Consumer VOICE

Packers and Movers are Service Providers : Some cases of Negligence

When we want to move houses, we would like to ensure our precious items are packed well. We want this transition to be hassle-free. You look for the best professional packers and movers company.Yet, what if things don't go as planned? What if your belongings get damaged due to the packing company's negligence while shifting? Is there a remedy available under Consumer Protection Act to get compensated for damages done by the negligent company? This article will showcases some cases of negligence by Packers and Movers.

Most people looking for service providers end up choosing the ones that offer lesser price and have  some  good  reviews  (unfortunately,  we  live  in times where even good reviews can be bought - this however is another story).As recipients of a service that is availed of for a fee,  consumers  are  better  off  knowing  their  options if  faced  with  any  untoward  incident.  Firstly,  it  is important to note that any company that engages in shifting,  moving,  transporting  and  packing  type  of service is considered to be a service provider and can be challenged and fined for any deficiency of services under Consumer Protection Act. In India, the movers and packers sector has expanded and hundreds of new companies have entered the space. However, not many of them seem to be delivering what they promise; the number of complaints against them in the consumer forums has also been increasing steadily. The majority of these complaints state that the company did notdeliver what it committed, more so in regard to safe delivery  of  goods.  The  cases  range  from  breakage of  fragile  material,  not  packing  them  right,  or  loss (stolen/lost) of items in transit. Nevertheless, instead of  compensating  for  the  damages,  many  companies have tried challenging the consumer's complaint and their intent. Some large companies have gone to the extent of dragging a simple case of compensation for a  few  years,  until  their  appeal  got  nullified  by  the National Commission.

The Whole Case

In 2011, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) was approached by Agarwal Packers and Movers Ltd with an appeal to withhold judgements pronounced against them by district and state forums.

The    complainant    in    the    case    was    AlokChaturvedi, who had got his entire house shifted in 2009. Chaturvedi had safely got the entire stuff loaded in one truck and had put his own lock on the door of its container. However, he received his stuff in two different trucks, which meant that the lock had been broken and the  goods  unloaded  and  loaded  while they were in transit. This aberration would not have bothered him much had the goods been in a proper condition, but most of his crockery, furniture and a few  electronics  products  (costing  about  Rs  20,000) were  damaged,  while  a  few  other  items  including clothes (costing about Rs 23,000) went missing. Chaturvedi   informed   the   company   about   the damages  and  the  lost  items.  He  was  asked  by  the company  to  retain  all  damaged  products  until  their representative  assessed  them.    The  entire  broken stuff remained scattered in the house for about three month,  but  the  packers  never  turned  up  despite several reminders.

Aggrieved,   Chaturvedi   reached   the   insurance company  to  which  the  goods  were  insured  for  the transit  period.  The  insurance  company  also  asked him  to  retain  the  broken  goods  for  them  to  assess. They  also  informed  him  that  since  the  insurance was taken by Movers and Packers, and there was no contract  with  him,  the  claim-if  any-would  go  to Movers  and  Packers.  Hence,  he  would  have  to  askfor  reimbursement  of  the  same  from  the  transport company.The  fact  that  the  damages  claim  against  his products would actually go to the company that did the damages in the first place infuriated Chaturvedi. He  decided  to  file  a  formal  complaint  with  the consumer forum.

In-between, Movers and Packers offered Rs 13,000 as compensation for the missing items and damages caused  to  other  goods.  That  was  not  acceptable  to Chaturvedi  and  he  went  ahead  with  his  complaint with the district forum.The    forum    accepted    the    complaint    and pronounced  this  order:  "This  complaint  is  allowed with a direction to pay to the complainant a sum of Rs 43,000 on account of broken and missing items. Ops are also directed to pay to the complainant a sum of Rs 40, 000 as compensation for causing discomfort and Rs 5, 000 as costs of litigation."

Movers  and  Packers  filed  an  appeal  against  the district  forum's  order  and  made  these  points:  a) Agarwal  Packers  &  Movers  Pvt.  Ltd  is  an  artificial name and has to act through its managing director/ principal officer, and hence the service of summons was  to  be  effected  at  the  registered  office  of  the company, and b) there is no deficiency on the partof Packers and Movers. In support, they cited earlierSupreme Court judgements.

In   Ravneet   Singh   Bagga   versus   KLM   Royal Dutch  Airlines  and  Another  (2000),  the  Supreme Court  observed:  "The  deficiency  in  service  cannot be  alleged  without  attributing  fault,  imperfection, shortcoming  or  inadequacy  in  the  quality,  nature and manner of performance which is required to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service. The burden of proving the deficiency in service is upon the person who alleges it."

