Businesses must take onus for the quality of goods sold

Have you ever seen a cash receipt issued by a retailer that does not say "Goods once sold cannot be taken back or exchanged?" For years, businesses have used this to escape responsibility for the quality of goods sold.

Some saree and garment retailers may go even a step further saying, "No guarantee for colour or Zari".  Well, if you cannot give any guarantee for the goods that you are selling, then why are you in the business at all? There are also shops that give no guarantee for the quality of woolen garments sold by them. I have also seen clothes retailers saying they will not take responsibility for shrinkage of cotton garments or size variance caused by shrinkage.  There are also receipts declaring that the retailer takes no responsibility whatsoever for the goods sold!

Some are magnanimous enough to allow 'exchanges', but at their convenience, never mind the convenience of the customer. "Goods are exchanged only on Mondays between 2 pm and 4pm", says a receipt. So, if you need to exchange what you have bought there, you need to take time off from your work and go there on a Monday, between 2 PM and 4pm.

I get a number of mails from readers wanting to know their rights vis-a-vis such terms and conditions.  Therefore, I would like to make it clear that these are one-sided, unfair and unilateral conditions drawn up by the retailer and you, as a consumer, are not bound by them.

Roopa Goel: I had bought a chiffon saree with lot of Zari work on it and after some months I noticed that the Zari was turning black.  Since I had paid a considerable sum for the saree, I took it back to the shop, but the shopkeeper just refused to entertain my complaint saying that the receipt clearly said that there was no guarantee for the Zari. Does it mean that I have wasted Rs. 10,000 on this saree and that I cannot do anything about it?

Certainly not. The terms and conditions printed on the receipt cannot absolve the retailer of his liability. He has to take responsibility for the quality of the saree sold by him and this includes the zari and if it turns out to be defective, then he has to give you a refund or give you a defect-free product, depending on your choice.

So write a formal letter to him pointing out that he has sold you a defective product and ask for a refund. You can also mention that if he fails to respond to your complaint within a fortnight, you will be forced to go to the consumer court and seek not just the refund, but also compensation and cost of litigation. If he still does not refund your money, you will have to file a complaint before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum.

In 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 fully  compensate the customer for the loss of clothes given for dry cleaning. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in this case made it clear that the drycleaner cannot bind the consumer to the terms and conditions printed on the back of the receipt. 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.

You can in fact quote this case to the retailer in your letter.

 

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