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Who Is A Consumer? An Analysis Of The Interpretation Adopted By Judiciary

This article explores the interpretations adopted by the judiciary towards the term "consumer". A person who is a consumer, in simple terms, is any person who buys goods for consideration. The term "any person", under the act of 2019, has been very widely interpreted, giving the term a very efficacious coverage[1]. The article intends to explore the varied interpretations adopted and summarize on the different kinds of computers under the existing legal framework.

It takes case laws ranging from those interpreting the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to the recent legislation of 2019. Consumer protection is a critical aspect of various sectors, like food, health, education, insurance policy, real estate, social media, tax, interaction with government, clients, in each these domains, consumers rely on products and services for their well-being and daily needs. Consumer protection in these sectors aim to empower consumers with information, rights, and remedies to make informed choices, address grievances, and promote fair and ethical business practices.

Consumer law, is an ever evolving filed of law. The purchase and sale of goods was initially governed under the Indian Contract Act, 1872. Then the Sale of Goods Act,1930 became a relatively specific legislation to govern the consumer transactions. The rights of the consumers were first given its statutory recognition through the Consumer Protection Act, of 1986.

But recently the court amended the same owing to the dynamic legal environment, to bring forth the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. Beyond such statutes, the judiciary has critically examined the impact of the term consumer in each sector. These precedents, also have a strong place in the legal mechanism. The term consumer, in itself, has a very wide interpretation adopted by the courts in order to ensure that no beneficiary's interests are not considered.

Commercial Purpose?

Section 2(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines a person who is a consumer. The instant section has carved an exception that the person who purchases goods/avails services for commercial purposes shall not be under the instant definition. But the explanation to the same provides that if such services are availed for earning a livelihood, then such individuals can be referred to as consumers.

A crucial aspect is the purpose for which the same is purchased, being for self-use or commercial purposes (goods were obtained for re-sale), such purchasers won't fall under the category of consumers. The Supreme Court, in a very contemporaneous judgment[2], settled the position on individuals, who purchase goods to earn their livelihood by of means self-employment as a consumer and such purchase won't constitute a commercial purpose.

From the primary sector to the tertiary sector, every landscape of sale and purchase, or every form of human behavior that has any exchange, has its interactions with consumer law. When a farmer, responds to a buy-back advertisement, of a seed company, then in such a scenario, can, the instant farmer, be referred to as a consumer?

The National Commission vide its order in Nandan Biomatrix Ltd. v. S. Ambika Devi and Ors.[3], observed that the tri-partite agreement, entered between the parties provides seeds (technical assistance) and guidance to the respondent farmer against the portion of the produce.

The Supreme Court observed that the respondent farmer, a housewife who undertook agricultural activity on the land was unaware of the profitable buyback price guaranteed by the appellant. Thus the buyback agreement, can't be regarded as a re-sale transaction or an agreement for commercial purposes.

Another crucial facet of goods includes the real-estate like that of land. The Hon'ble Supreme Court through the Faqir Chand Gulati vs Uppal Agencies Pvt. Ltd. & Anr[4], decided on the position of whether, a land owner, who enters into an agreement with a builder for the construction of an apartment building and shares the instant constructed area is a consumer? Additionally is a complaint by such land owner against eh service provider maintainable under the Consumer Protection Act,1986? The court observed that

if there is a breach by the landowner of his obligations, the builder will have to approach a civil court as the landowner is not providing any service to the builder but merely undertakes certain obligations towards the builder, breach of which would furnish a cause of action for specific performance and/or damages. On the other hand, where the builder commits breach of his obligations, the owner has two options.

He has the right to enforce specific performance and/or claim damages by approaching the civil court. Or he can approach the Forum under Consumer Protection Act, for relief as consumer, against the builder as a service- provider. Section 3 of the Act makes it clear that the remedy available under the Act is in addition to the normal remedy or other remedy that may be available to the complainant.

The year 2002, saw an amendment to the legal jurisprudence of the definition of the term consumer laws. Despite the same, landowners are still under the said definition and the principle in the Faqir Chand Case[5] was followed by the apex court in the Bunga Daniel Babu vs. M/s Sri Vasudeva Constructions[6].

The National commission, through Bhupendra Jang Bahadur Guna v. Regional Manager and Others[7] held that a tractor purchased primarily to till the land of the purchaser and let out on hire during the idle time to till the lands of others would not amount to commercial use.

The court in Sheetla Granite Daharra Kabrai through its Partner, Shri Shiv Vihala Shivhare Mohaba v. Dakshinanchal Vidhut Vitran Nigam Ltd. through its Executive Engineer[8], decided that, non-supply of electricity to a commercial entity, is considered to be a deficiency in service under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. In the present matter, electricity was taken from the OP to run the machine for crushing the rocks. The firm was run to procure profit. This prima facie shows that the Complainant was undertaking a commercial activity. Hence, court hold that the Complainant is not a 'consumer' as per the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Beneficiary Of Deceased Policy Holder, A Consumer?

The definition of consumer itself includes beneficiary of goods and services[9] K.B. Jayalax�mi v. Government of Tamil Nadu 1994(1) CPR 114.

