Around a decade ago, and lasting till the past couple of years, the housing sector in India was going great guns. Residential values were rising, and rising fast, people were rushing to buy flats and houses, and investors were pumping money into the sector hoping to make back quick returns. Many people did make a lot of money, but for the past few years, the sector has seen a lot of distress – flats and houses booked many years ago still have not been delivered. In the sector currently, buyers face a lot of stress. A large section has taken bank loans for buying flats or apartments, EMI’s are still ongoing, they still have to pay their rental, and so on. For example, somebody could have taken a loan for a flat to be ready by 2012, but these flats are not ready as yet. The buyer is not sure about when the delivery will happen, their faith in the builder has also gone, and they are worried about whether they have lost their money. And the builder was supposed to pay a penalty for late delivery of flats, but they use some technicality or other to not pay the penalty, or just outright refuse to pay. Consumers are now approaching consumer forums or courts for getting their rights, and there has been a spate of decisions in the recent past that are making builders think about their approach again (link to article):
he National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has ordered Parsvnath Developers to pay a monthly penalty to buyers for delay in handing over flats in Parsvnath Planet, a residential project in the city’s Gomtinagar locality.
The builder will have to pay Rs 15,000 per month to complainants who had applied for flats up to 175 sq metres, while those who went for bigger flats will get Rs 20,000 every month, the commission ruled.
In the Parsvnath case, the NCDRC observed that according to the agreement executed in 2006, the developer was to give possession of flats to allottees within 42 months, that is, in 2009-10. However, flats have not been handed over till now.
In many cases, builders are also under distress. However, in some cases, these builders have extended themselves, trying to grow too fast or otherwise found themselves in other problems. However, the stress of consumers, who are incredibly much smaller than these large developers and really cannot afford the pain that these developers are putting them through, has to be paramount.
This happens infrequently when one is traveling. There are numerous reports of passenger bags lost while traveling, and even though the percentages of these bag losses against the total number of trips and baggage that make it to their destination is very low, it is very painful for the people who lose their baggage. Nobody double packs while traveling, and if one or more pieces of baggage are lost, it can be painful. People have been known to reach their destination with almost no packed clothes, or have lost important pieces of documentation, or lost medicines, or other important stuff. And this when they may be in a different location, away from their home and away from their comfort zone and no support.
There are standard protocols to handle the situation of loss of baggage, with international agreements about the compensation that airlines have to offer, but in a number of cases, the airlines are reluctant to settle with the affected passengers. There are a number of complaints where people have to fight with the airline, such as in this case where the case went to a consumer court (and to a higher consumer court) (link to article):
The apex consumer court has asked SpiceJet airline to pay compensation and penalty of Rs 60,000 to a Tripura resident for losing his luggage in one of its flights.
Justice J M Malik asked the air carrier to pay the compensation amount to Agartala resident Dr Atanu Ghosh whose one out of five registered ‘check-in’ baggages was lost during his flight and could not be found.
Both the lower fora had granted compensation of Rs 50,000 in favour of Ghosh. Thereafter, the airline approached the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) against the orders of the fora and claimed that the amount awarded to Ghosh was on the higher side.
This has been the case in many complaints earlier as well, when airlines have been forced to pay compensation for losing luggage, but have fought this every step of the way; with the cases going to consumer courts and in most cases, they have been forced to pay up.
I had gone to visit a cousin in the United Kingdom, when they ran into some problem with a household utility. They called the required service, and they discussed a suitable time and some estimates of cost (with final cost to be figured out when the repair person finally arrived). I was actually shocked when, within 5 minutes of the discussed time, the repairman showed up. Why shocked ? Well, if you ever had a chance to get something repaired or some construction done inside your home or business or factory, one thing you would have learned is that there is no such system of accurate timing to be followed.
Typically this has been the flow of this process. You run into some problem in your home, supposed a particular lighting system goes on the blink, and you call up the electrician. The first reaction would be: “Okay, I’ll come”. No mention of time, no mention of what timing would be convenient, and so on. And it is possible that when you call up 5 hours later, then the electrician realizes that you are serious and do need help, and will come within the next 1 hour. You could replace electrician with some other service, and would get a similar response. Problem with leaking tap ? Tie a cloth and wait for the plumber to come. Asked the painter to come, and he will come in the next 2-3 days. If you are not at home, you can be sure that this would be the time he would have come. This is a common problem with all such service people.
