Manufacturers must act responsibly when defective parts in their products cannot be replaced

Our Constitution, the Statutory Bodies, and the Common Law, grant definite rights to people as consumers. Generally, when a consumer purchases goods or services certain conditions and warranties are implied in the transaction.

So, when a problem with the purchased product arises within the warranty period, the consumer will be able to approach the manufacturer to get the problem rectified or to seek a replacement.

Now, what happens when the product becomes faulty after the warranty period? The usual practice is, the company or its authorised service centre attends to the problem, and the consumer pays for the services. However, we recently came across incidents I'd would like to discuss here.

Shekar, a consumer, purchased the washing machine of a leading manufacturer four years ago. All was well, until the machine developed problems and stopped working two months ago.

He immediately approached the company's authorised service centre, and registered a complaint. A docket number was given, and after two reminders, the service personnel visited his place. Shekar was informed that a part must be replaced, and that it would cost around Rs.750.

The part was replaced the next day, but, the machine did not work. The technician took the machine to the service centre. After a month, Shekar contacted the service centre, and he was informed that another part needed to be replaced, and that it was not available with the company, and so nothing further could be done.

Similarly, Darshini purchased a microwave oven of a leading company three years ago. The oven stopped working suddenly, and Darshini preferred a complaint with the company's service centre, and the oven was taken for service.

She was told that a part needed to be replaced, and that it would cost around Rs.1,000. Darshini agreed, and the oven was returned to her after almost a month. But, the oven did not switch on, the very next day, and she called the service centre again. The technician who visited informed her that another part needed to be replaced.

Darshini wrote to the company, but there was no proper response. Not knowing what to do, she agreed for the replacement of the defective part. The oven was taken for service, with the promise to be returned in three days. But, there was no response even after a week, and whenever she called, Darshini was told that the oven would be delivered the next day itself. However, nothing happened, and after more than a month, when Darshini called the centre, she was advised to go in for a new oven, as the required part was not available.

So, the question we ask ourselves now is what is the liability of the manufacturing company? The products are only three or four years old, and huge money was invested on these.

Consumers buy the products in good faith, and feel embittered when their hard-earned money is lost. When the companies claim that they cannot be held liable for structural damage or misapplication or misuse of a product, it is also vital for them to ensure that all the parts are made available in case of a problem.

If a particular part was not available due to unavoidable circumstances, it is essential that the companies act responsibly, take back the defective product for a reasonable price after evaluating depreciation, and give a replacement.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 24914358 / 24460387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)

More In: Society | Metroplus