By being a lawyer, I often find myself ‘fighting’ for things that should ideally come our way without having to fight. Most often, as I am exiting a parking lot, I find myself requesting to be given a receipt for the parking fee I just paid – it should be done without me having to ask for it, shouldn’t it?
In a recent case, the consumer forum has awarded a compensatory sum of Rs 19,000 to a lawyer, who made a formal complaint while travelling in the Mumbai-Ernakulam Duranto Express in 2015.
According to the complainant, upon boarding the train, she found rats running about. When she brought up the matter with the staff onboard the train, they told her that it was a common occurrence since they had only about three hours to clean the compartments.
A formal written complaint to the ticket checker also did not yield any result. The lawyer then filed a complaint with the consumer forum. The forum then directed the Railways to pay the lawyer compensation for the poor quality of service.
While the laws and rules regarding consumer protection and standards of service are robust, it is another matter that the systems administering the remedies are slow and inefficient, and in fact, intimidating for the common man.
Ask any layman what he thinks of the courts and our justice system – I highly doubt if any positive feedback would come up.
The poor service quality, and the attitude to take customer service more as lip service is a symptom. The cause is the inefficient and daunting legal system. The system’s machinations end up protecting the violators more than the violated.
Statistically, the violator knows that the probability of him being hauled up by the system is very small, and that makes him take the customers for granted, providing shoddy service at lower costs and increasing his profits.
The only way to ensure that service standards are kept up is if the service providers understand that the cost of a complaint will far outweigh the benefits of cutting corners. True efficiency in the legal system is a virtuous cycle – the more efficient the system is, the lesser is the number of violations that will occur. Quick and effective justice is the best deterrent against transgressions.
Here is a look at three interesting decisions by the consumer forums:
1. The case against a fairness cream brand
Nikhil Jain, then 20-years-old, purchased a tube of Emami fairness cream and used it for a month. Unlike the claims made by the company, Nikhil found no change in his complexion despite using it for a month. Not wanting to take it lying down like most others, he decided to file a complaint.
In his complaint, Nikhil did not seek damages – he just asked about the litigation costs and was awarded Rs 10,000. The forum found the company guilty of ‘misrepresentation to the public’.
You can read about Nikhil’s story here.
2. The case against a telecom service provider
A senior teacher at the Delhi University was repeatedly getting phone calls, and SMSes from her telephone service provider to settle her dues, even after she had discontinued the services.
Even after several phone calls to the company apprising them of the situation, this continued.
Finally, she approached the consumer forum and was awarded a compensatory amount of Rs 40,000 by holding the company guilty of deficiency in rendering services and causing mental agony and harassment to the customer.
You can read about the case here.
3. The case against Indian Railways for loss of baggage
It took 74-year-old Radha Ramnathan 14 long years to get the Indian Railways to compensate her for the loss of baggage and the subsequent mental agony that was caused to her.
The consumer court directed Indian Railways to pay Radha a sum of Rs 1,34,400 for being negligent in its services and causing mental agony.
In a first, the forum held the railways responsible for ensuring that the passenger disembarks in the right station with all their belongings.
You can read about this story here.
As per data available with the government, from 2014 to 2016, consumer complaints have increased by over 70%. Although there has been increased awareness about customer rights and action, there are still many who shy away from it.
If you have raised a complaint because of inadequate service or a negligent act and got redressal for it, do share it with us.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)