Pay by credit card, cheque

Pushpa Girimaji
Pushpa Girimaji

Consumers in India are very trusting. I have often seen them parting with cash towards the purchase of an expensive refrigerator or a television set, and not even demanding a receipt for the amount paid. The dealer promises to send the purchased item home, and thatís it. So long as the dealer is honest and keeps to his promise, everything is fine. But suppose something were to go wrong with the deal, then where does it leave the customer?

I remember the case of Sunder Kashyap vs N.Palta, decided by the national consumer disputes redressal commission in 1993. Here the main question was whether the complainant had indeed paid a property dealer against whom he had filed the complaint Rs 90,000 as earnest money towards the purchase of a flat in Delhi. While the complainant claimed that he had made the payment and in cash, the dealer said he never received the amount from the complainant.

Now if only the consumer had paid by an account payee cheque, this dispute would never have arisen. Look at the kind of problems that could crop up in a cash transaction. In this case, the complainant was apparently aware of the risk involved in cash payment, and had got the dealer to sign on a stamped receipt, and produced this as evidence of his having paid by cash. However, he had not got a witness to sign as well, and sure enough, the dealer said he had signed no such paper, and in fact that was not his signature at all.

After prolonged deliberations, finally the national commission came to the conclusion that the complainant had indeed made the payment, but this is a classic example of what could go wrong in cash transactions if there is no adequate proof of payment.

Another interesting case that comes to mind is that of Electronics and Electronics vs Net Ram and others (decided in 1990 by the Delhi state commission) where, because the client had paid through a draft, he managed to win his case and get back his moneyóRs 23,000 along with interest calculated at the rate of 16.5 per cent.

In this case, the consumer had issued a draft towards the purchase of a colour television, a refrigerator and a stereo system, but the goods were never delivered. Here, the case was decided on the basis of two important pieces of evidence: (1) a confirmation by the bank that the draft had indeed been issued by the customer and encashed by the retailer; (2) absence of any proof on the part of the dealer to show delivery of the goods to the consumer. He claimed that he had delivered the goods to a person by the name of Birbal, but could not produce any signed delivery note or a letter from the person who had issued the draft, authorising someone else to collect the goods on his behalf.

So the state commission agreed with the complainant that the goods had not been delivered to him. If in this case the customer had paid by cash (and not bothered to take a proper receipt for it), he would certainly have lost his money and his case too. So whenever you are paying large amounts, avoid cash payment. Pay through credit card or issue an account payee cheque. You can even write the purpose for which the payment is being made on the back of the cheque. Always insist on a receipt for the payments made. Many shopkeepers insist on issuing what they call a kutcha bill, and when you point out that the bill is just a piece of paper on which something is scribbled and does not even have the name of the dealer, or the retail outlet, or its address, they attach their visiting card to it.

Do not accept such receipts. Ask for a proper bill with the retailerís name and address, and get him to fill in the details of the transaction and sign on it. Remember, in case of a dispute, you need proof of purchase. Consumer courts might be quasi-judicial bodies, but even they decide the case only on the basis of evidence.