Complaint must be in writing

SUPPOSE you buy a television set and it goes out of order within a few days of delivery. What do you do? You will obviously call up the dealer from whom you purchased the set and complain. You will probably not even note down the name of the person you spoke to and the exact time at which you called. The dealer will  promise to send someone to have the set checked up, or ask you to call the service centre of the company.

You will follow his advice and wait. When no one turns up, you will call again, and this time you may demand a replacement and may even shout and scream at the dealer for having sent a defective set.

But most likely, you will not think of putting pen to paper and sending a written complaint to the dealer. So what proof do you have to show that you complained and the dealer did not respond?

A recent case decided by the national consumer disputes redressal commission should really act as a wake-up call for Indian consumers who really do not think of protecting their interests and ensuring that they have some proof or evidence to back their claims in case of a dispute.

This particular case has its origin in the television set bought by Kamal Kishore in 1988 for Rs 2,200. According to his complaint before the district forum, the set worked only for two to three days, but neither the dealer nor the manufacturer responded to his repeated complaints. They gave him several assurances of rectifying the defect or replacing the model, but never did it.

If your TV set turns out to be defective, make sure that you have evidence to show that you complained
If your TV set turns out to be defective, make sure that you have evidence to show that you complained Thinkstockphotos/Getty Images

Exasperated, he filed a complaint before the district consumer disputes redressal forum, which directed the respondents to replace the defective TV with a new set of the same model within one month, failing which to pay the complainant Rs 2,200 along with interest at 9 per cent calculated from the date of purchase till the date of the order, and also pay Rs 500 as compensation. If the amount was not paid within the stipulated time, the client should be given 18 per cent interest from 1994, the forum said.

The state consumer disputes redressal commission, however, set aside the order on the ground that there was no proof that the TV set purchased by the complainant suffered from any manufacturing defect, or that any complaint to this effect had been made by the consumer during the warranty period. The state commission observed that if the customer had complained, there should be some proof of it. If he had sent the complaint in writing, there should be copies. In the absence of any proof to show that he had complained, the commission was inclined to believe that no such complaint had been made.

The commission further observed: "The allegation of manufacturing defect in a machine is not to be taken to be as a gospel truth on mere statement but it is required to be proved beyond doubt by means of a credible documentary evidence. In the case in hand the opinion of an engineer who would have been an expert in the field of TV manufacturing/repairing would have been of great help to the complainant but no such report has been obtained and filed. We are, therefore, not inclined to accept the complainantís version."

In response to the revision petition filed by the complainant, the national consumer disputes redressal commission, too, underscored the absence of evidence in the case and dismissed it (Kamal Kishore vs Electronic Corporation of India, and Another, RP No 3092 of 2010, decided on Jan 17, 2011).

So whenever you buy an appliance, make sure that you have a proper receipt, warranty card and all other relevant papers. If the product malfunctions, complain and note down the name of the person you spoke to and the time at which you did that.