The State Commission in Andra Pradesh, through the case of A Narasamma v. LIC of India, decided on whether the widow of a deceased policy holder was a consumer under the act. The instant issue was decided affirmatively, by the state commission in Andra Pradesh. It further held that the term 'consumer' included any beneficiary of service apart from

Are Shareholders Consumers?

The Supreme Court ruled in Morgan Stanley Mutual Fund v. Kartik Das (1994) 3 CLJ 27[10] that an application for the allotment of shares cannot be considered a product. Following allocation, rights may emerge in accordance with the company's articles of organization. Again, the buyer cannot be referred to as the hirer of services for consideration at this point in the application process because there is no purchase of commodities for consideration.

The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission through the Baidyanath Mondal v. Kanahaya Lal Rathi, 2022 SCC OnLine NCDRC 62[11], decided on 29-4-2022, gave an elaborate decision on whether the complainant would be a consumer since the consumer was investing money in the share market in order to earn his livelihood.

C. Viswanathan, the presiding member of the commission, the complainant was not investing the money on the stock market exclusively for earning his livelihood, hence the complainant didn't fall under the category of the definition of consumer. The decision of the Morgan Stanley Mutual Funds case was also cited in the instant case. The interpretation of section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, of 1986 was elaborately touched upon.

Health Sector

Heath is something without which there is no other active sector given all other sectors such as medical, consumer, fashion industry and everything is depending on Health. Considering the ongoing era where every other industry is moving at a pace that is developing at an international standard there is a basic expectation that every other consumer related industry also inevitably move at the same pace.

There is also increasing trend in term of how this sector also contributes to the economy given the spend correlates to the lifestyle of the people. The benefit of the health sector is also that we get to connect with people much closer compared to every other connected industry. This not only creates a positive impact on their life but also creates a satisfactory and positive impact on the people who work in the industry as it helps to support the society whilst also pursuing their goals in serving people along side earning their required income.

Physical abilities of people to survive in this social world is as important as their ability to operate in the society with a purpose and make it more meaningful to live a health life. Researches have confirmed based on the quote in one of the famous journal "The Lancet" in 2009 defined health as the body's ability to adapt to new threats and infirmities. They base this definition on the idea that modern science has made significant advances in disease awareness over the last few decades by understanding how diseases work, discovering new ways to slow or stop them, and acknowledging that an absence of pathology may not be possible.

The current economy and the trend focuses equally well in terms of well being of individual and this is not restricted to physical well being but also social, emotional and financial well being. Psychological well being ensures active life style and this is as important as the physical well being. In fact, moving into a satisfactory state on emotional well being is much of a difficult journey than physical health as this is a lot dependent on individual's state of mind than just the tools and expertise available in the health sector.

Physical activities help to improve the brain health, decreases the risk of failure of a human due to inability of the organs to operate actively. The art of physical and emotional stability lies in the individual's lifestyle and their ability to make best use of the health sector and also aware ness of what benefits the consumer protection gives them. It is very important to bring in small changes in the lifestyle of people for long term health benefits.

It is therefore important for people to have access to the best possible options in the health care sector. This now leads us to what the consumer protection act has in in for us. A major change has been brought in the form of Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The health sector has been brought under the purview of this act since 1995. This Act expanded the definition of consumer to include all the patients who make payments for accessing health care services.

Judicial Analysis
Indian Medical Association Vs. V.P. Shantha and Others AIR 1996 SC 550
It is a landmark judgment concerning medical negligence and consumer rights.

  • Whether medical services provided by doctors and hospitals could be considered as services under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?

Judgement: The Supreme Court of India held that medical services provided by the doctors and hospitals do fall under the definition of services as per the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Therefore, the patients who receive medical treatment can be considered consumers and have the right to seek redressal under the Consumer Protection laws if they experience negligence.[12]

Yashumati Devi Vs. Christian Medical College Vellore MANU/CF/0394/2020
In this case, the appellant's husband, who was 58 years old, had a history of pain in his left arm. In 2009, he went to the hospital's outpatient department as he was experiencing pain in his left arm when he exerted himself. After some tests, doctors founded that he had coronary artery disease which is called CAD in short. It is a condition where it affects the blood vessels that supply the heart.

The hospital gave him some doses of Herapin, a medication used to prevent blood clots. But unfortunately, they did not properly monitor his condition well while he was on this medication. Even when he complained of bleeding and feeling disoriented, the hospital staff ignored his requests for help. Then later, the patient had a stroke, which is a serious medical emergency. He urgently needed a CT scan to assess the extent of the damage caused by the stroke. However, the hospital refused to do the CT scan for over three hours, despite the fact that the patient had already pain Rs. 1,50,000 in advance.

  • Whether this was a case of medical negligence and was the wife of the patient entitled to compensation?
The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) granted compensation of Rs. 25,00,000 to the appellant because they believed that while a hospital has the right to ask for payment, the main responsibility is to take care of patients in emergencies. Here, in this case, the court found that there was a serious need for the patient's brain CT scan, but the hospital delayed it for more than three hours just because they were waiting for a payment receipt of Rs. 1,850 for the procedure.

