adulteratedGoods

Spurious and Adulterated Goods – Your Rights as a Consumer

Sometimes we come across adulterated food items causing serious health issues and ailments and even death in some cases. We hardly want to take up the matter against the manufacturers/trader in the Court.

But do you know that as a consumer you are entitled to sue the manufacturer/trader in a Consumer Court seeking compensation for the incurred losses as well take the matter even to the Criminal Court.

In my experience so far, I have been approached by a couple of consumers. The first one had  purchased one of the most popular soft drink which had clearly visible dust particles. Upon further analysis done by the Public Analyst the item was declared as adulterated. The second case, in which the consumer had purchased a bottle of refined oil containing a dead lizard in it and hence was considered unfit for consumption.

This analysis was done on the advise of the Criminal Court and the Consumer Court and I had the opportunity to represent both the cases in these two Courts.

We must be aware about the laws and the next steps to take shelter against such manufacturers/traders besides seeking any Compensation in lieu of incurred losses. As per the law, the faulty manufacturers/traders can be subjected to penalizing/punishment/sentence to imprisonment, life imprisonment or even sentence to death.

We at Power to Consumer  feel it is our responsibility to spread awareness that the Consumers are empowered with the provisions of the Consumer Protection act, 1986 (also known as  COPRA). Under this act, the Consumers can be compensated adequately against their losses/injuries caused due to use of such spurious and adulterated food items. Not only this, the manufacturers/traders can be subjected to heavy punishment by the Criminal Court on the basis Consumer Court’s findings.

It also opens the door to look into the matter whether the Manufacturers/Traders have committed offence under the provision of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 for causing any loss  due to consumption of adulterated food.

The food item is analysed by the Public Analyst to find if its adulterated or not under the jurisdiction u/s 13 (1) (c) of COPRA to send such goods for its Analysis by the Public Analyst. They are vested for the purpose under Section 12 of the Prevention of Food adulteration act, 1954.

Although the Consumer Court of India is responsible for hearing all matters within the scope of Consumer Law, but the analysis and judicial review of the adulteration of ingredients is very well within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Courts.

The consumer can file a complaint under Sec. 12 of COPRA seeking adequate compensation in lieu of incurred loss. The allegations against the manufacturer/trader has to be framed under COPRA. As per the Report of the Public Analyst, one can sue the manufacturer/trader in a competent criminal court demanding punishment for them under provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

What needs to be done in a LPG blast incident?

gas cylinderWe recently covered two blog posts on the important topic of LPG safety and security. We got many encouraging comments on how the posts have made many of our readers aware of something so common yet unheard. To give our consumers an end-to-end perspective on this topic, we are covering in this post a last but important point of what needs to be done in the eventuality of a cylinder blast?

As you would have read, LPG Gas Cylinders are governed under the legal ambit, as laid by the Gas Cylinders Rules, 1981 being made under the provisions of Section 18 of the Indian Explosives Act, 1884. In such a case, if there is a LPG blast happening at one’s premise, the consumer can report the incident by logging on to the website:

http://peso.gov.in/Accident_Report.aspx

They can also lodge the report by sending an express telegram followed by a detailed letter stating the occurrence to: Chief Controller of Explosives, Block A, CGO Complex, Fifth Floor, Seminary Hills, Nagpur – 440 006; and the Officer-in-Charge at the nearest police station.Premium Legal Support

The above step will give a consumer a sound footing to sue the concerned insurer, the LPG company as well as distributor in the Consumer Court, and get an appropriate Award of Compensation in lieu of their sustained loss. Remember, Consumer Courts are fully empowered to grant compensation in LPG cylinder blast cases causing loss or casualty if it’s established that LPG cylinder blast is caused due to it being defective.

Case Studies

We state two cases where consumers sued the LPG companies on account of them circulating defective LPG cylinders, and how they were awarded justice by the Consumer Courts.

Case 1: Mrs. Madhuri Govilkar and others Vs M/S Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and others

On a fateful day in August 1995, a 47-year-old Mr. Suresh Kumar Govilkar got up make tea for himself and his wife. Since the in use cylinder was empty, he replaced it with a refilled cylinder he received through the dealer, Pelicon Gas Agency. No sooner did he lit the stove, a major fire engulfed Mr. Govilkar. As a result he was admitted to a hospital, where he breathed his last – (Mrs Madhuri Govilkar and others Vs M/S Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and others, Original Petition No 289 of 1996). Mrs. Govilkar sued the LPG company, Hindustan Petroleum and the dealer Pelicon Gas Agency for gross negligence and carelessness.

The Honourable, Justice M.B.Shah, President and Mrs Rajyalakshmi Rao, Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission observed that [su_highlight background=”#e0ef6f”]once the defect is established, the manufacturer is liable and it does not require any further consideration[/su_highlight]. They therefore held that both the dealer and the oil company were jointly liable to pay a compensation of Rs. Ten Lakhs Eight Thousand, along with interest at the rate of 9 % per annum, and costs amounting to Rs 5000.

Premium Legal SupportThe insurer National Insurance Company also came under fire for its ‘negative attitude’. Referring to the advice sent to the dealer (when informed of the accident and the claim) not to make any admission of compensation without the insurance company’s prior consent, the Commission said this attitude [su_highlight background=”#e0ef6f”]displayed a typical negative approach on the part of the insurance company[/su_highlight]. “Such type of negative defense increases the litigation in this country. In any case, such defense on the part of National Insurance Company is totally unjustifiable,” the Commission said. You can read more about this case study here.

Case 2: Mr. K U Nachappa vs Shanthi Gas Agency

Another case study involving a LPG blast is of Mr. K.U.Nachappa, Bangalore. Mr. Nachappa  purchased an HP cylinder from Shanthi Gas Agency, at Bangalore in October 2010, but it was not working. On October 16, 2010, the company sent a technician to identify and rectify the problem.

While the technician was doing its diagnosis, Mr. Nachappa was standing next to him, and suddenly the cylinder burst inflicting burns on both. Mr. Nachappa suffered burns on his face, hands and legs, and had to be treated. His kitchen got badly damaged too.

Alleging that the accident was due to a manufacturing defect in the cylinder and the technician’s inefficiency, Mr. Nachappa sought Rs 1.18 lakh compensation by filling a Consumer Case in the Consumer Court, Bangalore. The Consumer Court, Bangalore while taking note of the photographs provided by Nachappa ruled that the explosion was [su_highlight background=”#e0ef6f”]because of a defective gas cylinder, and termed it deficiency in service on part of the company and the agency and further observed that an LPG manufacturing company is liable to compensate a cylinder blast victim, even if it has taken steps to fix the defect.[/su_highlight]

The Consumer Court, Bangalore passed its Order on 2nd February’ 2012 granting thereby a compensation of Rs 1.17 lakh with 10% per annum interest to Mr. Nachappa. The Bench also directed the company and the agency to pay Rs. 2000 for litigation cost, and 10% interest on the entire amount from the date of the incident. The Court also said that ‘the complainant not only suffered physical injury, but also mental shock and agony. He is definitely entitled to the compensation for all his sufferings.’ You can read more about the case here.

Our View

Premium Legal SupportIt pains us immensely to see that such a basic necessity of life is being handled so carelessly by LPG companies and dealers, who are absolutely ignorant about consumer safety. There is such minimum awareness about LPG safety being passed by either the company or dealer to consumers when they are taking the delivery of LPG cylinders. Whatever is, is mostly out of TV ads or posters inside dealer premises.

In such a scenario, it is up to us consumers to stay alert and cautious about our safety, and make our family members, friends, colleagues, coworkers aware of LPG hazards. At Power to Consumer, we have taken a small step to make you aware of all the aspects of LPG safety. It is up to you to make others aware. We are compiling all the three posts below. Share the links within your social circles. And help us in our objective of powering the consumer.

  1.  Are you Aware of Your LPG Insurance Policy?– http://www.powertoconsumer.in/blog/2014/03/13/lpg-insurance-policy/
  2. Have you Checked Your Cylinder for its Expiry Date?– http://www.powertoconsumer.in/blog/2014/02/27/have-you-checked-your-cylinder-for-its-expiry-date/
  3. What Needs to be Done in a LPG Blast Incident?– http://www.powertoconsumer.in/blog/2014/11/25/what-needs-to-be-done-in-a-lpg-blast-incident/

Photo Copyright: Satish Krishnamurthy via Flickr CC

Gas Cylinder Insurance Policy

Are you Aware of Your LPG Insurance Policy?

Recently, we wrote an article making our readers aware of the hazards of using an expired LPG cylinder; and also how to spot if the cylinder in their kitchen is near its expiration date or already expired. The article was appreciated by our readers, so much so that one of our empowered consumer, Mr. Vijai Prakash from Lucknow wrote back a query:

His question was: Can you please let us know that whether subscribing to a gas company and buying cylinders covers insurance of consumers?

