Consumers beware!

Goods broken in transit? Sue the carrier

Following my transfer from Gurugram to Chandigarh, I shifted all my household goods through a transporter.

Pushpa Girimaji

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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