Ten top consumer disputes cases


The purchase or hiring of goods and services is a part of daily life. The trust required to purchase or hire services is the key to making this decision. Failing to trust can lead to financial loss and even physical injury. Consumer Protection Act 1986 (from now on called CPA) is designed to provide relief for such negligence or breach of trust quickly. A hierarchy of three tribunals has accomplished this purpose.

  • District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF),
  • The State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (SCDRC),
  • The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC)

These tribunals have, together with the Apex Court, developed a better understanding and balance of the CPA over the years.

Corporate Bodies may be sued under CPA.

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that a corporate entity is included in the definition of “person” in section 2(1)(m). In Dilworth, Commissioner of Stamps, Lord Watson argued that “includes” can be used to expand the word’s meaning. However, it could also mean “mean and include.” The explanations below are exhaustive. Interpretation depends on the context and the objective of the Act. The section was not intended to exclude juristic people from its scope, and the definition is inclusive by nature.

It reiterated its position in Southern Petrochemical Industries, that “supply” does not mean “sale”, and in the context of electricity, it would be the provision of service under section 2 (1)(d),(ii)) of the Act.

Professional services fall under the Act.

The court decided that services rendered by a doctor fall under the definition of services’ in section 2(1)(o). The court rejected the argument that a physician, being a professional, falls within the purview of the Indian Medical Council Act and is therefore exempted from the CPA.

It also ruled that a token fee for hospital administration purposes would not be considered a free service under the services definition. The cost of services provided by an employer or insurance company is similar to the price paid by the consumer.

Services must be rendered with due diligence and in compliance with the Law.

The complainant claimed that his son died from the wrong treatment administered by the doctor. The State Commission awarded five lakh rupees for negligence.

The National Commission appealed and found that neither the prescriptions on record contained any description of symptoms nor any preliminary vital information that a doctor must check. This includes body temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate as well as any prior medical history. Additional tests required to diagnose the condition were also mentioned. Following the case of Samira Koki v Dr Prabha Mangal (I (2008) CPJ 56(SC),) ruled that medical negligence was established by failing to include such essentials in a prescription. Also, the Commission noted that the availability of these essentials, as well as clinical observations and consent from the patient, points to the doctor’s care and diligence and acts against any frivolous cases.

The National Commission reduced the amount of compensation to two-and-a-half lakhs, along with interest, because there was no evidence to support the claim that the patient died from negligence.

The respondent was a homoeopathic doctor who prescribed allopathic medicine to a patient who failed to respond to it and died. The Supreme Court ruled that the Central and State Acts restrict the right to practice allopathic medicine. The fact that the respondent was registered and qualified to practice Homeopathy, led to him being found in violation of section 15(3), Indian Medical Council Act 1956. Respondent’s negligence was deemed actionable and he was ordered by the court to pay three lakhs.

Higher education institutions are required to refund any additional fee

In this instance, the petitioner had to pay a lump sum of two years for admission to a medical coaching centre. The coaching center refused to reimburse the remainder of the amount after the petitioner quit the course in mid-course due to a deficiency in services. Following the National Commission’s view, the State Tribunal ruled that no educational institution should collect a lump sum fee for the duration of the course. If one does, the extra fee should be returned to the student in the event of a dropout. The State Tribunal noted that any clause contrary to this rule is invalid because it violates the principles of natural justice and lacks equal bargaining power.

A court also ruled that additional compensation for mental anguish resulting from approaching the legal forum should be granted. It was not requested in the petition so it couldn’t be granted.

Sympathy should never influence Compensation

The complainant sought compensation for medical negligence he claimed occurred before, during, and after a procedure that resulted in partial paralysis. Medical negligence was ruled by the National Tribunal. It cited a variety of lapses in each of these phases, including the fact that consent was not given for tumor removal but for examination.

The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Commission in appeal and said that removal of the tumor was delayed through discussion on record. Therefore, implied consent cannot be inferred.

The court recognized that compensation must be paid in a balanced manner between the excessive demands of the victim, and the unreasonable claims of the opposing party. While it acknowledged that the victim’s feelings of sympathy should not be a factor in determining compensation, the court should not deny “adequate compensation”. A combination of these and other peculiar facts, the court increased the amount of compensation to twenty five lakhs for each victim’s ongoing medical expenses and loss of employment. Additional compensation was granted for the pain and suffering the appellant had suffered. This included reimbursement for expenses incurred by a driver-cumberattendant over thirty years, which amounted to seven lakhs twenty thousand, and for nursing care that amounted to fourteen lakhs forty thousand. Also, interest at 6% was added for physiotherapy costs of thirty years, which amounted to ten thousand and eighty thousand.

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