Right to an Invoice

Rasleen Kour
It has become a norm in the society that the consumers do not get and they do not even ask for a Bill, hereafter Invoice, from the sellers for the goods being sold to them. This is a rampant scenario especially in the local “kirayana” shops and the same has been normalized.
Sometimes it even sounds a little strange to other people standing in the queue in a shop when someone asks the seller to provide them with an invoice for the goods. This happens because the consumers themselves are not enlightened enough about their rights in respect of the goods being sold to them.
The consumers do have a right to be issued an invoice, by the seller, for the goods purchased and for the same they even have a right to demand such invoice from the seller in case he refuses to issue it. However, this act of the consumers, by not demanding an invoice, is an absolute negligence in its entirety on their part. In such a situation, consumers simply sleeps over their statutory Right to demand an invoice and on legal grounds the consumers become the victims of the unfair trade practices, committed by some unscrupulous sellers.
This Right of the consumer to demand an invoice for the purchase of goods is protected under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. It is a legal right of the consumers. Section 2 (9) (ii) of this legislation defines the term ‘Consumer Rights’ and includes within its scope the right of the consumers to be informed about the quality, quantity, standard, price of the goods etc by the seller with an objective to protect consumers against ‘unfair trade practices’.
An Unfair trade practice is also defined in Section 2 (47) of this legislation and the same can be understood in simplified terms as an unfair or deceptive trade practice on the part of the seller of the goods through which he intends to unjustly absorb the benefits from the transaction made by the consumer and therefore not issuing or denying to issue an invoice of the goods sold to the customer is an unfair trade practice under the law. Receiving an invoice for the goods purchased by consumers is their legal Right and issuing the same is a legal duty of the seller of the goods.
It also needs to be noted that the seller must issue to the consumer an original invoice (Pakka bill) describing all the details in it, including the name of the shop from where the goods were purchased, the Invoice No., quantity and price of the goods purchased, the Maximum Retail Price for the product, taxes added etc. The GST number of the shop, usually reflected in the bill as GSTIN, should also be checked by the consumer. It is a unique 15 digits Goods and Services Tax Identification Number assigned to every person registered for GST. A proper stamp of the shop from where the goods are purchased also needs to be expressed in such an invoice. All these requirements should be vigilantly noted by the consumers in order to exercise their legal right under the law and also to protect themselves from any instances of fraud or deception.
The benefits of receiving an invoice from the seller for the goods purchased are numerous. Since an invoice acts as an evidence for the goods purchased by the consumer, the consumer gets the facility of proper servicing of such goods from the seller as well as gets a warranty attached to them. And in case such goods runs defective in future, the consumer has a right to approach the seller and can claim back the money entirely on the basis of the production of invoice of such goods. Apart from this, a consumer can also initiate a legal action against a seller for such defective goods, in case where the latter denies to refund the money to the former, solely on the ground of production of the invoice. Not only this, through the invoice a consumer can make sure that the seller has not sold the goods to him exceeding the Maximum Retail Price and if such an act has in fact been committed by the seller, the consumer can approach the consumer grievance forum for seeking redressal on production of the invoice. Thus, the nucleus of all the above analysis is an Invoice. Receiving an invoice from the seller is not only a right of consumers but their legal responsibility as well.
It needs to be understood that if a consumer fails to demand an invoice or does not receives the same, the seller absorbs all the taxes paid by the consumer on the goods at the time of checkout. Yes, it’s that serious. An invoice of goods purchased, apart from other details, reflects the taxes on those goods that are paid by the consumer to the government and it acts an evidence for the same. However, what happens when a seller does not gives an invoice to a consumer for the goods sold or gives a “Kaccha Bill” is that all the taxes paid by latter for the goods actually goes into the pocket of the former and thus there remains no evidence of consumer having purchased the goods neither of him paying any taxes to the government. So, this becomes an easy means of tax evasion by some unscrupulous sellers who indulge in such unfair trade practices. Therefore, consumers need to be extra vigilant in these cases in order to preserve his consumer rights as well as the government’s pocket.
If, however, in a situation where the seller denies to issue an invoice to the consumer thereby infringing his legal right, the law of the land protects such consumer from being a victim of an unfair trade practice by providing in unequivocal terms certain provisions for the same. The aggrieved consumer can file a complaint to the Central Consumer Protection Authority constituted under Section 10 of the Act against the unfair trade practice by the seller of the goods to seek redressal. Section 16 of this Act also empowers the District Collector, within his jurisdiction, to entertain the complaints of the consumers regarding violation of consumer rights. The aggrieved consumer also can move the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions for defending his rights. These commissions have been constituted on District, State and National levels under Sections 28, 42 and 53 respectively of the Act.
An online consumer complaint can also be lodged by consumers against such unfair trade practices. The National Consumer Helpline (NCH) is a portal, launched by the government of India through the Department of Consumer Affairs as an Integrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism, by which an aggrieved consumer can conveniently seek redressal of his violated consumer rights quickly by logging in to its website that is consumerhelpline.gov.in.
The consumers are, therefore, supposed to be acquainted with and must be in knowledge of their rights and it is only when they are vigilant of them that these rights can be entirely protected and preserved by law.
(The author is Lawyer and currently pursuing Masters in Law from University of Jammu)