Even service providers who claim to offer more professional services suffer from the same problem. I have a service from a prominent provider of satellite TV, and there was a problem in the set-top box. Calling the call center provided a solution, where they promised to send a repair person, and they asked me for a time for the same. I provided them a 3 hour timeline, and to no surprise, the 3 hour passed without any visit. I got back to the service center and told them of the same. 15 minutes later I got a call from the local representative of the provider, who promised to come soon, but reproached me for telling the service center about non-arrival (since that meant he must have got a ticking off about reaching on time). He inspected the equipment after arrival, and decided that the equipment he had with him would not work, and needed to get some fresh equipment.
He asked for a fresh time, and since my infant boy had just slept off in the same room where the equipment would need to be handled, I told him of a time for 2 hours later. He agreed, but came in again 1 hour later. I was astonished as to how this was possible, and refused to let him come to do the repair. Within 2 minutes, I got a call from his supervisor, and this was an ugly conversation. Finally I told him that he was being unprofessional and I will file another complaint, and he grudgingly agreed, but just to make a point, instead of coming at the agreed on time, he came an hour later.
The big thought in all this was, what happens if I was at the office during these intervals rather than at home ? It would be almost impossible to decide a time when one could take a short time off, since these service providers do not seem to follow regular timings. One can only hope that over a period of time, they will maybe start to become more professional.
However, the compensation amount seems so inadequate at times. When you consider this young air-hostess, and her sudden and accidental death in a Chennai amusement park, her death at the age of 20 cannot be compensated by with a compensation amount of Rs. 25 lakhs (she would have earned far more during her career, besides the shock of somebody dying so young in an accident that could have been prevented). As one can figure out by reading the news article, the death inside the amusement park happened because the proper safety procedures were not followed by the park operatives; and why were they not followed ? Because there was a large rush inside the amusement park, and hence the proper safety procedures were bypassed. This is not just an accident, but bypassing the safety procedures or using a short-cut is a criminal act and should be prosecuted as such. Further, the owners are trying to get away from responsibility for the attack, and this cannot be allowed. They were the owners, and hence the overall responsibility is theirs (link to article):
Madras high court judge Justice P N Prakash ensured that the cheque for the amount was handed over to the victim’s mother, Sasule Magh, in the presence of two lawyers — Vasugi Ramanan, representing Sasule, and R C Paul Kanagaraj, representing the amusement park.
Afia Magh, an airhostess with Kingfisher Airlines, visited EVP Theme Park at Sembarambakkam with nine of her friends on October 2, 2012. While she was enjoying the octopus ride at the park, she fell down and suffered serious injuries. She died at a private hospital later in the day.
Some things can be pretty shocking. Imagine having bought a new bike, and then getting transferred to a new city. New bike owners are paranoid about the maintenance of their bikes and spend time taking care of them. Depending on somebody else to care for them, even for a few hours, is something that seems odd; but if you have got a transfer, you have to depend on somebody else to transfer the bike for you. Nowadays a lot of people depend on packers and movers for the same, but the railways also have a good service to carry cargo, and ensuring the movement of cars and bikes through the railways service is something that a lot of people depend upon. However, once in a while, if something goes wrong, there is a lot of effort that needs to be taken to find out what has gone wrong, and to get redressal for the same.
In this case, the person who had booked his bike had also got insurance to cover the movement, and had to call upon both the railways and the insurance company to make good for his loss. However, he was in for a bigger shock, with the railways disclaiming any responsibility for the same, and even claiming that his receipt issued by the railways was not authentic. The loss of a new bike or any such vehicle can be painful, and having to make a lot of efforts to find out what has happened and to file claims in the insurance forum for the same takes effort and legwork, especially when the opposing party refuses to accept any responsibility.
There was a long effort for the same, with the insurance company giving in a bit early and deciding to settle in the consumer forum, but the railways refused to accept, and had to be taken to 2 different levels in the consumer forums in order to get a settlement that the person was willing to accept, and it took a period of 5 years for the same (link to article):
A brand new motorcycle of Ambarish Chandrayan was stolen from Pune railway station premises. Chandrayan had purchased the two-wheeler and insured it with Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company by paying a premium of Rs 1,133 on March 15, 2010, under package policy.
Due to transfer Chandrayan on June 30, 2010, booked his bike for Rs 680 including packaging charges. The complainant was also issued receipt to that effect and was informed that the motorcycle would be delivered at Nagpur station within 10 days but it didn’t reach.
When inquired, the complainant was informed that the receipt itself was not authentic. Chandrayan lodged a FIR at Pune railway station on July 24, 2010. As the two wheeler motor cycle vehicle was insured, the complainant submitted insurance claim on August 17, 2010, with the company but the insurance company repudiated the claim as not being theft. The railway police too washed its hand of the matter.