Case No.: Civil Appeal No. 6597 Of 2008
Case Name: Star India (P) Ltd. vs. Society of Catalysts & Anr.
Corum: Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, Justice R. Subhash Reddy
Unfair trade practice is the fraudulent, unethical and deceptive act done by the organization to gain business from the market. It generally was done in the purchasing of goods and services by the consumer. Unfair trade practices include misrepresentation, deceptive pricing, false free prize or gifts, false advertising of services and non-compliance with the standard of the goods and services promised by the business organization.
The appeal arises against the judgment of the National Consumer Redressal Forum by the respondent of the judgment. The appellant broadcast the program “Kaun Banega crorepati” which was sponsored by Bharti Airtel Limited. During the telecasting of the program, a contest was organized “har seat hot seat” in which the viewers of the KBC were invited to participate and answer the correct multiple choice question to specified number through SMS services offered by Airtel, MTNL and BSNL.
The winner of the contest select randomly among the participants who answered correctly and the award of Rs. 2 lakhs was granted to the winner. The consumer alleges that the unfair trade practices under section 2(1)(r)(3)(a) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 were practiced by the Star India and Airtel as Rs 2.40 per SMS charged by the company which is higher than the normal message rate.
The case was not instituted against the MTNL and BSNL SMS services charges and they are nonjoinder of the parties to the disputes. It was alleged that the appellant has created a huge profit from the contest while increasing the SMS rate in the name of Har seat hot seat contest is free of cost while creating a false impression in the viewer’s mind. The purpose of the contest to promoting the business of the appellant while increasing viewership and TRP of the KBC program.
- As per the newspaper report, around 58 million SMS were received by the airtel during the contest and the earned revenue was shred by Star India an airtel.
- The court observed that the appellant has not disclosed the revenue earned by them as the ground of confidentiality of proprietary information.
- The prize money of the contest was fully or partially covered through generating revenue from the SMS.
- The case was not instituted against the MTNL and BSNL as the non-joinder of the parties to the disputes.
- The consumer forum awarded punitive damages for the appellant either jointly or severally to the Airtel and Star India.
The supreme court has set aside the order of the National Consumer Redressal Forum in relief to the Airtel and Star India which directs them to pay punitive damages related to the contest organized by the Kaun Banega Crorepati program. It was stated that there was no material on record has been placed by the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum to make this fall under the category of unfair trade practices by the Airtel and star India. There was no ground to determined that the prize money of the contest has been generated by increasing the SMS rate of Airtel service. There is no direct evidence that proves Airtel and Star India have colluded to increase the SMS rates for the purpose to finance the prize money of the contest and shared the SMS revenue in the view to practiced the unfair trade.
Edited by Vartika Gajendra Singh
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje