Hyderabad: The consumer dispute redressal commission, Sangareddy, has slapped a fine of Rs. 50,000 on Colgate Palmolive Co. for charging Rs. 12.40 extra from the customers for a tube of Colgate Max Fresh Gel toothpaste. Colgate has also been asked to pay Rs. 15,000 compensation to the customer for causing inconvenience and mental agony.
The complainant, Ch. Nagender (67), a resident of Prashanth Nagar, purchased a Max Fresh toothpaste (150 gms) for Rs. 92 from Reliance Fresh, Kalvakunta. "Earlier, I had purchased the same toothpaste at Rs. 20 for 50 grams. The price variation for 150 gm and 50 gm is Rs. 32. Colgate is minting money from the general public by cheating," Mr. Nagender alleged.
The complainant also issued a legal notice and the same was served but there was no reply from the opposite party.
Replying to the allegation of the consumer, the company said, "The manufacturer has the liberty to determine a suitable MRP for a product. Toothpaste may be a necessary product but it is not declared as an essential commodity under the law. Hence, the manufacturer can determine the price after taking into consideration various factors such as manufacturing, marketing, and supply chain costs. It is incorrect to allege that fixing the price of Colgate Max Fresh Red Gel at Rs. 92 amounts to fraud and deficiency of service without any reasonable basis or proof."
It also added that the company, with the intent of attracting the consumers to purchase the product, valued it at a concessional rate of Rs. 10 for 20 grams. "The company is entitled to fix different prices for different products, different quantities/sizes of the same product, etc. The same is done to attract various consumers who have different needs/requirements. It has the right to have different pricing structures for its different products as per law of the land. Hence, it is incorrect to allege that there is fraud, deficiency of service, or that is an unfair trade practice," said Coalgate.
After hearing the arguments, the forum said, "The customer bought the product at Rs. 87.40 from Reliance Fresh with a discount lesser than the original price of Rs. 92. Also, the company has not fixed MRP proportionately to 150 gms Colgate Maxfresh. If 20 grams of Colgate Max Fresh toothpaste costs Rs. 10, the cost of 150 grams of Colgate Maxfresh Toothpaste will be Rs. 75."
The commission also observed that the legal notice was served to the opposite party but it had not replied. "This attitude of the opposite parties clearly shows negligence on their part," said the commission.
Also, the commission said the manufacturers will have to incur more money for manufacturing five small 20 grams Colgate packs than manufacturing 100 gms packs. In India, most people have family-oriented behavior and toothpaste is also part of the monthly grocery. Middle-class families normally purchase big packs for their monthly use.
"It may be true that Colgate has the freedom to fix the MRP for different products but it cannot charge different prices for the same product of the same quantity, whether they are small or big packets. We are of the opinion that the opposite party has not fixed the MRP in proportion to its quantity. Such an act of the opposite party amounts to unfair trade practice," said the commission.
The commission directed Colgate to return an amount of Rs. 12.40 which was collected in excess from the complainant. The forum also asked the company to pay a sum of Rs. 10,000 as compensation causing mental agony and trauma to the complainant and Rs. 5,000 towards costs of litigation. The forum asked Colgate to pay Rs. 50,000 towards damages to the consumer welfare fund.