Topics on Faulty Product that can help for an Informed Decision.
FAULTY PRODUCT: The fault in our auzaars!
Whether you’re buying food, clothes or a property - you fall under the category of “Consumer”. For instance the electronic device on which you’re reading this article or the chair you’re sitting on, everything is a “product” that has been sold by a seller to you, a buyer.
Problems arise when these products start malfunctioning either right after being bought or when they develop an inherent defect due to use, and we term them to be ‘faulty’.
A few instances to understand the concept of faulty products include-
- The mobile phone you bought from an online portal that just won’t switch on!
- The air-conditioner you bought makes as much noise as that soundless mixer does.
- The pair of jeans you bought in the Mega Discount appears worn-out after the first wash.
What to do in such situations? Apart from not taking any legal action against the faulty product seller, you just get disappointed and at most, give a very angry review to the seller on their website which sometimes goes viral, . Like everything else, your money is squandered, your reviews get buried away as does your anger and the pair of old-looking jeans.
This is the mistake you’re making - every time you don’t act against the faulty/damaged product that you were sold - you’re assisting sellers of faulty products - to sell more. As a consumer you’re entitled to certain inherent rights against the seller, which are unfortunately, unknown to many. Read ahead to find out the what’s, why’s and how’s of faulty products.
If you have received a faulty product easily apply for claim against the faulty product.
We are all consumers. We buy products from the market regularly and expect them to be in a fit condition for use since we have paid for them. However, this may not be the case always. More often than not we are sold products that are faulty, defective or damaged. A faulty product not only causes monetary damage, but it may cause physical and psychological injury as well. For this, the government has enacted laws to protect the consumer, the primary statute for the same being the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Most of the Consumers in India fail to understand that they have a right to fight against the seller or manufacturer of a faulty or defective product.
The aim of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is simple - to protect the Consumer. Everyone purchasing something from a business - is a Consumer. Purchase of a safety-pin makes you a Consumer, as does purchase of a 4bedroom-hall-kitchen apartment in a swanky society. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 not only protects the Consumer but also cautions the seller/manufacturer.
Since most of us are unaware of our rights under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, it is important we understand the ambit and purpose of the same. Defects, or issues that can be brought under the ambit of the Act are -
- when products don’t do what they meant to or are defective;
- when products that differ from their description, e.g. on their packaging or when there is false advertising;
- when products don’t match the sample or model you were shown;
- when products aren’t reasonably fit for a particular they were sold to you for;
- when the product is late or no delivery of the product is made or the product arrives damaged in transit.
When a consumer buys a product he expects it to be free of defects and be of the best quality. The case where it is found to be ‘pesticides in Coca-Cola’, the ‘Maggie noodles’ fiasco or the recent ‘exploding mobile phones’ case have made quite a few headlines. They’ve received enraged reactions from the ‘janta’ or the consumers.
The law, in order to ensure that the Consumer is protected from the Seller/Manufacturer’s mala fide intention, has defined “defects” in a detailed manner.
“Defects” includes fault, imperfection in the quality or standard of the product. This includes any manufacturing defect which may or may not cause injury to the consumer; this could also include products not in compliance with the ISI standards or products which fail to serve the purpose for which they were purchased. Therefore, an exploding pressure cooker or mobile phone charger that catches fire and causes injury to the buyer would be a defective good and the seller would be liable for the same.
Any irregularity in the quantity of the products purchased is also covered as a defect. This means that the seller will be held liable in cases where weight or amount purchased is less than the amount claimed to be sold .
Any shortcoming in the potency or purity of the products which may cause any harm to the well-being or health of the consumer would also be considered as a defect. This covers any adulterated, perished or inedible products which are unfit for consumption and do not comply with the FSSAI standards or result in any health hazards to the consumer. This includes any expired, toxic or contaminated food article which is unfit for human consumption, for eg., an insect in the food article or contaminated cooking oil.
Read to know about the Rights of Consumers.
As per the Consumer Protection laws in India, the manufacturers and sellers are held liable if they provide faulty or defective products to their Consumers. However, not every fault makes the manufacturer or seller liable to the consumer.
Under Section 2(1)(f) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 a defect in the product is defined as any fault, imperfection or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, potency, purity or standard which is required to be maintained by law or under the terms of any contract or as is claimed by the trader in relation to the goods. The defect has to be in relation to the products only.
Some examples of faults are electric household appliances which are not in accordance with the standards prescribed by ISI thereby being unsafe; gas cylinder bursting because of manufacturing defect; white marble changing its colour after polish; bursting of an air conditioner and catching fire, auto-rickshaw having a manufacturing defect or seeds which fail to germinate properly. In these cases, the manufacturer shall be held liable.
Similarly, parallel to the ‘defect’ lies the term ‘deficiency’ which is related to faulty service. Under Section 2(1)(g) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 it refers to any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance required to be maintained by law or according to terms of contract or otherwise in relation to any service.
Some examples of faulty service are negligence in performance of its duties by insurance company for settling the dues even after 14 years; late delivery by courier services causing loss to the consumer; non-delivery of VISA on time despite approval; failure to give possession of house after payment etc.
If a particular defect or deficiency falls within the Section 2(1) (f) or 2(1) (g) of the Consumer Protection Act, the manufacturer will be held liable.
