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ONLINE TRANSACTION - CONSUMER COMPLAINT CAN BE FILED WITH LOCAL FORUM OF CONCERNED AREA.

March 23, 2019 11:14 AM

Sanjay Kumar Mishra

In the modern era, style of marketing and sales has been changed. Peoples have no time to go to shopping mall for purchase, No Que at Railway Ticket Counter / Airline Ticket Counter, even Bus Ticket now can be purchased online from anywhere by using Credit Card / Debit Card or Net Banking.  But the most Important question which arise in the sense of online transaction that whether Consumer Complaint can be filled in Consumer Forum, if yes, how and where ?

Meghalaya State Consumer Commission has ruled in its judgement dated 7-12-2013 passed in FA/7/2007 (Air Deccan Vs Ram Gopal Agarwal) that – Complaint for Online transaction may file by the Consumer with local Consumer Forum where they have their office or Residence.

Meghalaya State Consumer Commission has ruled in its judgement dated 7-12-2013 passed in FA/7/2007 (Air Deccan Vs Ram Gopal Agarwal) that – Complaint for Online transaction may file by the Consumer with local Consumer Forum where they have their office or Residence.

In a case before the Commission, an elderly person who residing at Shillong booked a flight from Delhi to Jaipur in Deccan Airlines whose head office is in Bengaluru. The booking was done through internet and the fare paid through credit card. When the person with his wife undertook the journey, the luggage was lost and the they had to undergo with a lot of difficulties. Consumer complaint filed before the District Consumer Forum, Shillong. The airline objected that u/s 11 the forum did not have territorial jurisdiction to hear this case since, the airline’s office is situated at Bengaluru and the flight was for between Delhi and Jaipur.  The airline prayed to dismiss complaint for lack of jurisdiction . Forum dismissed this objection saying that the fare (paid through credit card) had been debited at the Shillong branch of Vijaya Bank and so the Shillong forum had territorial jurisdiction to hear the case. It then proceeded to hear the case and awarded a compensation of Rs. 72,000 to the consumer.

Than airline challenged this order before the Meghalaya State Consumer Commission where it has been argued that the forum had no territorial jurisdiction to hear this complaint. Commission considered the issue carefully and gave a detailed judgement about the territorial jurisdiction of consumer courts in internet payment disputes. Commission noted that the Consumer Protection Act 1986 was enacted when internet commerce was not in vogue and so it does not expressly consider issues such as territorial jurisdiction of consumer courts in internet commerce disputes. It said that the territorial jurisdiction of the forum of the place where the cause of action arises is very important in such disputes.

Referring a ruling of Supreme Court (AIR 1989 SC 1239) that in contract disputes, in which it was stated that – a case can be filed in the court in whose territorial jurisdiction, acceptance to the contract was communicated. Courts have routinely held that when an airline issues a ticket to a consumer, the airline and the customer are entering into a contract. So the purchase of a ticket from Air Deccan (which is the source of the present dispute) was equivalent to entering a contract with the airline. In the present case, the contract was entered into and was accepted by sending e-mails to the purchase.

Commission again referred Section 11(3) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, according to which an e-mail is deemed to be dispatched at the sender’s place and received at the addressee’s place. Combining of all above, the Commission held that the contract to purchase the airline ticket was accepted at the place of the customer and he can file the case before his local consumer forum.

Before this, UP State Consumer Commission Lucknow in Complaint No. 74/SC/2003 (Air France Vs Worker Sahara India Parivar) decided on 29-5-2008 also favoured Consumers against the wrong practice of Airline. Later Air France goes to NCDRC vide FA/310/2008 which is ultimately dismissed by NCDRC on 22-03-2018.

Before this NCDRC also dismissed RP/1396/2016 (Spice Jet Vs. Ranju Aery) on 7-2-2017 which was filled against the order dated 29-12-2015 passed by the State Consumer Commission Chandigarh in FA/347/2015.

In view of above well-argued and well reasoned decision from various Consumer Fora, it is clear that online purchasers can file their Consumer complaint in local consumer fora of their respective area and can get  cheap and fast justice for defective goods or for deficient services.

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