The next time you shop, ask for and hold on to your bill

Thanks to liberalisation, our consumption patterns have changed significantly. And, various goods and services have become is indispensable in today’s lifestyle. Despite this, we are often disgruntled on account of poor quality of products, overcharging by shopkeepers, low quantity, and so on.

Should we allow these violations to continue? Obviously not. Then, what can we do to seek redressal? The answer lies in the concept of consumer protection and a plethora of welfare legislations that have been enacted. Such as the Consumer Protection Act, Standards of Weights and Measures Act etc. However, are we all equipped enough to go ahead and file a claim?

Take the case of Manasa, who bought a brand-new laptop as a surprise birthday gift for her friend Megna.

A happy Megna was started using this gift. And then, it malfunctioned. When Megna took it for repair, she was asked to produce the purchase bill along with duly signed warranty card. An anxious Megna asked Manasa for these documents. And, Manasa got the shock of her life when she realised that she had not been careful enough to insist on the cash receipt at the time of purchase. The dealer had turned a deaf ear to her repeated requests.

Megna’s consistent attempts by citing batch and licence numbers as secondary documents helped her get service engineers who repaired her laptop after enormous delay. However, will these efforts succeed every time? No, especially when it has to do with a complaint of over-charging.

Even a complaint before the Consumer Fora requires basic documents such as purchase bills, cash receipts, duly signed and stamped warranty/guarantee cards, etc. in order to be successful. So, it is your duty to insist on these documents and preserve them for your protection.

Many a time, we are also induced to purchase products without bills. Shopkeepers, more particularly, jewellers and pharmacies, follow the practice of avoiding giving bills, telling customers they will have to then pay extra towards sales tax. Is it not our fault that we encourage these practices? Often, consumers make unsuccessful claims before the courts due to absence of proper documentation — in effect, they lose their invaluable right just because they wanted to save a few hundreds!

Forced compliance

Nonetheless, the situation worsens when sellers refuse to issue these bills. Often, those who insist on bills are looked at with disdain. In such a case, you can even refer to the taxing statues and force them to comply.

Analysis of legal provisions indicates that consumer legislations do not specify issuance of bills/cash memos as a statutory mandate. Further study shows that only taxing statutes have imposed these conditions upon registered dealers and, even in that case, violators face just a slap on their wrist! Additionally, these taxing statutes may not be effective in protecting consumers’ rights as they do not redress consumer grievances!

Thanks to specialised agencies, issuance of bills and receipts is mandatory at least for a few sectors such as telecommunications, electricity and cable etc., though the same has not been extended to consumer goods.

Hence, awareness and self-protection would be the only way out to overcome this chaotic situation. Therefore, insist on bills/receipts for every purchase. SOWMYA M. (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 )

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