LG found guilty and directed to compensate

       With the widespread access to personal computers and the internet, e-commerce has been growing at a phenomenal pace.  Many service providers and retailers taking advantage of this are offering their wares to the general public through their web sites, enabling their customers to do business/shopping in the comfort of their home/office.  Widespread usage of the plastic money (Credit and Debit Cards) have  facilitated these operations in a big way.  But at times the customer gets a raw deal as internet dealings are done in good faith with parties who are operating from far off places.  In case of any problem, legal jurisdictions could well be a disadvantage to the unsuspecting consumer.  Several complaints received from individuals who had a bitter experience with virtual shopping malls  such as indiatimes.com have been shared in the web query section of Advantage Consumer, highlight the potential menace of this facility. Herein the experience of the Secretary of CPC, Rourkela, is shared.

      Sri Vaidyanathan placed an order for the supply of one LG Microwave Oven with a Free Hand Blender, worth Rs. 2,000/-, by paying a sum of Rs. 8,990/-, on Fabmall.com, virtual shopping mall, in October 2004.  Though the order was placed on Fabmall.com, the material was supposed to be supplied by LGezbuy.com, the internet based retail selling arm of M/s LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd.  Though as per the Fabmall offer the microwave was supposed to be delivered within 14 days, the same was delivered only after 34 days, that too after several reminders.  The consignment was delivered by the authorised dealer of M/s LG Electronics, as per the directive of LG's Branch Office at Bhubaneswar, through their authorized transporter.

     When the microwave oven was delivered at Rourkela, at the residence of Sri Vaidyanathan, it was found damaged.  Further the "Free" Hand Blender was also not found.  Immediately the same was reported to the transporter, Fabmall and LGezbuy.  Though assurances were given that the damaged microwave oven will be replaced, nothing was done.  After waiting patiently for more than 6 months, a complaint was lodged in the II Addl. District Forum, Bangalore Urban District, Banglore, in May 2005, praying for refund of Rs. 8,990 along with 18% interest, compensation of Rs. 1 lakh for the mental agony, etc. and a cost of Rs. 20,000.

      The District Forum, presided by Sri Jayaram R.Hegde, Sri B.V.Venkata Reddy and Smt. Nalini S. Shetty, as Members, heard the matter.

      Fabmall.com, OP no.1, pleaded that it was only a facilitator for advertising of the products by LG.  It claimed that it was not either directly or indirectly connected with the actual transaction of sale.  The offer of sale of microwave oven along with the "Free" Hand blender was made by LG, while they had only carried the information of such offer on its web site.

      LG, OP no.2, pleaded that the Fabmall.com had sold the product and they had only supplied the product to them and they were not at all involved in the individual transaction.

      The transporter, who was OP no.3 in the case claimed that they had accepted the good in packed condition from the authorised dealer, OP no.4, and delivered it in good condition.  As they were only a transporter, it was not their duty to open the box and verify the goods.

     The authorised dealer, OP no.4, pleaded that they had received instruction from the Branch Office of LG, at Bhubaneswar, for the despatch of the microwave oven and they had despatched the material in good condition, through the authorised transporter of LG, OP no.3.

     The Forum in a well reasoned order concluded that though LG claimed to have sold the product to Fabmall, they could not produce any document in support of this claim.  Further, the microwave oven was supplied by the Authorised dealer of LG and transported by its transporter, making it amply evident that LG and its dealer were responsible for the supply of a damaged oven and directed them to pay Rs. 8,990 along with interest at 10%, from 1.11.2004, till the actual date of payment.  They were also directed to pay Rs. 10,000 as compensation.  LG went in appeal  to the State Commission, Karnataka, Bangalore.  It confirmed the order of the District Forum, but moderated the compensation to Rs. 5,000, as per mutual consent.

     Since the oven was bulky, the Forum relied on the photographs submitted by the complainant.  Further in support of the allegations, transcripts of e-mails, and detailed bills of cell-phones were also submitted, in addition to other documents.