This delay showed clear negligence and lack of proper care. The Supreme Court awarded Rs. 10,00,000 as compensation in a medical negligence case not just to compensate for the harm caused but also to send a strong message to medical practitioners. This remind the medical professionals of their duty to prioritize patient care and act promptly in emergency situations, rather than focusing solely on financial matters[13]

Shoda Devi Vs. DDU/ Ripon Hospital Shimla AIR 2019 SC 2965
The appellant, Shoda Devi went to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital with abdomen pain and menstrual problems. After an examination, she was diagnosed with fibroids and endometrial hyperplasia. The doctors recommended a minor operation called Fractional Curettage.

During this procedure, a para medical staff member injected Phenergan and fortwin directly into her right arm. However, she experienced severe pain throughout the surgery, and despite informing the doctors and staff, they did not take any action to alleviate her discomfort. Due to complications from the injection, her arm became critically damaged. Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital could not handle the situation, she was transferred to Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital (IGMCH) in a taxi arranged by her husband.

At Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, she received an urgent treatment but was diagnosed with acute arterial occlusion caused by the injection. As a result, her right arm had to be amputated above the elbow. Shoda Devi filed a complaint seeking compensation for her loss and suffering. The state commission initially ruled that there was no medical negligence but ordered Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital to make a payment of Rs. 2,93,526 as a goodwill gesture.

Shoda Devi, then appealed to the national commission, which increased the compensation to Rs. 2,00,000. Now, Shoda Devi has approached the supreme court seeking further compensation due to the disability and loss she suffered because of the hospital's negligence, which led to the amutation of her right arm above the elbow. She is asking the supreme court to review the case and increase the compensation amount accordingly.

  • Whether the amount so awarded to appellant was that of just and reasonable compensation?

Judgement: The supreme court decided to increase the compensation amount to Rs. 10,00,000 on top of what was awarded by the state commission and national commission. They directed the hospital to pay this amount within three months, if they fail to do so, they will have to pay additional interest at a rate of 6% per annum on the enhanced compensation amount. The supreme court explained that they increased the compensation significantly for 2 main reasons. Firstly, to provide some relief and support to Shoda Devi, who suffered greatly due to the loss of her right arm. And secondly, to send a strong message to health care professionals that they must be equally responsive and diligent in caring for all patients, regardless of their background or circumstances.[14]

Arun Kumar Mangli Vs. Chirayu Health and Medicare Private Ltd MANU/SC/0202/2019
The issue in this case was whether a charge of medical negligence exists from the fact that there was failure of the hospital to regularly monitor the blood parameters of the patient during the course of the day?

Judgement: The supreme court referred to the case Kusum Sharma Vs. Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre, emphasized that doctors have a duty to provide medical care with a reasonable level of skill and knowledge. In this case, the doctors failed to meet his standard by not allowing medical guidelines, which are essential for providing proper care. This failure to meet the expected standard of care was considered medical negligence.

However, the supreme court cleared the director of the hospital from any responsibility, stating that the director was not directly involved in the treatment. Regarding compensation, the court acknowledged the significant contribution of a non working spouse, like Madhu Manglik, to the family's well being. Even though Madhu was not employed, her contributions were deemed valuable and measurable in monetary terms. The court awarded compensation of Rs. 15,00,000 to the appellant for the loss of his spouse due to medical negligence. The doctor is responsible for the actions of their team members who assist in providing treatments to patients.[15]

Lilavati Kirthilal Mehta Medical Trust Vs. Unique Shanti Developers & Ors MANU/SC/1574/2019
Unique Shanti Developers built two buildings named Madhuvan with thirty two 1 BHK flats each. Lilavati medical trust took possession of 29 flats from Madhuvan to use them as hostels for their nurses. They signed agreements for each flat and paid the full amount. The architect certified that the buildings were completed, and the flats were used as hostels. However, within 2 to 3 years, the buildings deteriorated due to poor quality, and the trust had to vacate the flats. Lilavati trust then filed a complaint with the national commission seeking compensation.

The national commission rejected the complaint, stating that the trust was not considered a consumer under the consumer protection act of 1986 because they obtained the flats for a commercial purpose to provide hostel facilities for their nurses, who are employed to work at the hospital. Since the hostel facilities were directly related to the hospital's commercial operations and were part of the nurse's compensation for their work, the trust did not qualify as a consumer under the consumer protection act of 1986 act. This led to the appeal at hand.

  • Whether a transaction carried out by the Lilavati is for a commercial purpose and whether it would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case?
Judgement: The supreme court in allowing the appeal, clarified that a rigid formula cannot be applied in every case to determine whether an activity is for a commercial purpose. Hence, they outlined some general principles. Commercial purpose refers to the activities like manufacturing, industrial work, or activities between businesses. The purchase of goods and services should be closely linked to activities that generate profit. The person making the purchase does not determine if it is for a commercial purpose. If the main reason for purchasing the goods or services is personal, or if it is not related to any commercial activity, then it does not need to be considered as being for the purpose of generating livelihood through self-employment.[16]

Pankaj Toprani and Others Vs. Bombay Hospital and Research MANU/CF/0431/2019
Ranjit Toprani underwent surgery for Carcinoma of the Sigmoid Colon performed by Dr. PB Desai. Unfortunately, he passed away during the complaint process. After the surgery, Dr. Desai informed the family that the operation went well and that Ranjit would be moved to the regular ward. However, he was instead taken to the post operative ICU on the third floor without their knowledge.

