does one go about it?

The case that I have quoted above answers your question. You can file a complaint before the consumer court against both the parking contractor as well as the civic authority or only the civic authority.