NEW DELHI, Jan 3: The motto of ‘consumer is the king’ remained the sole guiding light in 2017 for consumer fora which were unsparing while putting to task auto majors, realtors, airlines, banks, hospitals and government agencies like Railways for unfair, deficient and deceptive trade practices and services.
Consumer fora led by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) played a proactive role in ameliorating miseries and plight of citizens which included an order of the apex consumer forum asking aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to formulate a rational policy to prevent harassment of passengers left out from over-booked flights.
The cases of medical negligence, a much-debated issue, too came before consumer fora which also put to task the real estate majors for failing to deliver possession of flats in time to hassled homebuyers.
Railways bore the burnt in the year gone-by as consumer fora, in their several orders, directed it to pay compensation to many passengers for deficiencies, including theft of luggage onboard and asking it to restrain unauthorised persons from entering reserved coaches to ensure safety of genuine travellers.
Be it national or international brands, the fora stood firm in protecting the consumers rights and this was evident when luxury car maker was directed to pay over Rs 10 lakh to a customer for faulty airbags, prompting the global car manufacturer to knock the doors of the Supreme Court for reliefs.
Meanwhile, the fight of homebuyers against real estate companies stole the limelight as realty majors like Unitech, Supertech and Sahara had to face the ire of the apex consumer panel for their failure to hand over flats on time.
The embattled Sahara group had to pay Rs 1.43 crore to a home buyer for its failure to give possession of a bungalow in one of its housing projects near Nagpur.
The apex consumer commission also directed Unitech Hi- Tech Developers Ltd to pay over Rs 3.33 crore to a couple for failing to give them the possession of an apartment booked under one of its housing projects at Noida in 2010. Unitech Ltd was also asked to pay heavy amount in various other cases.
The fora came down heavily on the state-owned Rajasthan Housing Board for twice cancelling allocation of a property to a buyer under its schemes and said that the government agencies have no right to accept money from public unless they were ready with a housing scheme for which allotment can be made within a reasonable time.
The aviation sector was also not spared by NCDRC which made a castigating remark that airlines do indulge in over- booking so as to ensure that seats in the flights do not go vacant in the event of certain passengers not showing up at the time of boarding aircrafts.
This observation had come while directing Jet Airways to pay compensation of 600 Euros (around Rs 42,000) to a Kolkata resident who was not allowed to travel in a New Delhi-bound flight from London by the airline staff on the ground that she had come late for boarding.
Foreign airline like Mexico-based Aeromexico was asked to pay over Rs 5 lakh to an Indian citizen for mishandling his bag on a trip to Miami in the USA.
A high-end fashion chain was held guilty for deficiency in services by the apex consumer commission in February 2017 which penalised it for charging a customer Rs 97 as VAT on a discounted pair of trousers worth Rs 1,609.
Besides granting reliefs to hassled consumers, the fora also heeded to grievances of multinational firms.
The apex consumer forum, NCDRC, granted relief to Levis Strauss, a global jeans manufacturing brand and asked an insurance firm to pay over Rs 1.78 crore to it as an insurance claim against its gutted warehouse in Bengaluru.
While the Supreme Court is seized of matters related to safety of children in schools in wake of recent incidents like the Ryan International School murder case, the NCDRC said that school officials should treat students like their own kids, especially those who are in distress.
The observation had come while directing a private school to pay Rs 10 lakh to the father of a boy, who had died due to negligence in providing medical aid.
Among the hospital giants, the apex consumer commission had asked an hospital in Hyderabad and one of its doctors to pay Rs 4 lakh as compensation to a man who lost his wife due to alleged medical negligence.
The top consumer commission also asked Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGI) to pay Rs 15.65 lakh to kin of a woman who had died during skin treatment due to alleged medical negligence.
The consumer fora also tightened its noose around various nationalised and private banks for deficiency in services rendered to the customers, including delay in crediting cheque amount, disclosing details without account holder’s consent and ATM fraud.
The insurance sector was also dealt with sternly by the apex consumer commission which in one of the cases had asked Life Insurance Corporation of India to pay Rs 7 lakh to the kin of a youth whose medical claim was rejected on the ground of non-disclosure of material facts.
The NCDRC had also asked the insurance firms to provide the terms and conditions of a policy to its customers along with the policy certificate to reduce litigation. (PTI)