|2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 1278
|DATE OF JUDGMENT
|7th August 2018
|National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC
|Idea Cellular Ltd. Lucknow
|Angad Kumar Gorakhpur
|HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE AKHTAR HUSAIN KHAN PRESIDENT HON’BLE MRS. Smt Balkumari MEMBER
A lawsuit was heard before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in New Delhi between Idea Cellular Ltd. and Mr. Angad Kumar. The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Uttar Pradesh issued a decision on May 19, 2017, and that ruling is the subject of the case known as Revision Petition No. 2551 of 2017.
FACTS OF THE CASE
In this case, between October 22, 2012, and November 24, 2012, the petitioner offered a group of qualified subscribers a challenge/scheme called “Tyoharaon Ki Saugat.” ‘Rightful owner/user of the pre-paid mobile connection of Idea, registered in UP telecom circle and in whose name the mobile connection is operational’ was a prerequisite for eligibility for the aforementioned challenge/scheme. The complainant claims that on November 30, 2012, he got a message on his mobile device informing him that the respondent had won an Alto car as a result of the aforementioned challenge/scheme. Additionally, the respondent claims that after contacting the petitioner’s office, they were not given an Alto Car. On April 6, 2013, the respondent filed Consumer Complaint No. 78/2013 with the District Forum in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, requesting an Alto car or its worth in addition to compensation of Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 5,000 for litigation costs.
The petitioner/OP refuted the complaint by claiming that, on the same date, an updated message was sent to this number and others, requesting that the original message be disregarded. Additionally, it was mentioned that the complainant was not authorised to make this complaint because the number was registered in Mr. Lal Bihari’s name rather than the complainant’s.
The District Forum did, however, accept the complaint and ordered the OP to pay the stated price of the Alto vehicle plus compensation of Rs. 5,000 plus Rs. 2,000 for the expense of litigation within a month. If this was not done, 6% annual interest would be due until the money was really paid.
- Despite the communication, Mr. Angad Kumar alleges confusion, questioning whether he received the promised prize from Idea Cellular.
- Idea Cellular argues whether Mr. Angad Kumar was the rightful owner/user of the mobile connection, asserting that it was registered in the name of Mr. Lal Bihari.
- The District Forum, and subsequently the State Commission, were involved in determining whether Idea Cellular was liable to fulfill the promised prize and compensate Mr. Angad Kumar for any mental trauma, harassment, or shattered expectations.
CONTENTIONS OF APPEALENT
- Learned counsel for the petitioner claimed that on November 30, 2012, the complainant received a message stating that they had won an Alto car. Later that day, a corrected message was sent to the complainant on the same number, along with other subscribers, advising them to disregard the earlier text message, which had been sent to multiple subscribers due to a manual error.
- He further added that Mr. Lal Bihari, the person who had completed the paperwork to obtain the connection, was the registered owner of the phone number on which the message was received at the time and was not registered in the complainant’s name. As a result, the complainant lacked standing to bring the case.
- He then stated that more subscribers who received the message filed complaints of a similar nature, some of which have already been rejected by the relevant fora. He has submitted copies of the decisions made by the District Forum, Mirzapur, on December 17, 2015, and May 1, 2016, respectively, in CC Nos. 22/2013 and 21 of 2013, in which the complaints were rejected.
- He stated that the District Forum in Mirzapur had noted the publication of the list of true winners and that the objections had been dropped in light of this information. There was only one Alto car awarded to the main winner, but since multiple complaints were filed at various locations and the list of actual winners had already been released with the car given to the winner, the OP cannot be ordered to provide an Alto car to every complainant who filed a similar complaint.
CONTENTIONS OF REPONDENT
- However, the respondent/complainant in person claimed that he was the one holding the connection in his name and that he had submitted the necessary paperwork to the District Forum, along with a receipt, to establish the connection. After submitting a written application and paying the necessary money, he was able to switch his pre-paid connection to a post-paid connection. He is now receiving monthly invoices in his name.
- He clarified that he was not a subscriber of the petitioner firm and that it is incorrect to claim that the connection was made in Lal Bihari’s name because Lal Bihari was called before the District Forum. He also denied owning a SIM card from the petitioner company. The petitioner has just created this narrative in order to refute the complainant’s assertion. The respondent/complainant further made it clear that he had not received a second communication and that the petitioner corporation had only now realised this. It wasn’t a situation where the complaint number was reached step by step to the final Alto Car award; rather, it was a series of events that culminated in the notification that they had won an Alto Car on November 30, 2012. He previously got a mail on November 7, 2012, regarding the Tyoharaon Ki Saugat Challenge/Scheme. This indicates that at least one of the rivals had the complainant’s number.
- Therefore, it was not surprising that the plaintiff won the reward. The petitioner corporation is unable to withdraw its decision to deny the complainant the reward money. The scope of the revision petition is rather limited since this Commission is unable to reevaluate the facts in light of the concurrent findings of facts provided by the two fora below. Both fora below have issued concurrent findings.
The District Forum’s ruling from 23.2.15, which modified the revision petition, is partially approved. Specifically, the petitioner/OP business would only be required to pay the complainant Rs.1,00,000/- (Rupees one lakh only) in lieu of the Alto car and its price. As a result, the State Commission’s contested order is likewise altered. If the money is not paid within 45 days of the order date, interest at the rate of 10% per year will be charged on the outstanding sum of Rs. 1,00,000 until it is paid in full. Additionally, the OP orders that the plaintiff be compensated for Rs. 5,000 in litigation costs.
- The case concerns a disagreement that resulted from Idea Cellular’s advertising challenge. Legal action was taken after the claimant, Angad Kumar, claimed he had not received the promised award.
- Cellular contended that a human error resulted in the sending of a correction message. A significant aspect in the lawsuit was the disparity in the communication.
- Angad Kumar was allegedly not the legitimate owner or user of the cellphone connection, according to Idea Cellular. The ownership disagreement made the situation more complicated.
- The first ruling gave the complaint the upper hand, ordering Idea Cellular to pay the additional damages and litigation expenses in addition to awarding the reward as agreed.
- While excluding a portion of the compensation, the State Commission supported most of the District Forum’s findings.
- The revision petition changed the compensation, recognising Angad Kumar’s emotional distress but substituting a monetary sum for the award.
- The case emphasises the need for businesses to provide honest and transparent communication while highlighting the legal ramifications of promotional issues.
- The Commission acknowledged the mental suffering brought on by the company’s carelessness, which emphasises the need of consumer protection in this ruling.
- A thorough review of the material was necessary due to the disagreement about who owned the mobile connection (locus standi), which further complicated the situation.
- The ruling may establish a standard for situations like this one, which include miscommunication in advertising efforts and disagreements over prize delivery.
- The Commission’s determination to grant damages and stipulate interest for postponed payments illustrates the legal ramifications for businesses who neglect their promotional obligations.
Understanding the legal viewpoint on consumer rights is crucial, especially in light of the recent landmark rulings on many sectors of our society following the passage of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the repeal of the thirty-year-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986. This kind of work is essential because it clarifies the fundamental legal concepts and policy concerns that have shaped this enormous body of legislation.
This Article is written by Amitabh Suman student of Bharatiya Vidyapeeth University, New Law College, Pune; Intern at Legal Vidhiya.
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