This comment set our thoughts rolling, and we started searching to find out if such a policy is there. Because if such a policy exists, we are sure, many of us are never made aware of the same either by the company or the authorised distributor at the time of getting the connection.

We found that yes there is a LPG insurance cover for all subscribers of LPG connections. The policy provides an insurance of Rs.40 Lakh in the event of accidents, and Rs, 50 Lakh for deaths due to cylinder blast].

According to a Citizen Charter available on the Indian Oil Corporation website, “All registered LPG consumers are covered under an insurance policy taken by the PSU Oil Companies. In case of an accident, the customer must immediately inform the distributor in writing. The distributor then informs the concerned oil company and the insurance company about the same. The distributor will offer assistance to the customer in completing the formalities of insurance claims arising out of the accident. All LPG distributors also have Third Party Liability Insurance to cover losses in the event of an accident.” Meanwhile, the HPCL website states that, “All registered HP GAS consumers are insured against outcome of an accident at their registered premises due to LPG. Details are available with all the distributors and the Customer Service Cell. HPCL has also a Public Liability Insurance Policy.”

This means that if an accident is caused by cylinder explosion at the consumer’s premises, a consumer can claim for damage. The distributor is obligated to offer assistance to the customer in completing the formalities of insurance claims arising out of the accident. While the LPG company is bind to honor the request.

This is a very important piece of information that we believe every LPG consumer should be made aware of.

Rights as a  LPG consumer

For getting new LPG connection and to know your rights as LPG Consumers of two major LPG companies, you are advised to refer to the below links for more information:

INDANE:

HP:

To know more about how to get the compensation via Insurance claim against incurred loss caused by LPG Cylinder blast, click here.

Help us in our mission. Spread the article link with your friends, family and colleagues. Also, please share with us if you have any more queries or doubts regarding your LPG connection. We will be more than happy to answer. Please log on to our website: www.powertoconsumer.in and submit your question or complaint today. And don’t forget to share your valuable comments with us on this post.

Victim of theft during a train journey? Know your rights

Railway Theft and Legal CompensationIt is no exaggeration if I begin by saying that Indian Railways is one of the largest rail network in the world. According to this website, Indian Railways run 14,300 trains that ferry an average of 13 million passengers and 1.3 million tonnes of freight, every single day. From a public enterprise that plays such an important role in the lives of common Indian public, it is but natural to expect them to be a responsible public authority.

But the reality is far apart.

I won’t be too wrong to say that each one of us has one time or more found oneself a victim of either personal or luggage theft during a rail journey. We all had to bear the brunt of the lax attitude and security of railway staff. The situation gets more frustrating when we realised that there is absolutely no efficient system in place to stop such robberies. Of course, there are railway guards and TTE whose duty is to provide safety to passengers, and prevent robberies from taking place. But how effective is their vigil? And how duty bound are they to their responsibility? The answers are unclear.

Premium Legal SupportBut all is not negative. We do come across certain cases where time and often the Railways have been pulled up for their casual attitude; and made to compensate a passenger for the loss of luggage while travelling.

One such case that I would like to quote is from an article that talks about how Indian Railways were ordered by the NCDRC to pay Rs. 2.01 Lakh as compensation to a lady doctor who lost her luggage on a train journey. According to the article, “Classifying a rail passenger as a consumer,  the NCDRC held the Railways liable to compensate the woman for theft of her luggage, saying there was failure on the part of the ticket checker to ensure that no intruders entered the reserved coach. The consumer panel rejected the contention of the railways that there was no negligence on their part and unless the goods were booked with them, they are not liable to pay the compensation. The railways had claimed that the passenger was responsible for taking care of her luggage.”

The article also elaborates a case by the same bench passing a judgement that, “One has to presume that passenger would take reasonable care of his luggage. But, he cannot be expected to take measures against intruders getting easily into reserved compartments and running away with goods, Premium Legal Supportwhen the railway administration is charged with the responsibility to prevent such unauthorized entry. We have entered the 21st century and we cannot carry on our daily life in the same age old fashion with bearing brunt of indifferent service provided by public authorities like Railways. People expect in the 21st century a modicum of efficient and reliable service, which provides at least safety of person and property while traveling in reserved compartments”.