The State Commission did not agree with Movers and  Packers'  appeal  and  dismissed  it.  Movers  and Packers did not agree with the ruling and took up the matter with the National Commission.They observed the relevant findings of State Commission and stated: "...records show that Movers and Packers was duly served notice through registered post as there is acknowledgement receipt   signed   by   their   representative.   Despite receiving  summons,  no  one  appeared  before  the forum.  Records  prove  that  summons  sent  out  for appearance  had  been  received  by  its  representative Krishan Kumar. Also, the plea of ops that there was no employee with the name of Krishan Kumar is not supported by duly sworn affidavit of any responsible functionary of the company.

"Further,    as    the    Company    is    situated    in Chandigarh  and  the  material  booked  was  delivered at Chandigarh, so the district forum at Chandigarh had the territorial jurisdiction to try and adjudicate upon the dispute under the provisions of Consumer Protection Act.” More   so,   referring   to   the   Supreme   Court judgement  cited  by  the  company,  the  apex  court stated: "The rendering of deficient service has to be considered and decided in each case according to the facts of that case, for which no hard and fast rule can be laid down. Inefficiency, lack of due care, absence of  bona  fides,  rashness,  haste  or  omission  and  the like may be the factors to ascertain the deficiency in rendering the service.

"Courts  of  law  should  be  careful  enough  to  see through   such   diabolical   plans   of   the   judgement debtor  to  deny  the  decree  holders  the  fruits  of  the decree obtained by them.  These types of errors on thepart  of  the  judicial  forum  only  encourage  frivolous and cantankerous litigations causing law's delay and bringing bad name to the judicial system."

Thus,  the  National  Commission  confirmed  and upheld the decisions of the district and state forums and directed Packers and Movers to compensate the complainant as per the judgements given.

Note: In   April   2016,   the   Advertising   Standards Council     of     India's     (ASCI)     Consumer Complaints    Council    (CCC)    upheld    a complaint against Agarwal D2D Packers and Movers.  In  the  advertisement,  the  company claimed that '60 percent of the people in the country  shift  through  them'.  The  claim  was not substantiated when questioned by ASCI. Hence the ad was categorised as misleading.

Another Case to Note

Sharmilee Nielsen said she engaged the services of Leo Packers and Movers, Tiruvanmiyur, to transport goods  to  her  new  residence  at  Kottivakkam.  While some of the goods were packed by Sharmilee herself, some others were packed by the company staff. The company  delivered  the  goods  on  August  13,  2011, after charging Rs 78,313. For insurance coverage, the company charged Rs 30,000.

When the goods were delivered at her house in the  presence  of  company  personnel,  most  articles were  found  damaged  beyond  restoration.  The  list of  the  destroyed  goods  was  provided  to  the  packers company,  following  which  an  independent  assessor inspected  the  goods  and  concluded  that  the  goods were destroyed because of improper handling and jerks during road transit. The worth of damaged goods was assessed at Rs 1.44 lakh. Despite Sharmilee's request, Leo  Packers  did  not  attend  the  inspection,  nor  did it  settle  the  claim  amount.  She  then  moved  the district  consumer  forum  at  south  Chennai,  seeking compensation for damages and deficiency in service.

Denying the arguments, Leo Packers said it had requested  Sharmilee  to  allow  special  packing  of  all the  goods  in  an  airtight  container.  As  she  did  not follow  the  company's  instruction  for  packing  the goods, Leo Packers was not liable to pay damages.A   bench   of   president   B   Ramalingam   and members K Amala and T Paul Rajasekaran said that despite being informed, the company did not inspect the  goods  to  settle  the  claim.  Without  assessment, it had offered to pay Rs 20,000 as compensation to Sharmilee; that was a meagre amount. The company did  not  prove  that  the  goods  were  loosely  packed, nor did it refute that it had transported all the goods. There   was   no   evidence   to   disprove   Sharmilee's claims,  the  bench  said.  It  directed  the  company  to pay Rs 1.44 lakh along with 9 percent interest and Rs 5,000 as litigation cost.

Beware of Fakes and Frauds

In July 2016, Delhi Police busted a gang running a fake transport company impersonating a leading packers and movers firm, and arrested four persons who allegedly duped several customers on the pretext of providing low-cost services. The gang used to lure customers offering low rates and then withheld the items unless they paid an inflated bill in the name of various taxes.Around the same time, another gang was arrested from Meerut. This gang was primarily into robberies. They would pose as a mover and packers company, get the entire household/office stuff packed, and run away with a loaded truck.Consumers are advised to do a thorough check of the company's legal existence and do a reference check before dealing with a new or an unknown entity.

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1 Comment

  1. Consumer VOICE
    June 1, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you so much! Our effort is to bring consumer awareness in India.

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