Expert opinion is required to prove manufacturing defects and relying upon its own allegations will not be held as a conclusive evidence of inherent manufacturing defects.
The judgment is a decision of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on an appeal filed by Mercedes Benz India Private Limited (Mercedes) against an order of the Telangana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (State Commission). The main issue involved in the judgment is whether Mercedes was liable to replace or refund the car purchased by Smt. Revathi Giri (Revathi), who complained about various defects in the car. The NCDRC held that Mercedes was not liable to replace or refund the car, as there was no conclusive evidence of inherent manufacturing defects in the car. The NCDRC observed that Revathi did not produce any expert opinion to prove that the car had such defects and relied only on her own allegations and dissatisfaction. The NCDRC also noted that Mercedes had extended the warranty period of the car as a goodwill gesture and had offered to repair the car free of cost.
The dealer of the appellant (Respondent No. 2) had sold Mercedes Benz car for INR. 43,30,000/- to Respondent No. 1. The vehicle encountered multiple issues, including problems with the navigation screen, noticeable drifting to the left, and a stiff power steering wheel. It was brought to the workshop of respondent no. 2 on several occasions for repairs. The respondent sought assistance from the State Commission, claiming that the vehicle had inherent manufacturing defects. This claim was substantiated by the frequent repairs needed and the fact that the appellant extended the vehicle's warranty for the fourth year as a goodwill gesture. The State Commission allowed the appeal, holding that the car was defective and that the dealer and Mercedes had failed to provide satisfactory service. The State Commission directed Mercedes to replace the car or refund the price, along with compensation of Rs. 10,00,000 for mental agony and harassment. Hence, the appeal was filed by Mercedes before the NCDRC challenging the order passed by the SCDRC.
Whether Respondent No. 1 had established before the State Commission the fact of an inherent internal manufacturing defect as required under the provisions of Section 13(1)(c) of the Act.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission found that no expert opinion was presented to prove that the car had inherent manufacturing defects. The NCDRC noted that the issues had been addressed within the three-year warranty period and since, no deficiency in service had been established and the requirement of an expert opinion under Section 13(1)(c) had not been met, the State Commission's finding of inherent manufacturing defects could not be supported. The NCDRC further held that the SCDRC erred in directing Mercedes to replace or refund the car, as it did not consider the terms and conditions of the warranty policy and the sale agreement. The NCDRC stated that the warranty policy clearly limited the liability of Mercedes to repair or replace any defective part and did not entitle Revathi to demand a new car or a refund. The NCDRC also stated that the sale agreement between Complainant and the dealer was on a principal-to-principal basis, and Mercedes was not responsible for any act or omission of the dealer. As a result, the NCDRC set aside the State Commission's order.
The judgment clarifies the scope and liability of the manufacturer and the e-commerce entity, who are defined as different types of sellers under the Act and the Rules. The judgment states that the manufacturer is liable to repair or replace any defective part of the goods under warranty, and that the buyer must abide by the terms and conditions of the warranty policy and the sale agreement, which are binding contracts between them and the seller. The judgment also reinforces the burden of proof and quantum of compensation for consumer complaints, which are governed by the provisions of the Act and the Rules. The judgment states that the buyer must prove that there is a deficiency in service or an unfair trade practice on the part of the seller, and that they have suffered any loss or injury due to such deficiency or practice. The judgment also states that the liability of an automobile manufacturer only arises when an inherent manufacturing defect is duly proved by an expert opinion and is otherwise limited by the terms of the warranty.