There are various methods of purchasing products but the most common method used by the consumers to purchase their goods in current times, is through online webshops like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra etc. which like other methods also have problems. The problem we are going to discuss is related to what the consumer can do or what remedies do they have when they find out that the product which they have purchased is broken, can the broken product be returned back to the seller?, will the consumer get back the refund?, or could the consumer replace it with a new one?
“Goods” means any movable property other than actionable claims or money, and includes stock and shares, growing crops, grass, and any other thing attached to land which can be sold for consideration under a contract of sale.[i]
“Defect” means any fault, imperfection or shortcoming which has to be maintained according to any law for the time being or according to the claims of the trader.[ii]
Importance of the question:
The definition of consumer right is ‘the right to have information about the quality, potency, quantity, purity, price and standard of goods or services’, but it is more important to protect the consumers from unfair trade practices. So all products, whether physical, electrical or digital must meet the satisfactory quality i.e. goods should not be broken or damaged, must provide the purpose for which it was supplied and must be as described by the seller at the time of purchase.
The problem is that the law does not provide the consumers with a method to prove that there was fault in the product before the purchase, which makes it difficult for the consumer to prove when they are asked to.
Even the provisions of Sale of Goods Act, 1930, clearly States that any sale made by description or by implied conditions as to quality or fitness or by sample, it is obligatory on the part of the seller or goods provider to make sure that the goods correspond with the description or are equitable to the implied quality or fitness or corresponds with the quality of the sample, respectively.[iii]
The consumer has many remedies if the fault was on the side of the seller, the seller shall be liable to pay the refund or replace the product, and even if the seller denies, the consumer has the option of achieving the desired outcome through a complaint in the consumer court. But, what if the product was in good condition while purchasing and broke due to the negligence of the consumer, the consumer would not have any remedy, the total liability would be on the consumer to repair the product.
Cause of action:
According to the consumer rights in India a consumer can file a case in consumer court for the following reasons:
- When the goods or services purchased or agreed to be purchased have any defect or deficiency of any kind.
- When an unfair or restrictive trade practice has been committed by the trader.
- When the trader sells the goods at a price higher than what is displayed or what was agreed upon or what is stipulated under any existing law for the time being.
- When the goods sold cause hazard to the safety or life of any person, knowingly or unknowingly.
Appropriate Authority/ Court/ Forum:
According to Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the cases relating to the above cause of actions the consumer must file the case before a consumer dispute redressal agency depending upon the amount of the claim.[iv]
The consumer shall file the case before the District Forum when the claim is up to one crore rupees, if the parties reside or work within the local limits of the Forum’s jurisdiction or where the cause of action arises.
The consumer shall file the case before the State Commission when the claim is more than one crore rupees but less than ten crore rupees. Including the appeals against the District Forum. And if the District Forum exercises beyond the jurisdiction vested or has failed to exercise it or acted illegally.
The consumer shall file the case before the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Agency when the claim is more than ten crore rupees. Including the appeals against State Commission. And if the State Commission exercises beyond the jurisdiction vested or has failed to exercise it or acted illegally.[v]
The parties are, the one who receives such goods and the opposite party are the provider of such goods, which includes individuals, a firm, a Hindu undivided family and a company. Where the case shall be filed by the affected party i.e. the person to whom such product was provided or by any recognized consumer association or by the Central or State Government. The case shall be filed only if the consumer has been affected by the above mentioned reasons of the causes of action.[vi]
The procedure has been clearly explained under the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which States that once a complaint has been received by the Forum:
- It has to make the opposite party aware about it and provide them with an opportunity to rest their case.
- If the product’s defect cannot be found per se it needs to be sent to an appropriate laboratory for analysis or testing, for which the complainant has to pay to the Forum.
- Once the analysis is over the copy of the report and the remarks of the Forum would be sent to the opposite party.
- If any party has any objection relating to the findings or methods used for analysis, it shall be heard by the Forum and it may pass an order accordingly.[vii]
There are different remedies available to a consumer in such problem, one, he may make an official complaint to the goods provider for remedy, two, he may use the product’s guarantee or warranty card if available, through these two remedies the consumer may get a refund or replacement of the defective product with a new one, only if seller or goods provider is at fault and he accepts his fault, if the provider does not respond to the complaint or refuses to provide refund or replacement, the consumer may file a complaint in the consumer dispute redressal.
The affected party would reach his desired outcome only if he proves his case and provides proper evidence to prove it. The Forum then would pass an executive order accordingly which may or may not be favourable, but one can always appeal to a higher level of judiciary in the hope of a desired outcome. If the affected party fails to receive the desired outcome from the District Forum he may appeal before the State Commission, if he is not satisfied by the order of the State Commission he may appeal before the National Commission, if he is still aggrieved by the order of the National Commission he may prefer an appeal before the Supreme Court[viii], who’s order shall be final unless, if there are no appeals preferred against the order of district Forum or State Commission or national Commission then the order of those particular agencies shall be final.[ix]
Cases and illustration:
The appellant Momna Gauri had purchased a three wheeler from the respondent, when it was given to the dealer for service the appellant found a crack on the chassis which she made known to the dealer and asked for replacement of the vehicle. But instead of replacing the vehicle the respondent just repaired the damages due to which the chassis broke again. This time it was not even repaired, so she filed a complaint in district Forum which gave an order in the favour of the appellant. Later the respondents appealed against the district Forum, but State Commission dismissed the appeal, when appealed before national Commission it modified the order of district Forum. But the appellant appealed again before the national Commission for setting aside the previous order, where it found that there was defect in the vehicle when manufactured and ordered the respondents to replace the vehicle with a new one.
Online shopping is very common and the most used medium for trade, it is necessary to be highly careful while purchasing through webshops because the chances of the products being defective or faulty or damaged are very high as compared to shopping from a retail store, which does not mean there are no chances of products being damaged or faulty in a retail store. But there are solutions for this problem too, in retail store the consumer can check the product before purchasing but when it comes to webstores the consumer does not have that advantage. Therefore, whenever any consumer faces such problem it is suggested that they first claim their guarantee or warranty if available, if not, then they may make a complaint to the provider of such goods, if the seller is creating problems by not replacing or refunding or repairing, then the consumer can file a complaint before the consumer dispute redressal.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] Goods, Section 2(7) of Sale of Goods Act, 1930.
[ii] Defect, Section 2(1)(f) of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
[iii] Sale by description, Section 15 of Sale of Goods Act, 1930.
Implied conditions as to quality or fitness, Section 16 of Sale of Goods Act, 1930.
Sale by sample, Section 17 of Sale of Goods Act, 1930.
[iv] Establishment of consumer dispute redressal, Section 9 of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
[v] Jurisdiction, Section 11, 17, and 21 of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
[vi] Manner of Complaint, Section 12 of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
[vii] Procedure, Section 13 of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
[viii] Appeals, Section 15, 19, and 23 of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
[ix] Finality of order, Section 24 of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.