Recovering six equated monthly instalments (EMIs) from a customer for a jewellery set worth Rs1,790, cost ICICI Bank Ltd Rs35,000, excluding an interest of 6%pa (per annum). In an order, the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) directed ICICI Bank to pay Rs25,000 compensation and Rs10,000 litigation cost to a customer.
In an order last week
, the NCDRC bench of Dr Inder Jit Singh (presiding member), says, "We find no illegality or material irregularity in the order of the Rajasthan state consumer disputes redressal commission. However, we are of the view that Jaipur district consumer disputes redressal forum has awarded a much higher compensation. Hence, in partial modification of para 2 of the operating portion of the order of the district forum, we hereby order that ICICI Bank shall pay a total compensation of Rs25,000 only along with litigation cost of Rs10,000 to the complainant. Order of the district forum with respect of payment of Rs50,000 to be deposited in Rajasthan state consumer welfare fund is set aside. ICICI Bank should pay within one month the amounts as per this order along with interest at 6%pa with effect from the date of order of district forum till the date of actual payment."
Jaipur-based Nilima Jauhari is a credit card customer of ICICI Bank. Along with the ICICI Bank credit card statement for January 2008, she received a proposal from Gift360 Kaviraj Warehouse to buy items and pay the bill in six interest-free EMIs. She purchased a jewellery set of Rs1,790 from Gift360. The payment of the jewellery set was to be effected at Rs298.35 each in six EMIs.
As per the Gift360 offer, the jewellery set was to be consigned to Ms Jauhari within 30 days. However, she did not receive the set till March 2008, while she had already paid three EMIs to Kaviraj Warehouse through ICICI Bank. When contacted, she was assured by Gift360 and Kaviraj Warehouse that the jewellery set would be shipped within a week.
When she did not receive the jewellery set, Ms Jauhari stopped payment of the remaining three EMIs. She sent an intimation to the nodal officer of ICICI Bank in Hyderabad about the non-delivery of the jewellery set. However, no jewellery set was delivered to her. After that, she sent a notice to the Jaipur branch of ICICI Bank and requested that the amount paid as EMIs for the jewellery set be refunded to her and no late fee payment, interest, or services tax be imposed.
However, Ms Jauhari alleged that ICICI Bank compelled her to make the payment, including late payment fees, interest and services tax. Being aggrieved, she filed a complaint before the district forum. In its order on 6 October 2016, the district forum held ICICI Bank and Gift360 (Kaviraj Warehouse) liable for deficiency in service.
ICICI Bank challenged the order before the state commission. It argued that the district forum had erred in saying that the offer was made by ICICI Bank, and thus, the bank is responsible for the delivery of the article purchased by the complainant. "The advertisement relied upon by Ms Jauhari specifically mentioned the exclusion clause of the bank for any delay and delivery or non-delivery or quality of product....The fora below failed to appreciate that as a sincere service gesture by ICICI Bank, as the Bank had reverted the EMI amount along with late fee charge, interest and service taxes."
The state commission dismissed the appeal filed by ICICI Bank, which then approached NCDRC with its revision appeal. The counsel for ICICI Bank argued that the fora below failed to appreciate the fact that whenever any consumer opts for EMI payment on a credit card purchase, the whole order amount is remitted to the seller instantly and not in parts, as and when EMIs are paid to the bank.
"Further, the full amount of the product in question was remitted to the seller at the time of purchase, and the EMI was being collected by the Bank in lieu of its legally enforceable debt. The district forum, without any basis, demonised and penalised the Bank for its actions, i.e. recovery of money from the customer using its credit card service, on whose instructions the amount of the product was paid to Gift360," the counsel contended.
The counsel for Ms Jauhari submitted that both fora below have passed concurrent findings. "Also, the bare reading of the offer (from Gift360) submitted Ms Jauhari makes it clear that the Bank was hand in glove with Gift360 in selling the disputed jewellery. Further, both the fora below have rightly placed reliance on the letters written by Ms Jauhari to ICICI Bank where no heed was paid by the Bank on these letters."
After perusing the orders of the state commission, district forum, other relevant records and rival contentions of the parties, NCDRC observed concurrent findings of both the fora below against ICICI Bank.
Dr Singh from NCDRC also quoted the state commission order, which stated, "During the arguments, ICICI Bank has admitted that a contract was executed between the Bank and Gift360 and according to said contract, the pamphlet of the scheme was sent to customers. In this circumstance, the statement of ICICI Bank that they are not liable with regard to the scheme is erroneous. Since ICICI Bank had sent the pamphlet of the scheme to the parties, they are liable for the same and their liability will not be vanished by a mere denial. Along with that, it is also clear that the order for the jewellery set was given to the complainant on the basis of six EMIs, and the set was to be delivered within 30 days. When the set was not received within the stipulated time, the direction was given by Ms Jauhari to ICICI Bank that payment of the balance amount should not be made to Gift360. In spite of that, payment of the balance amount was made by ICICI Bank to Gift360, which itself is a deficiency in service."
"It was also concealed from the Court what was the contract between ICICI Bank and Gift360 and unbelievable statements were given that the contract was not placed by them and same has been destroyed, while the complainant was present in 2009 and there was no reason to destroy the contract. Thus, deficiency in service on the part of ICICI Bank was clear..." the state commission had said.
Disposing of the revision petition, NCDRC directed ICICI Bank to pay Rs35,000 with an interest of 6%pa to Ms Jauhari.
(Revision Petition No29 of 2017 Date: 27 January 2024)