in a name?" said William Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet.
But in this age of branding and brand wars, where a brand name can
influence consumer choice and bolster companiesí profit margins,
ask a manufacturer that question and he is sure to say that his
entire business rests on the name.
There are also consumers who
swear by one brand or the other and are even prepared to pay more
for it. They hardly ask themselves whether the reputation of a
particular brand is really well earned or just earned through
sustained advertisement campaigns.
In fact, consumer groups that conduct
comparative testing of products have found that little known
brands are sometimes far superior in quality to better known and
more expensive brands. In fact it is for this reason that consumer
groups have been taking up comparative testing of different brands
so that a consumer can make an informed choice on the basis of
facts and figures rather than tall claims advertised by
Eventually, whether a consumer choice is based on
comparative test results or advertisements or feedback from
friends and relatives or their own faith in a certain brand on the
basis of past experience, once they ask for a particular brand,
supplying or selling anything else constitutes violation of a
consumerís right to choice. And on this issue, many a consumer
case has been fought and won.
In the case of Giriraj Studio vs
M/S Koron Business Systems and another, for example, the apex
consumer court made it clear that delivering a brand or a model
other than the one ordered by the consumer constituted an unfair
trade practice (RP no 2419 of 2002). In this case, the consumer
had ordered a photocopier by the name of Kores Sharp KS 1101,
manufactured in collaboration with Sharp Corporation, Japan.
However, upon delivery, the consumer noticed that he had been sent
Kores winner 1101. Interestingly, in this case, the company argued
that there was no difference in the technology between the two
names and that it was the same product, but with a changed name.
The consumer courts at the district and the state level accepted
this argument and dismissed the complaint of the consumer.
However, the apex consumer court held a contrary view.
that the lower forums had failed to exercise their jurisdiction,
thereby resulting in miscarriage of justice, the apex consumer
court said the respondent had indulged in unfair trade practice
and should therefore refund the cost of the copier along with 10
per cent interest. Pointing out that a consumer placed a lot of
reliance on a brand name and even paid more for a brand, the apex
consumer court said if there was any change in the brand name of
the copier, the consumer should have been told about it. By
failing to do so, the respondent had committed an unfair trade
In some cases, the dispute may not be about the brand
name, but about certain specifications for a product stipulated by
the consumer. Even here, the apex consumer court has made it clear
that consumer choice is supreme and selling anything other than
what the consumer ordered constitutes an unfair trade practice. In
fact under the CP Act, such a product also comes under the
definition of "defect". Therefore, the shopkeeper who
delivers or supplies such a product is liable to refund the cost
of the product as well as pay compensation for any inconvenience
or harassment caused to the consumer.
In the case of Hajarimal
Moonat vs Kumar Iron Works, for example, the complaint was that
certain hardware items meant for fixing steel doors and hinges
supplied by Kumar Iron Works did not conform to the size or the
specifications given by the complainant. As a result, they could
not be used at all. Here, the highest consumer court ó the
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ó held that the
goods were defective in that they did not conform to the
specifications given by the consumer and therefore were unsuitable
for the intended purpose (RP no 256 of 1996). Similarly, where the
consumer asked for ordinary portland cement, but was actually
supplied slag cement, the consumer court awarded compensation on
the ground that the product was not of the quality sought the
consumer and claimed by the trader and was therefore defective.
(S. Elhence vs Raghomal Nahar Singh, RP no 86 of 1990,NC)
other words, you have a right to choose and when you exercise that
right, the shopkeeper had better respect it. But do make an
informed choice. Compare brands, check with friends and relatives
and do base your decision on the quality of the product, its after
sales service and its price and not just on its name.