New Delhi: The popular perception that consumers cannot withstand the pressure of rich and mighty service providers proved wrong in the year gone by with consumer forums reflecting a humane face by a plethora of decisions exuding trust and confidence among commoners. Be it complaints against big hospitals, airlines, banks, insurance giants, multinationals and universities, consumers gained from various forums.

2009, however, will be best remembered for a decision of the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission saying a critical patient cannot be shifted from an ICU to a general ward of any hospital merely on monetary considerations.

“The prime object of the medical profession is to render service to humanity. Reward or financial gain is a secondary consideration and any deviation from such norms could amount to deficiency in service under the Consumer Protection Act,” the apex consumer body said.

The consumer fora below it also issued slew of directions to hospitals and nursing homes to provide proper medical treatment in time so as to ensure life saving operations effectively.

Even, premier private hospital Indraprashtha Apollo was not spared by Delhi Consumer Commission for delay in treating a critical patient who died later. The Commission directed the hospital to pay Rs five lakh to the kin of the deceased.

Similarly, when reputed homoeopathic clinic Dr Batra refused to divulge details of ailment to a patient, the District Consumer Forum considered it as “deficiency in service” and directed it to apprise the consumer about the disease along with compensation.

The National Commission awarded a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh to a patient whose kidney was removed by the doctors without his consent.

Consumer panels also came to the rescue of passengers ‘harassed’ by aviation companies -- Ethopian Airlines, SpiceJet and Air India.

The Delhi Consumer Commission slammed SpiceJet for failing to provide any facility to passengers left stranded at the airport due to rescheduling of flights.

Similarly, Air India was directed to pay Rs 1.40 lakh to a woman for not allowing her to board even after carrying a confirmed ticket.

The consumer courts took strong objection to the dilly-dallying tactics of insurance companies and imposed hefty fines so as to deter them from using such recourse to avoid honouring the claims.

LIC was rapped repeatedly by the panel either for repudiating the genuine claims of consumers on artificial grounds or its failure to explain clearly risk factors of policies, making the policy holder more prone to risk.

Further, it said the delay in informing an insurance company in a vehicle theft case is not a ground for denying claim if a policy holder filed a case immediately after the incident. The court said the criminal background of a policy holder would not be a hurdle for an insurance company to deny claim to his or her nominee.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) was asked to pay a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to a consumer by the panel for supplying a LPG cylinder with manufacturing defect which exploded later killing his only son.

Delhi University came under the scanner of consumer court when aggrieved students approached it opposing transfer of Russian study centre from south to north campus.

It directed the university to provide alternative teaching facilities for Russian studies at the south campus itself.

A series of complaints were filed against forcible recovery of loans and loaned vehicles by financial companies with the help of muscle-men in the consumer courts. They took strong exception of these practices employed by the banks and imposed penalty on them for harassing customers.

The State Commission deprecated the practice of including the credit card holder’s name by Credit Information Bureau India Ltd (CIBIL) in the loan defaulters’ list despite having settled all disputes and held that it amounts to unfair trade practice.

Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Private Ltd was directed to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 to a Delhi-based doctor who was hospitalised after consuming company’s soft drink, the bottle of which contained fungus.

A dairy owner who lost 19 buffaloes due to negligence of a veterinary doctor was compensated when the consumer court directed the Delhi government to pay Rs 5 lakh to him as compensation.

Mineral bottles sold at varying prices to consumers by companies was held to be as an unfair trade practice by the consumer panel. The Delhi Consumer Commission held that bottled mineral water cannot be sold by different companies at varying prices as the product is not like other drinks having distinguishable features. -- PTI

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