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Need watchdog for unfair trade practices

It’s a pity that consumers have lost a powerful ally against unfair trade practices, particularly at a time when such practices are on the rise.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2009 23:22 IST

It’s a pity that consumers have lost a powerful ally against unfair trade practices, particularly at a time when such practices are on the rise. I am referring to the dissolution of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) to give way to the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

I have always argued that since the CCI does not deal with unfair trade practices, the MRTPC should be converted into an unfair trade practices commission and allowed to continue, with a stronger mandate to protect consumers.

The MRTPC took on the role of a watchdog of consumer interest immediately following the amendment to the MRTP Act in 1984, bringing UTP under its purview.

The Consumer Protection (CP) Act and the MRTP Act may both share a common definition of unfair trade practice, but the similarity ends there.

Under the MRTP Act, the Director General (Investigation and Registration) could probe suo motu (or on a complaint from a consumer or on a direction from the Commission) into cases of unfair trade practice and on the basis of preliminary investigation, move an application before the commission for necessary action.

The consumer courts have none of these advantages. They can only adjudicate over cases of UTP brought before them by consumers.

Why do we need an UTP Commission? The answer, to a certain extent, lies in the two complaints that I have taken up this week.

Manoj Lal: When I signed up with a time-share holiday club, I was told that on my payment of the initial commitment fee of Rs 25,000, I will get back Rs 15,000 in cash as a special offer. The company never gave that cash and now dismisses it as “sales talk”. What do I do?

This is a blatant case of unfair trade practice. From what you are saying, the company has actually confessed to having committed an unfair trade practice because it is admitting that it made an offer of returning Rs 15,000, which it never intended to do and that it was only meant to sell the time-share membership. If the company does not pay up, file a complaint before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. I would suggest that you buy a copy of the CP Act (bare act) or download it form the Internet. It will give you a good understanding of the law.

Chhavi Mohan Bhutani: In 2007, I took membership of a club, which promised 7,000 sq. ft of land as part of the deal. However, in the allotment letter, it only gave 3,000 sq. ft of land. But till today, they have not given possession of the land. Nor are they refunding my money.

This is again a case of unfair trade practice. After luring you with a promise of 7000 sq ft of land, the club gave only 3000 ft. In addition, inordinate delay on its part in handing over possession constitutes deficiency in service. On both counts,

you can take them to consumer court.

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