The National Consumer Commission today rapped beverage giant Coca Cola for a promotional scheme launched by it in 1998 which had resulted in deficiency in service and unfair trade practice.
The apex consumer body said the terms and conditions of the scheme -- Coca Cola Diwali Karishma, which had run from September 21 to October 26, 1998, were not specified clearly causing "utter confusion" among participants.
"Coca Cola was guilty of both deficiency in service and unfair trade practice...In running the promotion scheme," the Commission bench comprising Justice R C Jain and Anupam Dasgupta said.
"It is clear that Coca Cola Private Limited created utter confusion about the date of commencement of the scheme and also failed to clarify the selected cities where it was run," it said.
"There is absolutely no evidence to show how the consumers who participated in the scheme between September 21, 1998, to October 2, 1998 and received bottles with liners containing visuals were informed about the conditions governing the scheme," the Commission said.
It passed the order on an appeal of the Coca Cola challenging the Punjab State Consumer Commission's direction to the company to give a new Honda City as per its scheme besides Rs 20,000 as compensation to a complainant.
The scheme, which was launched in 1998 by Coca Cola, said those who found a cap with a yellow band and a printed liner on the inside surface will be rewarded with a prize including a Honda City car in selected cities.
The scheme came under scanner in consumer court after a man claimed that he was being duped even after fulfilling all the prescribed conditions under it.
The Commission, however, said the complainant was not entitled to the car as all the other recipients had submitted their valid entries before him on "first-come-first serve basis."
"The complainant's entry was not entitled to receive any of the five prizes of Honda City cars on first-come-first-served basis," it said.
It noted that the terms and conditions of the scheme were published in some newspapers only on October 3, 1998, while it was in operation from September 21.
"Given the criterion of first-come first-served, these were the consumer most likely to win the prizes because their (otherwise eligible) entries would have reached the designated post box much before those sending their entries from October 3, 1998," the Commission said.