While the family waited outside the Intensive Care Unit, they suddenly heard commotion inside and saw Ranjit having convulsions, needing help to breathe. The attending doctor explained that Ranjit had a Bradycardia Attack and had to be resuscitated using a ventilator. Dr Wagle, another doctor, was unavailable for 2 and a half hours during which Ranjit remained on the ventilator. Eventually, he was transferred to the ICU on the 12th floor.

Despite efforts, Ranjit never regained consciousness and stayed in the hospital for 8 months before being taken home in a coma. The family filed an appeal challenging the state consumer disputes redressal commissions decision that rejected claims of negligence against the hospital and doctors involved.

  • Whether the duty of doctor ends with the surgery?
The national consumer disputes redressal commission referred to a supreme court judgment and defined the duties of a medical professional, stating that they owe a duty of care in deciding whether to take a case, what treatment to provide, and how to administer that treatment. If any of these duties are breached, it can lead to a claim of negligence by the patient. In this case, National consumer disputes redressal commission found that negligence in the treatment provided to the patient.

They highlighted issues such as the improper transfer of the patient from one ICU to another, they explained cause of Bradycardia, and the lack of detailed medical records for a specific time period in the ICU. As a result, they set aside the state commission's order and awarded compensation of Rs. 30 Lakhs to be paid by the hospital for medical expenses and the family's mental anguish. Additionally, the doctors involved were asked to jointly and severally pay costs of Rs. 1 Lakhs as the duty of care does not end with the surgery itself.[17]

Transportation & Consumer Law

Passengers travelling by trains on payment of the stipulated fare charged for the ticket are consumers' and the facility of transportation by rail provided by the railway administration is a 'service' rendered for consideration as defined in the Act Subscribers of telephones would also be 'consumer' under the Act.

As per the Section. 2(1)(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the word 'service ' includes provision of facilities in connection with transport. Accordingly, consumer grievances with the airlines can be brought under the purview of the Section. 2(1)(g) of the Act of 1986, which deals with deficiency of services.

Transactions With The Public Sector

An individual had presented a document, claiming the same to be a will to the sub-registrar, in order to register it. The sub-registrar sent the same to the collector of stamps to take the necessary action. This matter remained undecided for about 6 years. The individual had filed a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act, on the harassment by the sub-registrar and collector and prayed for compensation to the Hon'ble court.

National Commission in S.P.Goel v. Collector of Stamps[18], opined that the person in the instant case wouldn't be a consumer, and thus wouldn't be governed under the Consumer Protection Act. This is because there was no hiring of services by the complainant for consideration and because a Government official doing his duty as a functionary of the State under the law could not be said to be rendering a service to the complainant.

The court in Union of India v. Mrs. S. Prakash[19], has held that the person who is a subscriber of a telephone is a consumer as the rental charges, that are paid to the Central Government is the consideration for the services rendered by the Tele-Communication Department. Therefore, the Consumer Forum has full jurisdiction to entertain complaints in this regard.

Is A Tax Payer, A Consumer?

Since every individual pays taxes to the state, that doesn't make them a consumer. The Direct or indirect taxes paid to the state by a citizen are not for the services rendered by the state to them, as noted by the court in Mayor, Calcut�ta Municipal Corporation v. Tarapada Chatterjee[20]. ( A water dispute raised as a consumer dispute was considered to be erred and to be made by the corporation out of its statutory duty) .

The question that emerged in Sri A. Srinivasa Murthy v. Chairman[21], Bangalore Development Authority was whether a tax payer might be regarded as a customer with regard to a certain service provided by an authority. In this instance, the complainant filed a lawsuit against the BDA, alleging that the latter neglected to address the threat posed by stray dogs, and sought damages for a dog bite. The complainant also paid house tax and the health cess. The Karnataka SCDRC in Bangalore held that the complainant is not a customer as defined by Section 2(7)(ii) of the Act and that there is no quid pro quo between the tax paid and the general duty of the Bangalore Development Authority. As a result, the case must be rejected.

A person who uses a sterilization facility that is provided at no cost to them and receives incentive payments from those who use it is not considered a consumer. Therefore, in this instance, no complaint may be filed.

Can A Trust Be Considered As A Consumer?

Hence, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court of India. The issue in the instant case, Pratibha Pratisthan and Ors. v. Manager, Canara Bank and Ors[23], is:
  • Whether complaint can be filed by Trust under provisions of Consumer Protection Act 1986?
The court on a plain and simple reading of all the above provisions of the Act observed that a Trust is not a person and therefore not a consumer. Consequently, it cannot be a Complainant and cannot file a consumer dispute under the provisions of the Act. Thus, the National Commission was quite right in holding that the complaint filed by the Appellant Trust was not maintainable.

In Parveen Sharma v. Anne Heart And Medical Centre And Others[24], the complainant was declared successful, in his written examination, alongside of which he qualified his physical test for the post of sub-inspector. But, the medical examination proved the complainant to be medically unfit. He approached PGIMER and got echocardiography test done and as per report there was no hole in the heart.