The website of Indian Railways also carries information stating that passengers now have a facility to lodge a complaint in running train. “Forms to lodge FIR/Complaint to Police are now available with the Coach attendants, Conductors, Guards, RPF train escorts in Running Trains and with RPF Assistance Posts, RPF Post / Outpost at important Railway stations. The affected passengers are requested to fill in the forms with relevant information and hand it over to the above mentioned Railway Officials/RPF Personnel.  The same shall be promptly forwarded to the GRP concerned for further necessary action.”

Above points make it abundantly clear that Indian Railways are getting vigilant, and are trying to stop the menace of thefts. But the measures are not enough. What do you think should be done to stop this problem? Can we, as passengers, do something about it? Let us know your comments and suggestions by replying to this post or sharing on our Facebook page.

In the meantime, if you or any one you know has been a victim of rail theft, log on to Power to Consumer and let us know.

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Photo credit: Madhiarasu via Flickr CC

lpg cylinder expiry date

Have you Checked your Cylinder for its Expiry Date?

[su_quote]Five killed in a LPG Cylinder Blast – The Hindu; Three killed in a LPG Cylinder Blast in Bangalore – The Times Of India; LPG Cylinder Blast in Bangalore Temple Creates Panic – Indian Express. [/su_quote]

Read any newspaper, and one can spot at least one incident of a cylinder blast being reported every week. What was supposed to be a one-off incident is now becoming a regular affair in the households of India. But hardly does one ponder over the reason and cause of such incidents. Why do such accidents happen? Can such incidences be avoided? If yes, how? Read to understand:

What do reports say?

As per reports, there is no one specific reason that causes a cylinder blast. Many of the cases are attributed to reckless and careless usage of gas cylinders and hot plates. The other major reason of such an incident is [su_highlight background=”#e0ef6f”]distribution of an expired LPG cylinder by the distributor, and ignorance of the consumer in accepting it[/su_highlight].

Cylinders have expiry dates too!

Yes! The gas cylinder that you have in your home has an expiry date stamped on its head. According to sources, expired LPG cylinders are cylinders who have passed their validity dates, and are due for statutory testing before they can be considered fit for domestic or commercial usage. Hence they are virtually unsafe to be used, as such [su_highlight background=”#e0ef6f”]cylinders are prone to gas leakage from valves which leads to explosion. Sometimes such cylinders get blasted in the delivery vehicle itself[/su_highlight].

According to an expert from a petroleum company, “the expiry date of a cylinder denotes the year and month when the cylinder is due for statutory testing. If a defect is found, it is repaired and after getting a certification from BIS [Bureau of Indian Standards], the cylinder is again put into circulation. However if the already repaired cylinder is again found to be damaged during subsequent statuary test, the cylinder is scrapped.”

How do I find out my gas cylinder’s expiry date?

There is a very simple method to determine the expiry date of a gas cylinder.

Each cylinder comes with three vertical stay plates (side stems) near its head. Besides carrying the weight information, one of the side stem carries some alpha-numeric code which is the expiry date of that particular gas cylinder. Here’s how to decode the expiry date.

[su_highlight background=”#e0ef6f”]Letter A stands for January to March; B covers April to June; C stands for July to September and D connotes the time period of October –  December. So if the  characters on the vertical stay plates carry the date ‘A – 07’, it means the expiry date of the cylinder was March 2007[/su_highlight].  Similarly, ‘A-14’ will indicate that the expiry date of the particular cylinder is March 2014. A cylinder that is used beyond the expiry date  invites hazard, and should be promptly returned to the distributor.

Premium Legal SupportIt is important to note here that the date stands for expiry date of the cylinder and not of the liquefied petroleum gas that resides inside. But it is in the interest of consumers to always check for the expiry date of a cylinder while receiving a refill from the distributor.

 What else do I need to check when I receive my refill?

Besides checking the expiry date, you should also check the points mentioned below as they are in your safety and interest:

  • Always check the seal of the cylinder
  • Check the safety cap. It should not have any cracks
  • Remove the safety cap and check for leakage from the valve
  • Get the new cylinder connected with your hotplate and make sure no leakage is observed

 Our View

As per a TOI article, awareness about the validity of the cylinders within consumers is still low. Taking advantage of this ignorance, gas agencies and distributors pass an expired cylinder to consumers. The report states that, “Since a good percentage of people do not know about the fact that even cylinders have expiry dates, it goes unnoticed.”

The article clearly states that the onus of checking expiry date of a gas cylinder rests on consumers. As consumers, you have the right to reject a cylinder whose expiry date is near. So exercise the power that you have, and ensure safety of yourself and your loved ones.