When consumers encounter problems with a manufacturer/dealer or a service provider and later, upon representation, if the said manufacturer or service provider offers a resolution, then, it is vital for consumers to make sure that the recourse suggested is totally agreeable to them before accepting it.
For instance, if an individual had issues with an educational institution, where he had paid a fee of Rs.85,000 for his daughter for the present academic year, and, subsequently decides to pull her out before the term starts and submits a letter to this effect, and the institution, which is supposed to refund almost the entire amount other than deducting a few thousands towards administrative expenses and the original certificates, offers to repay only Rs. 30,000, then, it is advisable for him/her to fight the case without taking the money.
However, if the institution refuses to handover the original certificates unless the individual accepts the money offered and signs a letter which states that there would be no further claims, then, the person would be left with no option than to accept as the certificates may be required to admit the daughter elsewhere. In such situations, it is important that consumers immediately communicate to the opposite party in writing, making it explicitly clear that they are doing so under protest and then go ahead with whatever is demanded of. Only this would facilitate in taking the matter further and might help in getting a refund of the balance amount at a later date.
In United India Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs Srinivas Trading Co. decided by the National Commission, the facts were that the complainant had given discharge voucher towards full and final settlement and the payment was received without any demur. Nevertheless, 15 days later, the complainant wrote to the insurance company intimating that it was forced to give the voucher in full and final settlement of the claim. Rejecting the stand of the complainant, it was observed that the protest lodged by the complainant was not simultaneous because after execution of the full and final settlement the issue was not raised immediately and also reasons like undue influence, coercion or fraud being exercised by the company was not pleaded and thus it was held that no case was made out under the Act.
In another case, Bhagawati Prasad Pawan Kumar Vs Union of India, heard by the Apex Court, two consignments of iodised salt, booked in favour of the appellant, were not delivered by the Railways. So, the appellant lodged two claims for Rs.53,264 and Rs.51,686, being the value of the said goods. The Railways admitted the claims only to the extent of Rs. 9,111 and Rs.9,032 and enclosed two cheques for the same. The offer was made with the condition that if it was not acceptable, the cheques should be returned forthwith, failing which, it would be deemed that the appellant had accepted the offer in full and final settlement of the claim. The appellant accepted the two cheques sent by the Railways and encashed them. Twenty days later, he wrote to the Railways stating that the claims were placed under protest and could not be accepted and that the balance amount should be remitted. It was laid down that the protest and non-acceptance must be conveyed before the cheques were encashed and if the cheques were encashed without any objection, then it must be construed that the offer stood unequivocally accepted and the offeree cannot be permitted to change his mind after obvious acceptance of the offer and the appeal was dismissed accordingly.
Thus, it is important that consumers act fast and with great prudence in order to ensure that they do not miss out the opportunity to acquire what is rightfully theirs.
The writer works with CAG which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 2491 4358/2446 0387 or [email protected]