Following my transfer from Gurugram to Chandigarh, I shifted all my household goods through a transporter. However, when the goods arrived, I was shocked to find some of my beautifully carved teak furniture broken. Even the fabric had some stains, as if it had got wet in the rain. I want the transporter to pay for my loss, but he is not responding to my phone calls. What do I do?
I hope you have noted in detail the damage caused to your furniture in the ‘delivery receipt’. The next step is to estimate the loss caused as a result of the damage. Once you have done that, send a formal letter to the transporter, asking him to indemnify the loss. Send it through a courier as well as registered post (acknowledgement due) and make sure that you get receipts for having sent the notice. Give him a fortnight or a month to respond. If he refuses to acknowledge his negligence and pay, you will have to seek the intervention of the consumer court. But remember, sending a notice to the transporter is a pre-requisite for filing a complaint before the consumer court. In Delhi Assam Roadways Corporation Vs BL Sharma (date of the order: December 12, 2002), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission made it clear that sending such a notice as required under Section 10 of the Carriers Act was mandatory before filing a complaint before the consumer court.
I must also mention that in Tata Iron and Steel Company Ltd vs Mr Biswanath (FA No 422 of 2008, order dated April 23, 2013) the National Commission was unambiguous in its verdict that a goods carrier was fully liable for the loss or damage to the goods that were entrusted to its care and that expressions such as ‘ at owners risk’ in the bill did not exempt the carrier.
In this case, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had awarded only 50 per cent of the cost of the goods as compensation as the consumer had failed to insure the goods. The apex consumer court, however, disagreed and awarded full cost of the goods, along with 9 per cent interest and refund of the cost of freight. While doing so, it observed, “The carrier was liable to deliver the goods safely, undamaged and without any loss at the destinations indicated by the consignor. It was the duty of the carrier to take due care of the goods while they were in his custody as if it were his own goods and he would be liable if any loss or damage is caused to the goods on account of his own negligence or criminal act of his agent and servants. The view we have taken is supported by the judgment of the Supreme Court in Nath Bros. Exims case.”
In your complaint before the consumer court, you can also seek compensation for mental agony and distress caused on account of the damage to the furniture, besides the cost of litigation.
For those in transferable jobs who are forced to move goods by road, can you give a few tips on how to protect their rights vis-à-vis the goods movers?
First and foremost, get a list of packers and movers and check their track records. Talk to friends and relatives who may have used their services. I would also suggest a search of online consumer complaint sites or just a general google search to see if there are any complaints against them. This will help you make an informed choice.
Once you have zeroed in on the transporter, talk to the company and get details of not only the cost of packing and transportation but also the kind of packaging material they will use, the vehicle used for transportation, the time taken for delivery, the route that would be taken, etc.
At the time of handing over the goods, make sure they are all properly packed and properly listed along with their description and valuation. Once the goods are delivered and unpacked, check each one of them and make sure they are not damaged during the transit. If any goods are damaged or lost, say so clearly in the delivery receipt and get the driver of the vehicle or the loader to countersign it. Scan it or take a picture using your mobile. You must also take pictures of the broken goods and use them in your mail to the transporter.
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