Maggi ban, misleading fares, builder mafia: 2015’s consumer issues
Nestle faced stiff opposition from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which moved the apex court against the Bombay High Court order allowing Maggi to be brought to the shelves.india Updated: Dec 29, 2015 12:46 IST
The motto “consumer is the king” took a beating with the Parliament blocking the passage of a law aimed at protecting home buyers from the builder mafia in 2015, and also saw popular snacks Maggi out of the shelves and its maker Nestle being slapped with Rs 640-crore class action lawsuit by the Centre before the apex consumer forum.
The controversy and confusion created by the ban on the instant noodles saw the Centre, for the first time in the history of the 30-year-old Consumer Protection Act, using it against a multi-national for alleged unfair trade practice.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), the apex consumer body, admitted the lawsuit, and while the results of the samples were awaited, Nestle cried foul over the staggering proceedings and knocked the doors of the Supreme Court, which in the fag end of the year, stayed the proceedings before the top consumer forum.
Nestle faced stiff opposition from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which moved the apex court against the Bombay High Court order allowing Maggi to be brought to the shelves.
Campaigns like “Jago Grahak Jago” seemed to be catching up with the consumers and their effort for a law for protection from the money and muscle power of real estate mafia almost came to be realised but the last minute hurdle in Parliament stopped the amended Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015, from turning it into a reality.
The complaints of violation against real estate majors like Supertech, DLF, Unitech and others not only reached the consumer forum but also to the apex court which stood by the home buyers who have put their hard earned money in their ventures.
The apex consumer court also took strong note of “unfair trade practice” of airlines companies in advertising airfares at “throwaway prices, ranging from Rs 0 to 999”, while actually providing them to the passengers at much higher prices.
In its order, NCDRC directed the airline companies to “refrain from issuing advertisements which don’t even disclose even the minimum total amount payable by a passenger on any sector of the said carrier” and also directed the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Director General of Civil Aviation to issue guidelines to ensure strict compliance of the judgment by all airlines.
The functioning of the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) also came under the scanner of the apex consumer court, which asked the Centre to ensure presence of some officials at every hospital handling cases of CGHS to answer queries of patients and to provide toll free inquiry number in this regard.
So was the case with the public sector insurance firms as in one of the cases, New India Assurance Company faced the ire of the apex consumer forum for denying claims under Haryana government’s ‘Devi Rakshak’ scheme, which insured economically weaker sections of the state to the tune of Rs 1 lakh following death or permanent disability of the bread-earner.
In another case, the apex consumer panel castigated Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for using LPG cylinders beyond expiry date while asking the state-run oil firm to pay a compensation of Rs 2.25 lakh to a victim of cylinder blast.
Cinegoers also had a sigh of relief as the NCDRC, in a significant judgments, directed cinema halls across the country to provide free drinking water after noting that everyone may not be in a position to afford it at “exorbitant rates” and being a basic necessity for human beings, it is obligatory for the cinema hall to make it available.
While awarding compensation for deficiency in providing services, the apex consumer penal in one case, awarded nearly Rs 2 crore compensation to the father of a 25-year-old youth, who was choked to death in a defective elevator in a high-rise in Mumbai a decade ago.
In another such case, leading Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and one of its gynaecologists were directed by the NCDRC to pay Rs 1 crore compensation to a couple, whose baby suffered mental disability due to the “negligence” of the doctor at the time of delivery more than 15 years ago.
Similarly, a consumer court took strong note of government hospital in Uttar Pradesh for wrong blood transfusion to a woman resulting in foetal losses during her four pregnancies. The hospital was directed to compensate her with Rs 15 lakh.
Various well-known companies and service providers also came under the radar of the consumer courts which took strong note of their “unfair trade practice”.
In one such case, multinational company Woodland was asked not to sell products other than its own brand in its stores while terming it as “highly unethical”.