At the District Consumer Forum, not all cases involve big money. Asserting consumer rights is also a factor for knocking on the forum’s door.
Officials cite two cases as examples of a growing trend of people moving the forum, even if the sums involved are small.
The first one deals with P. Kunhan Nair, a senior citizen, who has complained about getting shouted at by the salesman at the local liquor shop in Kunnamangalam on a Sunday afternoon in February.
The retired employee of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation had just bought a bottle of his favourite brand when he discovered that the price tag on the label was smudged with ink. Besides, he claims, the salesman charged him Rs. 5 more.
“I politely asked him for an explanation. He snapped at me. He forgot that I was his customer and was paying him for his service,” Mr. Nair recounts.
The next day, Mr. Nair, who visits the city only once a month to collect his pension, marched straight into the offices of the forum at the District Collectorate complex.
A one-page, hand-written consumer complaint was submitted before the court. It said: “I bought a 750-ml bottle of brandy for Rs. 470. But the maximum retail price on the label was smudged with ink. When asked, the shop salesman treated me rudely, causing me much mental agony and harassment. Kindly take necessary action.”
In a reply to Mr. Kunhan Nair’s complaint, the Kerala State Beverages Corporation said the allegations raised were “false and baseless,” and Mr. Nair was seeking “vengeance” because the retail outlet employees refused to serve him out of turn.
Seven months later, in September, the case is coming up for evidence. Mr. Nair is preparing to argue the case on his own. “I still want to know what made them snub me,” he says.
There is again the case of C. Chandrasekharan Nair, who lodged a complaint against his plumber for a loss of Rs.100 caused by deficient service. Mr. Chandrasekharan Nair hired Aji, a plumber and electrician, for repairs in his house at West Hill here.
He paid Aji Rs. 100 for the work. But the defect persisted, and efforts to call the plumber back went in vain.
Even the forum had a tough time with the plumber, who failed to appear before the court despite summons.
“Though notice was sent to the opposite party (Aji), he did not appear before the forum. From the evidence and perusal of the documents, we have come to the conclusion that the complainant is entitled for relief,” a Bench, led by the president of the forum, G. Yadunadhan, observed in an written order passed on July 31, just over a month after the complaint was filed.
The plumber was ordered to refund Rs. 100 and cough up another Rs.1,000 as compensation. The payment was to be made within 30 days of receiving the order copy. Delay would invite a fine of a Rs.10 a day.
“Consumers approach us for grievances ranging from overcharging bus tickets to bank transactions. We treat them on a par,” forum officials said.
The district consumer forum is moved for many reasons — for being shouted at a Bevco outlet to deficient service by plumber.