CONSUMER RIGHTS
Receipt wisdom

To protect your interests in any transaction, make sure that the payment made is recorded in writing, writes Pushpa Girimaji

THIS Divali whether you are painting your house, buying curtains or furniture or ordering special clothes, or even buying household goods, remember one thing: whenever you make a payment, be it in full or in part, collect the receipt immediately and without fail. You may know the dealer or the service provider very well and he may be an honest person, but he may well forget that you have made the payment, leading to a dispute later. Or you may be dealing with a dishonest person who may deny having taken the money from you. And where will you be in such a situation, without a receipt? In order to protect your interests in any transaction, make sure that the payment made is recorded in writing. Similarly, if you are giving expensive clothes for stitching, be sure to pick up a receipt from the tailor.

You should also make payments, particularly if the amounts are big, through account payee cheques. This will give you double protection in case of any dispute over payment. Take the case of Sunil that came up before the apex consumer court recently.

On March 14, 2002, Sunil placed an order for a sofa set and a tea table and paid as advance, Rs 10,000 towards it. He even purchased a suitable cloth for Rs 3,480, as suggested by the furniture shop owner and gave it to him. He was promised that the sofa would be delivered within 15 days. However, the promised delivery did not happen, not even after several reminders. Exasperated, Sunil eventually asked the shopkeeper to return his money and thatís when the dispute really started. The shopkeeper flatly refused to give back any money and said in the first place he was not even given any advance.

This is a situation any of us could land ourselves in. Often we pay advance towards some work or towards purchase of some goods and do not bother to collect any receipt for it. In fact we feel that by asking for a receipt, we are insulting the salesperson or the service provider and questioning his integrity. As a result, expose ourselves to exploitation. In this case too, Mr Sunil had not been given any receipt by the shopkeeper for the money collected, but fortunately, the consumer had paid through a cheque and that is what eventually helped him get back his money.

When the shopkeeper refused to return the money and flatly denied any such transaction, Sunil filed a complaint before the District Forum, which directed the shop to return the money and also the cost of the fabric given by the customer. The State Commission before which the furniture shop owner filed an appeal, also upheld the order of the lower consumer court. The shop owner then filed a revision petition before the apex consumer court, that is the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Delhi.

Here againthe apex consumer court looked at the evidence produced by the consumer in the form of a bank statement. A perusal of the statement of accounts of the consumerís account showed that he had not only issued a cheque in favour of the shop owner, the cheque had also been encashed, the National Commission observed.

It therefore dismissed the revision petition filed by the shopkeeper arguing that he had not been paid any money by the consumer. (Nandlal vs Sunil revision petitioner no 2139 of 2005, decided on September 9, 2005)

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