A woman’s disapproval of a luxury watch gifted to her by her husband led to a prolonged tussle between a luxury watch retailer and a private bank.
It all started on March 31, 2013, when Alok Prabhakar, a US resident, purchased an Omega watch for Rs 1.68 lakh from the duty-free outlet of Ethos Ltd, Sector 8, Chandigarh, at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. The retailer received the payment two days later through credit card, and the transaction was concluded through Axis Bank as per conditions contained in Visa International Operating Regulations 2013.
On April 16, the customer, after reaching the US, sought replacement of the watch on the pretext that his wife did not like the gift. In an email to Ethos, he stated: “I am not here to return the watch, I understand your position as well. Please see what is needed so that we can do the exchange and both of us get what we need. Most importantly, I bought this watch for my wife and if she is not happy, its going to be ugly. Please understand my position and help me.”
The Ethos store reverted, claiming they could not replace the watch due to customs’ regulations at the duty-free store.
The customer didn’t give up and made a chargeback request to the bank. The Axis Bank intimated the luxury watch retailer about the request and asked it to settle the matter. However, Ethos declined it, stating there was no promise made to the customer to return the watch if his wife didn’t like it.
After Ethos received information about the claim’s closure, it filed a legal notice on April 21, 2014. As the bank failed to do anything despite assurance, the retailer filed a complaint with the district consumer disputes redressal forum-I, Chandigarh, but it was dismissed in October 2014.
Finally, the retailer filed an appeal before the Chandigarh state consumer disputes redressal commission. The commission observed that it was on record that Ethos did not receive a single penny for the watch sold by it. The amount credited to the account of the appellant had been charged back to the issuing bank and the watch is also in the custody of the customer. Stating that it wasn’t a case of deficient services, the commission said the chargeback had been wrongly invoked by the bank.
“The appellant had been put to total loss,” observed the bank, adding that , “At that stage, it was candid duty of the respondent’s bank, even if the charging back was made, to ensure that the customer returns the purchased watch to Ethos.” Holding the bank responsible for “creating the mess”, the commission ordered its Sector-34 branch to refund the amount (Rs 1, 68, 404) to Ethos Ltd along with Rs 20,000 litigation cost within a month, failing which it will have pay an interest of 12% per annum. Also, the retailer has been given the liberty to claim return of the watch or its price from the customer, through the issuing bank.