Hyderabad: The Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission ordered More Megastore Retail Limited at Somajiguda to pay Rs 15,000 as compensation to a customer for charging Rs 3 for a carry bag with a logo.

The complainant, Baglekar Akash Kumar, a student of Osmania University, had purchased a product from the opposite party in June 2019 and made a bill of Rs 118 which includes the prize of the plastic cover.

The complainant alleged that the carry bag supplied by the supermarket was collecting Rs 3 for a cover that contains the company's name and Logo, thereby using him as their advertisement agent.

"Using the consumer as an advertisement agent at his cost tantamount to unfair trade practice Under Section 2 (1) (r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Recently the Chandigarh Consumer Court in Dinesh Parshad Raturi Vs. Bata India Ltd, (CC/64/2019) has held that 'The Bata Company has used the consumer as if he is the advertisement agent of the opposite party,'" said the complainant.

The complainant approached the Telangana State Information and Alternative Consumer Disputes Centre in June 2019 requesting the commissioner to take necessary action against the opposite party who committed the error.

During the date of an amicable settlement, the opposite party denied all the contents of the complainant stating that the Chandigarh District Forum Judgment doesn't bind on them and also said that they are competent as per various government orders to charge for the carry bag and also the judgment of the Chandigarh forum pertains to paper carry bags but not plastic carry bags which the opposite party had sold.

The store in its written submission said that they never compelled the complainant to purchase the carry bag as alleged in the complaint. "There is no law stating that carry bags have to supplied free to the complainant (i.e., consumers) nor there is no bar or restriction imposed on the opposite party from collecting charges for carrying bag. The sale of plastic carry bags is not a forcible sale rather it is an option for the complainant. The consumer can either bring their own carry bag or purchase plastic covers with or without our logo or jute or cotton bags with or without print or plastic baskets or cardboard boxes, as per order dated October 22, 2018 passed by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Ernakulum," said the supermarket.

They also added the decision to charge for the bags was based on the principle known as 'Polluters Pay' – an environment practice commonly accepted in Europe. "The present complaint has only been filed as means of harass the opposite party and being used as money-making scheme," the supermarket added.

After examining the documents and evidence, the commission observed that, "The only dispute under the case in hand is that, the opposite party has been using its consumers as its advertisement agents, by selling the carry bags to the customers with their logo without prominent prior notice and information before the customer makes his choice of patronising its retail outlets and before the customer makes his selection of goods for purchase and also without disclosing the silent specifications and price of the carry bags."

Also, the commission observed that disclosing the price of carry bags at the payment counter seems to be undoubtedly an "unfair trade practice" under Section 2 (1) (r) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 {Corresponding Section 2 (47) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019}.

The commission directed the More Megastore to refund Rs 3 collected for carry bag with interest of 12% per annum from the date of its purchase. It asked the supermarket to pay Rs 15,000 towards compensation to the complainant for using him as an advertisement tool and to pay Rs 1,500 towards costs of litigation. The commission also directed the supermarket to provide free carry bags to all customers if in case they printed their company logo on the carry bags.

Sumit Kumar Jha

Sumit Kumar Jha is currently a multimedia journalist with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University and Amity University, he has interned with The New Indian Express and CGNet Swara. Sumit has also worked with video production houses in Mumbai as an assistant director in shows like 21 Sarfrosh for Discovery Jeet. He is specialised in Video Production. He was also the contributor at PARI network. Hailing from rural Bihar has spent his childhood shifting from places and people. Growing up he felt the need to document the lives and dreams of rural India. A lover of visual storytelling goes around the cities to search for Stories. He primarily reports on civic, human interest and data stories.

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