The commission in the instant case, faced the crucial question of whether the complainant was a consumer under the definition of the act of 1986. The Commission held that the Complainant was not a consumer under the definition of the consumer in Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The counsel for the Opposite Party 3 argued that the services were provided free of cost hence he does not fall within the purview of 'consumer'. Further the Complainant could not provide proof for the charges if any he had paid. As the Complainant could not provide the report of Review Medical Board to the commission hence, I cannot be inferred that any wrong report was given by Opposite Party no. 1 and 2. Hence the commission upheld the decision of state commission."

Real Estate & Consumer Law

The Supreme Court through CCI Project (P) Ltd. v. Vrajendra Jogjivandas Thakkar[25], answered , "Whether beneficiary on transfer of allotment of flat is a consumer under Consumer Protection Act, 1986". The parties' transfers were within the family, according to the Supreme Court's ruling. It further described that the appellant, in the given matter had been entitled to a six-month delay owing to the required obligation to resubmit the plan, alongside obtaining a new NOC regarding the fire safety clearance, and it was noted that there was not a total prohibition on sand mining.

The Supreme Court upheld the National Commission's decision regarding directions Nos. 1, 2, and 4, taking the case as a whole. About direction No. 3, the Appellant has to give the Respondent a bulk payment of Rs. 5 lakhs for each case.

The court through M/s M3M India Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. v. Dr. Dinesh Sharma & Anr[26], answered on the issue of whether proceedings under the CPA could be commenced by home buyers against developers, after the commencement of RERA.

The court was of the view that judgment Pioneer Urban Land v. Union of India[27] (2019 SCCOnline SC 1005) was binding on the high court with regard to the issue in question in as much. Though it had been correctly pointed out by the Respondent that the litigation before the Supreme Court principally raised the question of remedies under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code ( hereinafter referred to as IBC) & Real Estate Regulation Authority (( hereinafter referred to as 'RERA), the issues from the Consumer Protection Act proceedings were also brought to the attention of the Court. In fact, it had recorded that

"Remedies that are given to allottees of flats/apartments are therefore concurrent remedies and connected matters such allottees of flats/apartments being in a position to avail of remedies under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, RERA as well as the triggering of the Code."

While examining the operation of remedies under RERA and IBC, the Supreme Court had drawn on Section 71(1) as another illustration that the remedies under RERA were not intended to be exclusive, but to run parallel with other remedies. The citing of an example could not lead to the conclusion that the Court intended to reach a conclusion only with regard to pending CPA complaints and not ones instituted in the future. Thereby the court concluded with the following,

"remedies available to the respondents herein under CPA and RERA are concurrent, and there is no ground for interference with the view taken by the National Commission in these matters."

E Commerce Sector

E-commerce supply chain manage the flow of goods resources among different entities from the supply of raw materials to the delivery of finished products to the buyers. It refers to the buying and selling of products and services through online but e-commerce goes away beyond the simple buying and selling, of goods and service and much wider range of business processes, such as supply chain management, electronic order processing and customer relationship management.

E-commerce and E-Business is used interchangeably in its broader meaning just as commerce and business. It allows customers to shop from anywhere at any time, without the need to visit physical shops. This is very beneficially especially for busy individuals or the people with mobility issues. It also enables businesses to reach a global audience, by breaking down the geographical barriers and expanding their customer base beyond the local markets.

It often have a lower overhead costs compared to brick and mortar shops. They can save on expenses such as rent, utilities, and staffing, allowing them to offer competitive prices to the customers. It has accessible 24/7 providing customers with uninterrupted access to products and services. It increases sales opportunities and customer satisfaction. One of the major drawbacks of this is that it lacks personal interaction between customers and sales representatives. This can lead to challenges in providing personalized customer service and addressing customer inquires promptly.

Judicial Analysis
HDFC Bank Limited & Ors. V. Hemant Narayan Devande MANU/CF/0193
Mr. Hemant Narayan Devande had a bank account and a credit card issued by HDFC Bank Ltd. On 14th March of 2014, there was a fraudulent transaction of Rs. 26,998 made from his credit card through the amazon seller website. The bank then notified Mr. Hemant Narayan Devande about the transaction, but he disputed it, stating that he did not make the payment and sent a complaint to the bank.

An internal inquiry by HDFC Bank revealed that the transaction was done using a secure login and password only to the cardholder. Despite Mr. Hemant Narayan Devande not paying the amount when he received the credit card bill, HDFC Bank recovered Rs. 41,656.46 including principal, interest, and penalty from Mr. Devande's other account without his permission. Feeling aggrieved by this action, Mr. Hemant Narayan Devande filed a consumer complaint against HDFC Bank with the district forum in Pune.

The forum ruled in Mr. Hemant Devande's favor, directing the HDFC Bank to pay him Rs. 41,656.46 and an additional Rs. 10,000 for harassment and costs. HDFC Bank appealed this decision at the state commission, but the appeal was dismissed. Consequently, HDFC Bank filed a revision petition before the National Commission to challenge the District Forum's decision.

Judgement: The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission observed that the complainant's denial of the transaction during the phone call should have alerted the petitioner bank that the transaction was disputed. In such a situation, the bank should have stopped the payment. The NCDRC questioned why the bank bothered to verify the transaction over the phone if they were going to authorize the payment anyway.

