Consumer Connect: Publishing misleading ads amounts to unfair trade practice, says Archana Sabnis

Consumer Connect: Publishing misleading ads amounts to unfair trade practice, says Archana Sabnis

Dr Archana Sabnis is an expert on consumer laws who is practising at consumer disputes redressal fora at district, state and national levels since 2000.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Monday, May 08, 2023, 09:03 AM IST
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Consumer Connect: Publishing misleading ads amounts to unfair trade practice, says Archana Sabnis | Representative Image

I recently came across an educational institute’s advertisement claiming a 100% job guarantee for students who pass out from there. Relying upon the ad and verbal assurance from the office staff of the institute, I secured admission for my son after paying hefty coaching fees, which is almost double that of similar institutes. But even after completing the course successfully, my son has not got a job as per their promise. Do I have any remedy against the institute?

G Shukla, Goregaon

You have described a classic example of a misleading advertisement, which has been defined under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 as “an advertisement which falsely describes service; or gives a false guarantee or is likely to mislead the consumers”. Publishing such advertisements amounts to an unfair trade practice. You can lodge your complaint with ASCI (Advertisement Standards Council of India), a self-regulatory organisation, on WhatsApp number 7710012345. ASCI can direct the advertiser or manufacturer to remove such advertisement or to make certain changes to it. This is the most convenient and speedy approach, as in most cases the action is initiated within three working days. Here, the name of the complainant is kept anonymous but they will not get any compensation/cost/refund etc, as against consumer commissions.

You can also file your complaint before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission for adopting unfair trade practice and for the publication of misleading advertisements.

The commission can direct the advertiser to remove/change this advertisement or to publish a corrective advertisement. Here you can ask for a refund of the fees paid, along with compensation for the mental agony you suffered and the cost of the complaint. For such misleading advertisements, a class action complaint can be filed before the Central Consumer Protection Authority, where the rights of consumers as a class are affected.

I am a retired, single lady staying alone at Wakad, Pune. To meet my medical and other daily expenses, I have started a business selling soaps and ladies’ items like lipsticks, make-up kits, etc, from home. I purchase the material from a wholesaler and sell it on a retail basis. Last month, I found that many of the makeup kits were not in good condition. The wholesaler refused to give me a replacement. Can I approach consumer court?

V Choudhari, Pune

Yes, you can approach the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. Though the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has excluded a person “who obtains goods for resale or for any commercial purpose” from the definition of the “Consumer”, it has provided one exclusion to this definition. As per this exclusion clause, the goods bought and sold by a person exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood, by means of self-employment are expressly excluded from the definition of “commercial purpose”.

As you started the business from home to meet your medical and other daily expenses, your case falls under this exclusion clause. So, even though you have purchased the products for resale, you can go ahead and approach the district commission for replacement/refund and compensation.

I have taken possession of my new residential flat, which was purchased in 2017. That time, I paid an extra amount to the builder as he sold me a parking space. Now the society has been formed and the builder has handed over the property to the society. Society is not ready to give me my car park, for which I have already paid the builder. What can I do?

Ashish Kumar, Worli

Parking space cannot be sold by the builder. It is a common space belonging to the society and only the society can decide its allotment. Generally, it is allotted on first-cum-first-served basis or on the draw of the lots to its members alone and not for tenants or any outsider. The MahaRERA recently issued a notification clarifying that the developers are not entitled to sell or allot open parking to homebuyers. According to the RERA Act, open parking spaces in a housing society are part of the common area of the project and provided a free floor space index (FSI).

Thus, the sale of open parking space can be termed as Unfair Trade Practice, against which, you can lodge a complaint before MahaRERA Authority. On receipt of a complaint, under section 7(1)(d) of the Act, the Authority may revoke the registration if it is found that the promoter has indulged in fraudulent practices or irregularities.

Alternatively, you can file a complaint before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against the builder for unfair trade practice, praying for a refund of the amount paid towards the parking space along with compensation.

You cannot proceed against the cooperative society in this case.

(Dr Archana Sabnis is an expert on consumer laws who is practising at consumer disputes redressal fora at district, state and national levels since 2000. She is on the panel of conciliators of MahaRERA and is associated with the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.)

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