‘Customer is the King’ as they say. To be a King, it is important to know your right to claim damages for any defective or faulty product sold by the seller. Even if you know your rights, the process to claim damages for defective goods can become cumbersome if you aren’t careful with following the necessary steps and properly building your case against the seller or manufacturer.
The first step to follow is to gather all the requisite documents relating to the purchase of such defective good like-
- The invoice copy of the purchase made,
- The order number,
- The warranty certificate and
- Payment receipts.
Once all the required information is gathered, it is important to first contact the seller or manufacturer and to communicate the defect in the product. In most cases, explaining your problem to the customer care results in the resolution of the complaint. If and when such complaint is ignored, only then the need to take a legal action arises.
If you have purchased a mobile phone from an e-commerce website but it just doesn’t switch on and the customer care refuses to entertain your complaint, then you can take the legal course and send a notice to the seller addressing the defect in the good and any harm caused due to such defect. Upon receiving no reply from the seller, file a complaint along with a prescribed fee before the correct redressal commission. The complaint addresses the harm or damage caused by the defective good and lack of any action in reply by the seller.
Under the Indian law, there are three forums setup to entertain consumer complaints, which are-
- District Forum,
- State Commission and
- National Commission
Filing a complaint before any of the forums depend upon the value of goods and compensation sought to be claimed. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand what all steps are to be taken as well as which is the correct redressal agency to claim damages for the defective goods.
Today, the customer is aware and well- informed and knows his rights against fraud or malpractice by the seller. The right of the customer not only includes protection against fraud, but also to complain and seek compensation arising out of such fraud.
First and foremost, ‘there is no time like the present’ and when you suffer any harm or damage due to a defect in product or deficiency in service, it is important to raise a complaint with the seller as soon as possible. Upon no reply or relief from the seller, the consumer can file a complaint with the correct consumer forum/commission.
After the consumer court has received a complaint from the customer and a notice is sent, the court gives 30- 45 days to the seller to reply. When the goods are contaminated or toxic, the sample of the goods is sent for analysis or test. This process has to be completed within 55 days and the court settles the dispute based on the results of the analysis. The law specifies that the court has to settle the dispute within five months when the goods are to be tested.
When there is no need to send the sample of the goods for an analysis, and the court can make out that the product is defective by the look of it, then the court settles the dispute and awards compensation to the consumer. The law states that in any case, the maximum time that a court can take is three months when the samples are not to be tested.
The time taken to settle the dispute depends upon the nature and defect of the goods. Resolution of a consumer grievance usually takes up to six months in the consumer forum.
While product liability has not been defined under any statute in India, it can be broadly defined as the liability incurred by any or all parties that fall along the chain of manufacturing - right from the manufacturer to the retailer who finally sells the goods, regarding any harm or damage caused by any product. The term “Product” has been given a wide definition by the Courts as, “anything produced or obtained as a result of some operation or work”.
In India, the statutes dealing with rights of a Consumer to deal with faulty products are The Consumer Protection Act, The Sales of Goods Act, The Food Safety and Standards Act,The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, The Bureau of Indian Standards Act and even the Indian Penal Code.
It’s easy for a you to get confused in the plethora of legislations, and the Sections therein, thus, the best option is to exercise your rights under the Consumer Protection Act. The Consumer Protection Act, as the name suggests, is meant for the protection of a Consumer. It is much simpler and consumer friendly and is an overarching umbrella legislation which brings the important aspects of all the other legislations within its fold.
The Consumer Protection Act defines a defect or fault in a product as, “any fault, imperfection or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, potency, purity or standard which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force under any contract, express or implied or as is claimed by the trader in any manner whatsoever in relation to any goods.” Thus, the manufacturer, right up till the retailer will be liable for:
- Fault in the product; or
- Imperfection in goods; or
- Bad quality of goods; or
- Lesser quantity that mentioned; or
- Impurity or low standard of goods; or
- Impotency of goods.
This definition covers a very broad spectrum of goods that are available in the market. On being aggrieved, one can file a complaint before the consumer forum/commission under Section 12 and the forum will give an order and compensation under Section 14 of the Act.
Usually when you buy a product, the seller provides a guarantee or a warranty of the same. Even if these two words sound similar and may be considered synonymous, they differ on many grounds. It is important to understand the difference between the two and weigh your options before buying an item.
‘Guarantee’ is promising to replace or repair the product or pay the money back to the consumer if the product does not perform as promised or meet with the prescribed quality standards. An example of such guarantee is the 100% money-back guarantee on a hair care product which promises solution to baldness.
‘Warranty’ simply means that the seller will repair or replace such defective or faulty product. Warranty does not mean that the seller will pay back the money if the product does not work or if it has some defect. Warranty on an electronic item is generally provided by the manufacturers of such items free of cost for a specified period of time.
Take an example of a television purchased through e-commerce websites like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc. These websites usually provide a 100% replacement or refund guarantee when you purchase a product from them within 30 days of delivery. You can return the television in the specified period if you aren’t satisfied. This is the guarantee on the product and includes returns, repairs, replacement and refunds. But if you wish to keep the television, then you also keep the warranty provided by the manufacturer which provides repairs and replacement.
When a seller gives guarantee for a product, it is usually free of cost but cannot be extended to a longer period than promised, other than on the payment of a certain amount of money if buyer wishes to extend the warranty period of a product.