Manufacturer, service centre ordered to pay compensation for failure to repair refrigerator in time

January 29, 2024 07:52 pm | Updated January 30, 2024 12:49 am IST - KOCHI

The Ernakulam District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed an electronic and home appliances giant and one of its authorised service centres to pay a customer a compensation of ₹1 lakh for failure to get a refrigerator repaired in time.

The Commission comprising D.B. Binu, president, and members, including V. Ramachandran and Sreevidhia T.N., issued the verdict on a petition filed by S. Joseph of North Vazhakkala against the manufacturer and its service centre at Palarivattom. The petitioner on January 16, 2019, had raised a service request for repairing an out-of-warranty refrigerator with the company, which assigned it to an authorised service centre at Palarivattom.

The service issue remained unresolved for around 25 days, causing significant inconvenience and mental distress to the complainant’s family. The lack of a functioning refrigerator particularly affected the family’s daily routine and posed health risk to the petitioner’s elderly parents who required refrigeration for their diabetes medicines.

Despite repeated calls and emails to the company’s customer service and the service centre personnel, no effective action was taken to resolve the issue. The complainant claimed to have emphasised the urgency of the repair but still did not receive a positive response or updates about the service request. This forced the complainant to rely on an external service agency despite the advisory against using unauthorised service centres thus further compromising the refrigerator’s condition.

While the service centre, which was the first opposite party, did not respond to the Commission’s notice, the company, which was the second opposite party, claimed that the defects of the refrigerator nine years after purchase were not manufacturing defects but likely caused by mishandling or other reasons. The company claimed that when it arranged for the replacement of the dryer part, the complainant refused the service and demanded compensation instead though the warranty period was over.

The company stated that the complaint was an abuse of the legal process with ulterior motives, aimed at harassing and making unlawful gains. The compensation of ₹1,13,200 sought by the complainant was deemed inappropriate, and the company sought the dismissal of the complaint stating there was no deficiency in service or unfair trade practices on its part.

However, the Commission observed that despite registering the complaint, the response from the service provider was inadequate. Technicians visited but did not follow up, and despite the complainant’s repeated requests, the refrigerator was not repaired. With no positive action from the service provider for around 30 days, the complainant resorted to third-party repair services, which further deteriorated the refrigerator’s condition. Despite their large network, the opposite parties failed to repair the refrigerator in a reasonable time, leading to its severe damage. While the company admitted that a complaint was lodged for defects in the refrigerator, it claimed that no manufacturing defect was found while asserting that proper service was provided without detailing what service was rendered.

The Commission observed that there were significant service deficiencies and unfair trade practices on the part of the opposite parties. As a result, the complainant has endured considerable inconvenience, mental distress, hardships, and financial loss stemming from the negligence of the opposite parties.

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