Additionally, the bank should have conducted further inquiry, such as checking with amazon about the purchased item and delivery address, to investigate the deceitful payment. Due to these lapses in the bank's handling of the situation, the NCDRC found a deficiency in service on the part of the bank. As a result, the order of the district forum, which directed the bank to pay the complaint Rs. 41,656.46 along with Rs. 10,000 for harassment and costs, was upheld by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.[28]

Spicejet Limited V. Ranju Aery MANU/SCOR/30743/2017
This case talks about whether an online purchaser can sue in consumer forums

In this case, Ranju Aery booked air tickets for herself and her family from Kolkata to New Delhi through the website She paid Rs. 70,900 using her debit card to SpiceJet Ltd., the airline company. However, when they reached the Kolkata airport for their flight, they found out that the flight was cancelled without any alternative arrangements provided by SpiceJet.

As a result, Ranju had to purchase tickets for another flight operated by Jet Airways, costing Rs. 80,885 for five tickets. Later, Ranju filed a consumer complaint seeking a refund of Rs. 20,000 for the cancelled flight, reimbursement of Rs. 80,885 for the alternative flight, compensation of Rs. 1.5 lakhs for mental harassment, and Rs. 22,000 for litigation charges.

The direct forum ruled in Ranju's favor, directing SpiceJet to refund Rs. 80,885 with interest and also awarded compensation and litigation costs. SpiceJet appealed this order, arguing that the forum did not have jurisdiction since their main business locations is in Gurugram. They cited section 11 of the consumer protection act, which states that a consumer complaint should be filed where the defendant resides or carries out business or where the cause of action arises. Issue: Whether an online consumer be allowed to sue anywhere?

Judgement: The national consumer disputes redressal commission did not agree with the airline company's argument regarding jurisdiction and found the company guilty of providing deficient service for cancelling the flight without a valid reason. The airline appealed this decision to the supreme court.

The supreme court ruled that consumers who make purchases online through websites have the right to file a consumer complaint with any consumer court if they experience deficient services. This means that if a consumer faces issues or problems with products or services bought online, they can approach any consumer court for redressal, regardless of where the company is located.[29]

Are Lawyers Offering Service?

The growth of consumerism and consumer protections is much known through the Indian Medical Association v. VP Shanta[30]. With bringing medical practitioners under the broad ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, of 1986, the judgment did provoke new questions like that of "whether other professional practitioners like lawyers could be brought under the umbrella of the Consumer Protection Act?".

The Madras High Court answered this interesting question through its decision in Srimathi v. Union of India[31] , which held that the consumer forums have the jurisdiction to deal with claims against the advocates. The High Court referred to the stamen of the object and reasons for the CPA and observed as follows:

"We are unable to find anything in the statement of objects and reasons which runs counter to the provisions of section 3 of the Act. What section 3 of the Act says is that "the provisions of the Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law." In other words, the Act does not have the effect of overriding other enactments with reference to matters dealt with in the Act. The section only provides that it will be open to any person to claim the benefits of this Act and also avail himself of the provisions of other enactments if there is no inconsistency of conflict and if he is not barred otherwise, by any other principles of law, like estoppels or election."

But the apex Court through, judicial interpretations has over time led to a conclusion that the professional accountability of the advocates will be fixed independent of the Consumer Protection Act.

However, the link between the customer and the service provider must be established in order to invoke the Consumer Forum's authority[32]. Attorneys are paid for their services, and a customer who retains an attorney is referred to as a consumer. However, under the CPA, a lawyer is only liable for any service deficiencies that he performs. The substantive law pertaining to negligence remains unaltered.

Does The Consumer Court Have The Jurisdiction To Decide The Legitimacy Of Statutory Dues?

The Supreme Court through its decision in Urban Planning and Development Authority and Ors. v. Vidya Chetal and Ors[33]., observed on the primary issue of whether the consumer forum had the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the legality of the demand of composition fee and extension fee made by HUDA, as same being statutory obligation, does not qualify as a deficiency in service. Such statutory dues might be charged as a 'quid pro quo' for a privilege conferred or for a service rendered by the authority. There were exactions which were for the common burden, like taxes, there were dues for a specific purpose, like cess, and there were dues in lieu of a specific service rendered.

Therefore, it was clear from the above discussion that not all statutory dues/ exactions were amenable to the jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum, rather only those exactions which were exacted for a service rendered would be amenable to the jurisdiction of the Consumer Forum.

Is The Development Of Software For A Software Company, A Good?

The Hon'ble Supreme Court, through Birla Technologies Limited v. Neutral Glass and Allied Industries Limited[34], such developments of software for a company amounts to 'goods' and that such goods are purchased for the commercial purpose of earning more profits. The decision seems to be in line with the strict interpretation of the statue.

Education Sector

The Constitution (eighty sixth amendment) Act, 2002 introduced Article 21A into the Indian Constitution, establishing the fundamental right to education for all the children that are between the age of 6 to 14 years. Education is highly valued by everyone, and hence, spending on education is a priority.

According to the 7th All India School Education Survey, there were 12.29 crore students enrolled in primary education, 2.18 crore students in secondary education, and 1.14 crore students in higher secondary education. In terms of infrastructure, India has approximately 15.22 lakh schools, 799 Universities, and 11,923 standalone higher education institutions.

