The Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Chennai partially allowed a complaint made by an individual against the distributor that supplied defective tiles for the complainant's house. The Commission directed the distributor to replace the defective tiles or pay the cost of the tiles along with compensation for the deficiency in service and mental agony caused to the complainant. The complaint was filed under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and the distributor had raised the contention that the manufacturer had not been made a party to the proceedings. The Commission allowed the complainant's contention that the manufacturer did not need to be made a party to the proceedings. The Commission held the distributor liable for the defective tiles and stated that it was upon the distributor to initiate proceedings against the manufacturer if necessary.
- Whether there is deficiency in service?
- Relief(s) that complainant is entitled to.
- Should the manufacturer be made party to complaint?
- Are the unilateral terms on invoice enforceable?
Arguments by Complainant
- Difference in Quality – Materials received and installed much different than that paid for. In terms of quality and health hazards because the tiles were eroded.
- Mental Agony & Failure to Resolve Complaint – after repeated follow-ups no resolution or reply has been made by opposing parties.
Argument(s) by Opposing Parties
- Manufacturer not being party to proceeding, therefore, the complaint can be dismissed.
- As per invoice – the responsibility of party ceases as soon as goods are delivered, and complaint post-delivery cannot be entertained.
- Complainant has failed to take care of tiles while cleaning, by using acids and other chemicals.
- Relying on decision of NCDRC, Blue Chip India Vs. R. ChandrashekaraPatial, wherein it was held that the Respondent did not have any privity of contract with the manufacturer of the computer and therefore joinder of the manufacturer as party was not at all necessary. The forum held it is not necessary for complainant to add manufacturer as party and the principle of Blue Chip India was upheld. On the same line, it is to discretion of complainant to choose party against whom he wishes to bring litigation as held by Supreme Court in Mumbai International Airport Private Limited Vs. Regency Convention Centre.
- The clause where opposing party shrugs his liability in the invoice is invalid, relying on decision of Sri Krishna Seeds v Avula Venkata Reddy, the forum held that such unilateral aspects are not enforceable.
- Therefore – it can be held that opposite party has committed deficiency of service and caused mental agony.
- The forum has come upfront and clearly once again that unilateral contracts on invoice are not valid, and not a doorway to void and shrug off the seller’s responsibility of service.
- Privity of contract does not necessarily exist between manufacturers and customers directly where a dealer is involved. It cannot be made mandatory for an aggrieved party to join every person involved in chain of supply.
SCC Online NCDRC 154
2010 (5) SCALE 545,
Appeal No.135/99 of .2007