The Chandigarh Consumer Commission recently ordered Bata India Ltd to pay Rs 9,000 in fine for charging Rs 3 from a customer for a paper bag to carry the shoebox.
Legal experts say the order is legally valid across the country and that stores cannot charge consumers additional charges for the bag if the product is purchased from the same store.
The forum's order came on a complaint filed by a consumer, Dinesh Prasad Raturi.
Raturi told the consumer panel that he had purchased a pair of shoes on February 5 from the shoe store located in Sector 22D. The store charged Rs 402, which also included cost for the bag.
Raturi contested that by charging him for the bag, Bata was also endorsing its brand on the bag which was not justified. Raturi sought a refund of Rs 3 and compensation for deficiency in services.
The forum slammed Bata for charging an additional amount for the paper bag.
The forum ordered that a customer cannot be compelled to pay for the bag, and that it was a clear deficiency in service. The consumer forum ruled that it was the store's duty to provide a free bag to the customer who purchased their product.
Sagar Saxena, an advocate based in Delhi, said: "This consumer court's decision is legally valid across India. People can cite this order anywhere in the country and have the bag charges waived. The order establishes that even if the bag is environment-friendly, the retailer cannot charge an additional amount for the bag."
The consumer forum observed that if the companies are eager to protect the environment, they should provide free environment-friendly bags to the customers.
Nikhil Majithia, an advocate in Delhi, said: "After this order, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs should come out with guidelines to protect consumer rights. Shopkeepers are not allowed to charge extra from consumers, as they brand the bag with their logo, so it becomes part of their advertising."
The Chandigarh commission in its decision directed Bata India Ltd to refund the cost of the bag (Rs 3) and litigation charges, i.e. Rs 1,000 along with Rs 3,000 as compensation to the customer for the mental agony caused by deficiency in services.
The forum also directed Bata to deposit Rs 5,000 in the legal aid account of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)