Cabinet nod to consumer awareness plan

Aug 8 (IANS) The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs Thursday approved the continuation of a consumer awareness scheme at a cost of Rs.409.29 crore during the 12th Five Year Plan, said a statement.

The scheme would strengthen the consumer movement by spreading consumer literacy and a campaign about consumers’ rights and responsibilities, said the statement.

The existing campaign ‘Jago Grahak Jago; will be further strengthened to reach all parts of the country and attempts would be made tocarry out such awareness campaigns in regional languages, said the statement.

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has guaranteed several rights to Indian consumers regarding quality, quantity and purity of goods.

(Source: IANS)

HSBC to pay Rs 20,000 compensation to credit card holder

Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has been ordered by a consumer forum here to pay Rs 20,000 as compensation to one of its credit card holders for adding his name in CIBIL’s defaulters list even though he had paid all his dues.

While awarding the amount to the HSBC credit card holder, the New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum said the Bank should have “gracefully” accepted its fault instead of adopting an “obstructionist attitude” by seeking rejection of his complaint.

“We are shocked to observe the obstructionist attitude of opposite party (HSBC) which instead of accepting the fault gracefully by filing a reply, has sought rejection of the complaint on ground of remedy of arbitration under the Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited (CIBIL) Act.

“It (HSBC) has not disputed facts. The remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is not affected by the arbitration agreement. We dismiss the application of the opposite party and award a compensation of Rs 20,000 to the complainant (Rakesh Gupta) inclusive of litigation expenses,” said the bench presided by C K Chaturvedi said.

Delhi resident Rakesh Gupta in his complaint had alleged that he had been issued a HSBC credit card on understanding that no annual charges would be levied, yet after the first two months of usage the Bank started levying the charges.

When he made a representation to the bank about annual charges, the same were reversed temporarily, he said adding in 2006 he paid all the outstanding dues and asked the bank to close the card.

Gupta alleged the bank, instead of closing the card, continued showing the annual charges as outstanding and informed CIBIL that he was a defaulter, without giving him a notice.

The bank had sought dismissal of the complaint against it on the ground that the remedy available was through arbitration only.

PVR to pay compensation for screening of another movie

A woman was awarded Rs 10,000 as compensation for disappointment and inconvenience suffered by her and her son due to last-minute replacement of the movie they had booked tickets for in a PVR.

The East District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum said  “It is clear from their (PVR) own averment that the picture ‘Bas Ek Pal’ was not screened at the scheduled time and another picture was playing when the complainant (Mittal) along with her son reached the PVR at Noida from Sunder Nagar, Delhi”.

 “This came as a great disappointment and inconvenience to the complainant who had acted in good faith upon the representation made by respondent (PVR) through newspaper. She incurred expenses on transport apart from valuable time of the two persons… Taking all the facts and circumstances into consideration, we award a sum of Rs 10,000 as compensation to her,” the bench presided by N A Zaidi said.

Mittal in her complaint had stated that she and her son had gone to watch the movie in PVR Spice cinema at Noida from Delhi on September 17, 2006 evening on the basis of show timings in newspapers, as her son was leaving for the UK the next day, but when they reached there they found that another movie was playing.

While PVR in response to her complain contended that she was not a consumer as per the Consumer Protection Act.

The forum, however, rejected PVR’s contention saying she had set out to watch the movie “after making payment at the respondent’s office… and on the representation made by the respondent that at 6.00 pm movie ‘Bas Ek Pal’ shall be screened… In such circumstances, she shall be deemed to be a consumer as defined under the consumer protection act.”

Misleading ads: Agency might monitor and act

Flooded with growing consumer complaints over misleading advertisements, especially relating to health and nutritional benefits and the get-rich schemes, the government is planning an investigating agency to curb the practice.

The proposed agency will supplement consumer courts, which cannot collect evidence themselves, while other measures planned include sharpening of the Consumer Protection Act.

“An investigating agency suits our requirement for the purpose,” said a senior consumer affairs ministry official, who did not want to be named.

“We need an institutional mechanism as we get a large number of complaints of misleading advertisements,” the official told .

Sources in the ministry said the probe agency could have a small team consisting of four or five officials and be on the lines of the investigation wing under the former Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, now known as the Competition Commission of India.

The sources said the Consumer Protection Act allows the department to order probe into specific complaints and take the culprits to the consumer courts, adding the probe agency could come handy here as the consumer courts cannot collect evidence.

In other cases, the government itself can become a complainant, they said.

The proposal for a probe agency would soon be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for approval, said sources.

A sense of urgency in the consumer affairs ministry to create a mechanism to curb the menace of misleading advertisements follows from a PMO directive last month.

Sources said the move aims to protect the consumer against advertisements promising false health and nutrition benefits and “will cover advertisements across all mediums like electronic, print and hoardings”.

The sources said they have been taking note of misleading advertisements related to nutrition in food supplements, cosmetics and herbal products promising immediate health benefits.

The Indian nutraceutical — products that combine the benefits of nutrition with pharmaceuticals — market is worth $1 billion. Globally, the market for nutraceuticals is pegged at around $124 billion.

Besides, the proposal will cover the services sector, for instance, the get-rich-quickly schemes, they said.

With TV becoming a strong medium, the chances of gullible consumers being taken for a ride by misleading advertisements have increased, they said.

“Hence the need for a new mechanism,” said an official.

Sources said certain provisions of the Consumer Protection Act need to be sharpened and the definition of “misleading advertisements” and the punishment prescribed for them expanded to curb the menace.

“At present, misleading advertisements are treated as unfair business practices. We want to examine whether it requires a sharper definition,” said an official.

To get an expert view, the ministry has sought opinion from some Indian Institutes of Management and the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

While the consumer affairs ministry will consult the health ministry to dovetail provisions of the Food Safety Act and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act in the new regulatory mechanism, it will also look at the international best practices to strengthen the probe agency, the sources said.