In relation to personnel, there are about 58.16 lakh teachers at the primary school level and 21.27 lakh teachers at the secondary school level. According to the 68th NSSO Report, rural households spend around 3.5% of their monthly personal consumption expenditure on primary education per person month, while urban households spend about 7%. It is crucial to address consumer grievances related to delay in proving high quality study materials, shortage of qualified faculty or inadequate study materials, challenges in conducting exams fairly and efficiently, failure to provide certificates, report cards, etc., not following the prescribed curriculum or guidelines set by regulatory bodies like the UGC.

The ministry of human resource development oversees the development of human resources in India through education. It operates through two main departments i.e. the department of school education and literacy and the department of higher education. The department of school education and literacy focuses on primary and secondary education, including policies, curriculum development, and literacy programs.

The department of higher education is responsible for overseeing universities, colleges, and higher education institution. It works to maintain educational standards, promote research, and improve the quality of higher education across the country. Additionally, the University Grants Commission (UGC) was established by the University Grants Commission Act, 1956.

The main aim of UGC is to ensure and promote educational standards in India's universities and colleges. It provides fundings, sets guidelines, and monitors the quality of education to enhance the overall educational experience for students.

Judicial Analysis
Rithvik K.R. V. Union of India MANU/KA/1765/2015
This case talks about the deficiency in admission process. In this case, 4 students applied for admission to KIMS under the management quota for the MBBS course for the academic year of 2014 to 2015. They paid fees and donations totaling approximately 8 lakhs. Additionally, one student's father signed an undertaking stating that the admission was provisional and subject to approval from RGUHS Or MCI, and that the college would not be responsible if the approval was not granted. Later, three of these students were discharged from the college because their admission exceeded the college's capacity. However, the college discharged them after the deadline for admissions had passes for that academic year.

  • Whether there was a deficiency in service by the college authorities admission process?
Judgement: The court criticized the college for obtaining undertakings from parents and accepting large donations, ordering the medical council of India and the Central Government to address this issue seriously. They were instructed to enhance transparency in the admission process, particularly for management quota, by adopting more technology-based methods. Additionally, the high court rebuked the college for not discharging students with illegal admissions and failing to refund their dees before the admission deadline. This negligence led to the students losing an academic year and facing unnecessary legal battles, causing immense mental distress. As a result, the High Court directed the college to compensate each of the three affected students with Rs. 1 crore and refund the amount they paid for the admission.[35]

Bihar School Examination Board V. Suresh Prasad Sinha MANU/SC/1605/2009
In this case, the definition of commercial activity under the consumer protection act, 1986 has been discussed. Here, the appellant board did not publish the result of the respondent's son in the senior secondary examination. Consequently, the respondent's son had to re appear for the examination and lost one year. Seeking compensation, the respondent filed a consumer complaint with the district forum in Patna, which ordered compensation. The appellant board's subsequent appeals to the state commission and national commission were also dismissed. Therefore, the appellant filed an appeal to the supreme court through special leave under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution, seeking relief.

  • Whether a statutory school examination board comes within the purview of consumer protection act?
Judgment: The Supreme Court clarified that while the consumer protection Act covers services provided for payment, it does not apply to the process of conducting exams and issuing results or certificates. These are considered statutory fucntions rather than commercial services. Even if there are errors in these processes, they do not turn the exam board into a service provider, nor do they make students consumers under the Act. The fees paid for exams are not for availing a service, so complaints about exam related issues cannot be entertained under consumer laws. Hence, the court ruled that the complaints against the exam board were not valid, and the earlier decisions of the consumer Fora were overturned in favor of the appellant board.[36]

Davinder Brar & Others V. Ravleen Kaur MANU/CF/0670/2019
This case basically talks about non issuance of transfer certificate on time amounts to deficiency in service. In this case, Ms. Ravleen Kaur, a former student of Doon Valley International Public School, requested a Transfer Certificate from the school but did not receive it promptly. As a result, she faced the loss of one academic year. She filed a complaint with the district forum seeking compensation for the damages caused by the school's delay in issuing the transfer certificate. However, the district forum dismissed her complaint. Ms. Ravleen Kaur then appealed to the state commission, and the state commission ruled in her favor, allowing her appeal.

  • Whether non issuance of transfer certificate on time amount to deficiency in service?

Judgement: The national consumer disputes redressal commission agreed with the state commission's findings regarding the school's failure to issue a transfer certificate on time. The NCDRC emphasized that school authorities should handle such requests responsibly and promptly, as these certificates are crucial for students' careers. The delay in issuing the certificate was considered a deficiency in service and an unfair trade practice by the school.

The NCDRC also noted that the student approached the authorities for the certificate before filing the consumer complaint, and the school could have resolved the issue by promptly issuing the certificate. The argument that the student was academically poor did not justify withholding the Transfer Certificate, as it should accurately reflect the student's status without any misrepresentation. Since the school acted in an obstinate manner without justification, the NCDRC upheld the State Commission's decision to award compensation of Rs.50,000 to the student along with litigation costs.[37]

Social Media, A Service?

