The Odisha State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission found Amazon India guilty, after issuing a confirmation receipt of ‘unfair trade practice’ for retracting an offer for sale of laptop at Rs. 190. The President of the Commission, Dr. DP Choudhury, ordered the company to pay an amount of Rs. 40,000/- to the Complainant, an aggrieved law student, as compensation.
The Commission noted,
“When there is advertisement made for an offer placed by the OP who is a reputed Online Shopping Website and made an offer as per the materials available on record and the complainant placed the order and same has been confirmed, the agreement is complete between the parties. Had there been cancellation before receipt of confirmation, the matter would have been considered otherwise”.
The Commission dismissed Amazon’s argument that the agreement was signed with a third party and that the student and the laptop retailer were not privy to the contract. It held that when the seller concerned was permitted on the platform of the e-commerce website, the liability of the latter cannot be lost sight of.
The Commission observed, “Before floating an offer, the OP [Amazon] should have considered whether he was able to decide to issue the advertisement and after the contract is completed, it has no business to go away from the promise.”
Background of the Case
The case dates back to 2014, when Supriyo Ranjan Mahapatra, a law student, came across an offer for a certain company’s laptop for Rs 190 on the Amazon India website as compared to the original price of the product of Rs 23,499. Mahapatra put the order for the same and also obtained an e-mail confirmation that his order was successfully placed with an assurance that the item would be shipped shortly.
A few hours later, he received a phone call from the customer service department of Amazon saying that his order stands were cancelled because of ‘pricing problems’.
Mahapatra said the same was a violation of the specific performance of the contract, and after several attempts to contact customer service via their helpline and e-mail, on January 17, 2015, he received no reply and was forced to send a legal notice, but in vain. He then moved the District Consumer Forum, which held the company guilty of service failure and permitted the case in part by ordering it to pay Rs. 10,000/- compensation and Rs. 2,000/- cost of litigation.
Mahapatra then approached the State Commission, for reasons of mental agony, seeking to increase compensation. He claimed that he urgently needed a laptop to complete a project, and he was forced to purchase another laptop because of Amazon’s unfair business practices.
He also urged that punitive damages must be imposed on the company so that in the future it will not engage in such unlawful activities. Under the former Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the case was dealt with.
Order of the Commission
The Commission allowed the appeal and ordered Amazon to pay Rs. 30,000/- to Mahapatra for causing mental agony and harassment, Rs. 10,000/- for punitive damages, and Rs. 5,000/- for litigation costs. In addition, it was intended to pay costs of Rs. 5,000/-.