Firm offering cosmetology courses in Kochi fined for unfair trade practice

November 17, 2023 07:14 pm | Updated 10:51 pm IST - KOCHI

The Ernakulam District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has slapped a fine of ₹3.39 lakh on a health care institute offering cosmetology courses on the charge of deficiency in service and unfair trade practice by abruptly winding up courses for which a participant had paid the fee in full.

The Commission comprising president D.B. Binu and members V. Ramachandran and Sreevidhia T.N. passed the verdict on a petition filed by Zeba Salim of Valapad in Thrissur against the Kochi-based Institute of Beauty and Nutrition.

The complainant had enrolled for a six-month diploma course in cosmetology on January 18, 2021, for a fee of ₹1.17 lakh. Later, on March 9, she signed up for two more courses — Advanced Diploma in Laser Aesthetics and Diploma in Beauty Culture — for a fee of ₹1.62 lakh.

She attended physical classes regularly until she tested positive for COVID-19 on April 6, after which she continued online classes. However, by the end of March 2021, the company ceased offering even online classes citing lack of faculty members due to the pandemic. The course was originally supposed to conclude on July 18, 2021.

The complainant alleged that despite collecting the fee, the company did not provide a single class for the two advanced courses. She cancelled all the three courses owing to the company’s failure to provide classes as promised, both in physical and online formats. Consequently, she sent an email seeking a refund. However, instead of issuing a refund, the opposite parties suggested purchasing their products of equivalent value, according to the complainant.

The complainant approached the commission alleging unfair trade practices and seeking a refund of ₹2.79 lakh towards the fee paid, ₹2 lakh as compensation for mental agony, and the entire cost of proceedings.

Meanwhile, the institute said it was awaiting the order, and that it would take appropriate legal recourse based on it.

The Commission observed that the suggestion made by the company to adjust the course fee against the enrolment of a relative or sibling was deemed unfair and illegal. “There is a clear deficiency of service on the part of the opposite parties for failing to provide timely classes.”

Citing a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission verdict, the Commission said educational institutions providing services fell under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. In that case, it was held that fee once paid could be refunded after deducting non-refundable service charges for the unattended portion of the course.

Consequently, the Commission directed the company to refund the course fee of ₹2.79 lakh, ₹50,000 as compensation for the mental agony, inconvenience, physical hardships, and deficiency of service caused by its actions and unfair trade practices, and ₹10,000 towards the cost of proceedings.

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