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Shops must redress consumer woes

india Updated: Feb 23, 2013 23:44 IST
Pushpa Girimaji
Pushpa Girimaji
Hindustan Times
hindustan times

The next time you go shopping for clothes, I suggest you first ask the retailer about the redress available to you if the apparel turns out to be defective. If he is not willing to take it back and give you a full refund, don’t buy from him. If consumers follow this practice strictly, retailers will be forced to re-write their policies vis-à-vis defective goods that they sell.

Whenever you take back your purchase with a complaint about the product, the least one expects is an apology and a quick refund. But retailers in India still have you believe that the responsibility for the defect rests solely with the manufacturer. So invariably, complaints are met with the standard response that any redress depends on the manufacturer and if he does not take back the defective product, then the retailer can do nothing about it! And this is despite the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, which gives consumers the right to a refund against defective goods.

Well, don’t take that kind of attitude meekly. Become more assertive and stop patronizing shops that do not respect your rights as a consumer. And from the mail that I get from consumers, such shops are many, particularly in those swanky malls.

I must also mention here that the Consumer Protection (Amendment ) Bill of 2011, which is before the Parliament, gives the consumer the right to return goods for a full refund even if it is not defective. Refusal to take it back and return the money constitutes an unfair trade practice and a consumer can seek redress against such a practice.

Anuj Kainath: Last month I paid Rs. 3,600 and bought three pairs of jeans from a mall in Rajouri Garden under a ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ scheme. However, after just one wear, the jeans tore from the thigh region. I returned it to the shop and after one week, the store manager told me that they are only the franchisees of the jeans manufacturer and since the manufacturer is shutting shop from March 31, they cannot do anything in the matter. They asked me to contact the manufacturer and there too, I got the same answer. What do I do?

Please tell the retailer that having sold the jeans and collected money for it, he has to take responsibility for the defect and give you a refund. Or else you will go to the consumer court, seeking not just refund, but also compensation and punitive damages. And please follow it up with a complaint to the consumer court.

In several cases, the consumer courts have made it clear that the responsibility for the quality of a product rests as much with the retailer as the manufacturer and the retailer cannot escape liability for a defective product by pointing a finger at the manufacturer.

In Blue Chip India Vs Dr Chandrashekara Patial (RP 2884 of 2006, decided on 13-10-2006), for example, the apex consumer court dismissed the contention of the dealer that the complainant should have brought the manufacturer too into the dispute, as the responsibility for the quality rested with the manufacture. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission pointed out that since there was no contract between the consumer and the manufacturer, the consumer need not bring him into the complaint.

Similarly in M Subba Rao Vs Avula Venkata Reddy, ( RP no 3292 of 2003, decided on March 22, 2007), while asking the seller of seeds to compensate the consumer for the defect, the National Commission said if the dealer had any grievance, it was open to him to recover the compensation amount (paid to the consumer) from the manufacturer.