Partnership firm can file consumer complaint | Business Standard Column

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The National Commission observed that the generator set was not purchased for resale, but for self-employment and to earn a livelihood, so a consumer complaint could be filed

Jehangir B Gai

Rajkumar Goyal and Ashok Kumar Mangla were partners of Shree Jagdamba Stone Crushers. They approached Sudhir Gensets to purchase a generator set. The company failed to provide a generator set of the specifications mentioned in the order, and instead supplied another type of genset whose specifications did not meet their requirements.

Since the generator was of no use, they requested the company to replace it with another one that would conform to the specifications given. As the company did not pay any heed, the firm and its partners approached the District Forum with a complaint against Sudhir Gensets and its chief executive officer cum managing director, Sudhir Seth.

The District Forum observed that the generator set was lying idle because it did not meet the required specifications. It held that the supply of an incorrect generator set with different specifications constitutes an unfair trade practice. It ordered Sudhir Gensets to refund Rs 11,50,000 which had been paid for its purchase. It also ordered interest of 12 per cent to be paid from February 3, 2006, till the date of its purchase. Additionally, it awarded Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation and Rs 5,000 towards litigation cost.

Sudhir Gensets appealed against the order. The Haryana State Commission, which reappraised the evidence, concurred with the decision of the District Forum. It confirmed the Forum’s order and dismissed the appeal as being without merit.

The company then filed a revision petition questioning the correctness of the orders passed against it. The National Commission noted that both the District Forum as well as the State Commission had given a concurrent finding that the generator set which had been supplied was lying idle as it did not conform to the correct specifications. The National Commission ruled that this was not merely unfair but was also a deceptive act, and it was rightly held to be an unfair trade practice.

The company argued that it was not challenging the order on merits, but on the law point of whether a firm could be a consumer and was entitled to file a consumer complaint. It also argued that the compensation awarded was unreasonably high and arbitrary.

The National Commission rejected the technical objections since these had never been raised before the District Forum. It observed that the generator set was not purchased for resale, but for self-employment and to earn a livelihood. So, a consumer complaint would be maintainable even though the goods in question might be put to commercial use.

As regards the quantum of compensation, the National Commission observed that the interest rate was on the higher side and there was no justification for awarding an additional lumpsum compensation. So, by its order of December 3, 2021, delivered by Dinesh Singh and Karuna Anand Bajpayee, the National Commission modified the order. It set aside the compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh and ordered that the refund of Rs 11,50,000 would carry an interest rate of 9 per cent instead of the 12 per cent awarded by the District Forum. The order for payment of litigation cost was also maintained.The writer is a consumer activist

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