The consumer forum could come to the rescue of those who buy goods or services from companies registered in other states and want to complain about a deficiency even if the purchase agreement says they can only approach courts in those states.
The Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has held that the consumer forum does not fall under the definition of ‘courts’ as mentioned in such clauses.
The forum was hearing a complaint filed by Kandivli resident Narayan Akadas against Country Club. Akadas had paid for the club’s membership in June 2007 and was told he could become a life member on paying Rs 85,000. He was also assured insurance cover and land at Coconut Grove at Bangalore, he claimed.
However, in July 2007 the club told him that he had been allotted a plot at Lepakshi, Hindupur, in Andhra Pradesh. When he contacted the club, they told him the scheme had been scrapped. He then approached the consumer forum.
The club told the forum that to be eligible for land at Coconut Grove, one had to pay Rs 1.2 lakh while Rs 85,000 entitled a person to land at Lepakshi. The club said on June 26, 2007 Akadas proposed to take the Rs 1.2 lakh scheme and paid Rs 26,000. The club said Akadas wanted to pay the rest in installments using his credit card but the scheme did not permit that. Akadas later revised his decision to become a life member, the club said.
The club said the membership agreement and the club’s byelaws said only courts at Secunderabad and Hyderabad could be approached for redressal and the forum at Bandra had no jurisdiction.
The forum’s president J.L. Deshpande and members D.S. Bidnurkar and V.G. Joshi held that the word ‘court’ in the application form referred to the civil court. “It does not refer to the jurisdiction of the consumer forum because the word ‘consumer forum’ does not appear in the application form,” the forum said.
“Merely because the parties have agreed to the jurisdiction of a particular court, it is not applicable to the jurisdiction of a consumer forum.”
The forum also held that the application form was addressed to the club’s Andheri office and the dispute has arisen within the forum’s jurisdiction.
“Had there been mention of ‘consumer forum’, after the word ‘court’ then the jurisdiction of this forum could have been excluded,” the forum said.
In its final order, however, the forum directed the club to continue Akadas’ membership for a plot at Lepakshi provided he pays the balance.