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Drycleaner cleaned you out?

india Updated: Oct 31, 2009 22:21 IST
Pushpa Girimaji
Pushpa Girimaji
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Imagine the anger and frustration of a bridegroom when his brand new, custom-made wedding suit, given to the drycleaner to preserve its lily white appearance, comes out with a jaundiced look just two days before the wedding!

It’s no wonder that he decided to take the drycleaner to the consumer court!

Keeping in mind the sentiments of the young man from Hissar, the consumer court in Haryana directed the drycleaner to pay him damages. (Bhushan Vs Rakesh Aggarwal, FA No 9 of 1990, decided on 22-10-1990)

This was one of the earliest cases filed before the consumer court against a drycleaner and I was reminded of this when I saw an angry mail from a reader about a drycleaner losing/misplacing her expensive wedding saree. This is what Sarita Batra faced.

Question: Soon after my wedding, I gave the saree for dry cleaning to remove certain spots and specifically asked the drycleaner to be extra careful as I had spent many days searching for the perfect saree and paid through my nose for it. When I went to collect it, he gave some excuse and asked me to come again. Now he says the saree has been misplaced and he would give me, as per the terms on the back of the receipt, only 60 per cent of the cost of the saree. What do I do?

He has to either get you an identical saree or pay you the full amount-after all it was a brand new saree. In addition, he has to pay you compensation for the disappointment of losing a saree that has so many memories.

Do not worry about the unilateral terms and conditions printed on the back of the receipt — he cannot bind you to them. Send a copy of the saree purchase receipt to the drycleaner and ask him to pay. If you don’t have the receipt, I’m sure you can get a copy from the shop where you bought the saree. If the drycleaner does not respond, go to the consumer court.

In the case of Tip Top Drycleaners, Vs Sunil Kumar (Revision Petition no 1328 of 2003) the central issue was whether the drycleaner can take shelter under the conditions printed on the back of the receipt and refuse to compensate the customer for the loss of clothes given for dry cleaning.

Mr Sunil Kumar, the complainant, had not taken delivery of the clothes that he had given for dry cleaning to Tip Top Drycleaners, Ranchi, on the due date.

Meanwhile, a fire broke out on the drycleaner’s premises and destroyed all goods, including Kumar’s clothes.

Initially, the drycleaner declined to compensate Kumar and pointed to the condition on the back of the receipt which said that his liability ceased after two months if delivery was not taken on the due date.

Subsequently, he referred to another condition that said that in case of fire, theft, misplacement or interchange, the liability of the drycleaner was limited to only 50 per cent of the cost of the clothes. He therefore paid him only Rs 5000 towards the cost of a suit, two coats, one shirt and a tie.

The District Consumer Forum awarded Sunil Kumar Rs 10,050 towards the cost of the garments, Rs 5000 towards compensation and Rs 500 towards costs. In response to the drycleaner’s contention that this was against the terms and conditions on the receipt, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that those terms were not binding on the consumer. The customer had not seen the conditions nor had he signed his acceptance of those. “As a matter of fact nobody reads the conditions on the back of the receipt”, the Commission said.

Do you have any problems? Send in your queries to pgirimaji@gmail.com