Under the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 (CPA), influencers who promote their own or third-party investment products and services may be considered to be offering a "service." False and deceptive advertisements are prohibited under the CPA and its rules and regulations. In addition, the CPA recently released the "Endorsements Know-Hows[38]! - for celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers on social media platforms" (Endorsements Guide), which aims to stop deceptive ads on social media platforms run by these individuals. The Endorsements Guide is intended for celebrities and other online influencers who promote a range of goods and services when there is a tangible relationship between them and the companies that are advertising them.

The act is going to have dynamic interpretations specific to every sector. Judicial interpretation has also played a crucial role, as these precedents are also a source of law and thus have an important impact on the amendments. It will be relevant, if a cumulative definition, is provided, to bring an ease in understanding the term consumer. But, this flexible nature of the statue goes a long way, as it helps in ensuring the benefit of the people at large.

  • Landmark Judgements On Consumer Law And Practice 2008-2020, Prof. (Dr.) Ashok R. Patil, Published By: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India, New Delhi & Chair on Consumer Law and Practice, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, Karnataka, 2021
  • Law of torts, Dr. R.K. Bangia, Allahabad Law Agency, 26th Edition
  • Consumer Protection - LAW AND PRACTISE Section II- on Consumer Protection Law.pdf
  • Division Two - Commentary On Consumer Protection Act -
  • Consumer Protection Act, 1986
  • Consumer Protection Act, 2019
  1. Consumer Protection Act, 2019, Section 2(31) of the act
  2. Punjab University V. Unit Trust of India and Ors, (2015) 2 SCC 669
  3. Nandan Biomatrix Ltd. v. S. Ambika Devi and Ors, AIR 2020 S.C. 3136
  4. Faqir Chand Gulati vs Uppal Agencies Pvt. Ltd. & Anr, (2008) 10 SCC 345
  5. Bunga Daniel Babu vs. M/s Sri Vasudeva Constructions
  6. Bhupendra Jang Bahadur Guna v. Regional Manager and Others, (II 1995 CPJ 139)
  7. Sheetla Granite Daharra Kabrai through its Partner, Shri Shiv Vihala Shivhare Mohaba v. Dakshinanchal Vidhut Vitran Nigam Ltd. through its Executive Engineer, 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 75.
  8. K.B. Jayalax�mi v. Government of Tamil Nadu 1994(1) CPR 114.
  9. Morgan Stanley Mutual Fund v. Kartik Das (1994) 3 CLJ 27
  10. Baidyanath Mondal v. Kanahaya Lal Rathi, 2022 SCC OnLine NCDRC 62
  11. Indian Medical Association Vs. V.P.Shanta & Ors AIR 1996 SC 550
  12. Yashumathi Devi Vs. Christian Medical College Vellore MANU/CF/0394/2020
  13. Shoda Devi Vs. DDU Ripon Hospital Shimla AIR 2019 SC 2965
  14. Arun Kumar Mangli Vs. Chirayu Health & Medicare Pvt Ltd MANU/SC/0202/2019
  15. Lilavati Kirthilal Mehta Medical Trust Vs. Unique Shanti Developers & Ors MANU/SC/1574/2019
  16. Pankaj Toprani and Others Vs. Bombay Hospital and Research MANU/CF/0431/2019
  17. S.P. Goel v. Collector of Stamps (1995) III CPR 684 (SC)
  18. Union of India v. Mrs. S. Prakash, 1991 (1) C.P.R. 307.
  19. Mayor, Calcut�ta Municipal Corporation v. Tarapada Chatterjee (1994) 1 CPR 87 (NCDRC).
  20. Sri A. Srinivasa Murthy v. Chairman , WRIT APPEAL NO. 142 OF 2022 (S-RES)
  21. CDR V Joshna v The D G Air Force Naval Housing Board 1991 (2) CPJ 371
  22. Pratibha Pratisthan and Ors. v. Manager, Canara Bank and Ors, AIR 2017 SC 1303
  23. Parveen Sharma v. Anne Heart And Medical Centre And Others, 2015 SCC OnLine NCDRC 1190
  24. CCI Project (P) Ltd. v. Vrajendra Jogjivandas Thakkar, 2018 SCC Online SC 2564.
  25. CM (M) 1244/2019 Delhi HC.
  26. Pioneer Urban Land v. Union of India (2019 SCCOnline SC 1005)
  27. HDFC Bank Limited & Ors. V. Hemant Narayan Devande MANU/CF/0193
  28. Spicejet Limited V. Ranju Aery MANU/SCOR/30743/2017
  29. Indian Medical Association v. VP Shanta
  30. Indian Medical Association v. VP Shanta, (1997) 5 CTJ 99
  31. Ramesh Chandra Verma v. Chairman, District Forum Dholpur, II 2004 CPJ 14 (Raj. SCDRC)
  32. AIR 2019 SC 4357.
  33. (2011) 1 SCC 525.
  34. Rithvik K.R. V. Union of India MANU/KA/1765/2015
  35. Bihar School Examination Board V. Suresh Prasad Sinha MANU/SC/1605/2009
  36. Davinder Brar & Others V. Ravleen Kaur MANU/CF/0670/2019

Written By:
  1. R.Shreya &
  2. Pooja Padmanabhan

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