Some days back I blogged about a consumer rights champion, Lt. Col. Rajesh Yadav who won a case against ICICI bank. Here, read his first-hand account of how things went with ICICI bank debit card and consumer court.
Hi Rajesh, Welcome to Visceral Observations! Before we begin, let us congratulate you for winning a consumer’s battle against ICICI.
Thanks Poonam. I am delighted to have been invited to share my views on this forum and be able to interact with the enlightened visitors of the blog. I am also thankful that you through the medium of your blog have made my fight known to public at large. I am sure this will contribute towards raising the awareness levels about Consumer Rights in the society.
Let’s start with your little introduction for the benefit of our readers.
I am Lt Col Rajesh Yadav, an Army Officer from Gurgaon. I am a customer of Vasant Vihar Branch of ICICI Bank since last 9 years and have my salary account with them. I had little knowledge about consumer rights like most of us and faced the nightmare as most of us will face when a similar situation confronts us.
Could you please, as a recap, briefly explain the original problem you faced with ICICI and then the subsequent case against ICICI in the consumer court?
As is customary with the banks these days, I had a debit card associated with my salary account that had expired. As I was posted in the J&K, I applied for card renewal on 10 Aug 05 when I came on leave to meet my family. I did not get the card for 10 days. In this period, I checked up with the customer care of ICICI Bank through e-mails and telephonic calls. They informed me that the card is being dispatched and I will get it in few days time. However, when I did not receive the card again, I called up the customer care again next month. To my horror, I was told that the card has been delivered and is also being used. When I asked for the details of usage, I was told that purchases worth Rs. 45, 623/- have been carried on my card. I requested for immediate blocking of the card. Thereafter, I visited ICICI Bank and met the Branch Manager to file the complaint.
Meanwhile, I also filed a complaint with the then DCP (South West Dist), Mr. Ravinder Yadav. After my visits to the bank, I was asked to sign an affidavit that I will not contest this case any further. In return, my money will be credited since I had not recd the card and had not requested for activation of the debit card. I signed the same and was assured that the money will be credited in a week’s time. During this one week, 4 teams of ICICI Bank visited me at my home and sought various details that were provided to them.
To cut the story short, I visited the branch number of times and nothing was done. Presumably, the bank staff was of the opinion that being from Army, I will not be able to follow up the case and the matter will die its natural death. They did nothing except buy time. They accused me of being a cheat! Meanwhile, my leave ended, I had to rejoin duties in J&K. I kept following up the case on telephone with both the ICICI Bank and Delhi Police but to no avail. My elderly father too visited them on few occasions but without any success. Writing to even Commissioner of Police was of no use as they even ignored to reply. (Imagine this was happening to a senior Army officer what to imagine the plight of hapless common man!). I had to fly down from Srinagar on three occasions to follow up the case.
I finally approached the Hon’ble Court who directed the Delhi Police to lodge an FIR against the bank which for some unknown reasons they were not willing to register till now. Regarding recovery of money, I was advised to file a complaint in the consumer’s forum which I did in Jul 2006.
Has ICICI paid you the fine as ruled by the consumer court? I ask this because sometimes I hear compliance to the consumer court order is also a problem.
ICICI Bank resisted paying the fine and did not comply with the Court order. As a result, I filed contempt petition and execution petition against them. (Don’t be afraid of these big words, these were simple 3 line applications ). The bank also later approached District Consumers Forum where their case was dismissed on first hearing. Thereafter, the Bank has credited the amount. I agree with you that these organizations do resist paying up and try to dissuade the customers to maximum extent as they have the organizational structure and finances backing. However, the remedy available is simple as can be seen from my example.
What actions did you take before going to consumer court?
I tried resolving the case by approaching the bankbranch manager Ms. Monica Bijani, who simply succeeded in buying time. She even later refused getting the affidavit signed. Fortunately, I had kept the agreement in original with me with their Banks stamp affixed to prove the point in court. Thereafter, I approached Delhi Police and personally met the then DCP (South-West Delhi), Mr. Ravindra Yadav. However, the police was unhelpful and did not lodge an FIR in spite of correspondence with the Commisioner of Police ( This was happening in National Capital and not in some remote corner of the country. I am now convinced about the accuracy of frequent media reports about common man being shooed away from police stations rather than get justice.).The FIR was finally lodged after intervention of Hon’able court. I also sought help from media channels India TV and Sahara News apart from various news papers. The media both print as well as TV was very forthcoming and helpful.
It is a common perception that their time is much more valuable than wasting it in a consumer court. What led you to file a complaint at consumer forum?
I was initially totally clueless about the consumer forum. I had just read about it in newspapers but was not aware about its efficacy and procedures. I was told about this by my brother and subsequently gained knowledge as the case progressed. I owe a lot of gratitude to my brother Mr. Rajeev Yadav, who introduced me to the Consumer Protection Act. He represented me is my absence and was instrumental in ensuring that this issue gets adequate media attention. I had filed the case just to fight the high handedness of ICICI Bank but as the case progressed, I became more and more convinced of victory as I understood the functioning of the Forum.
It is absolutely everyone’s own prerogative to decide his/her priorities. But I consider it a moral duty to stand up against injustice. The loss suffered may be small for an individual but it is the cause that matters.
Could you please, for the benefit of readers, explain the process of filling consumer court complaint and then the trial itself? How did you find your lawyer?
The process of filing a consumer’s complaint is very simple. It can be done or an ordinary paper giving details of the case is a logical manner for ease of understanding. The professional formats can also be viewed at various websites. One very useful website is www.core.nic.in. The complaint should logically bring out the details such as how you are a consumer, that you have not been provided service/goods you were promised and how you have taken steps to resolve the grievance with the service provider. You don’t even need a lawyer and you can present your case personally or through any of your family members. I advise consumers to present the case personally if possible as the sufferer is most suited to explain the details required by the Forum.
It is said that there is too much backlog of cases, lawyers are not so keen to finish cases faster, and sometimes the court does not observe complete working hours, and sometimes lawyers do not have a space to sit, despite all these do you think a consumer stands a fair chance of getting quick judgment?
My personal experience with the consumer forum has been very satisfying. In case the services of a lawyer are to be used, choosing a good lawyer is essential. I have suggested tips on hiring a lawyer on my yahoo group Adhikaar. The consumer forums aim to deliver justice within 6 months. However, practically, it may take 12-18 months which still is very quite fast as compared to the time taken in our courts. During the entire procedure, the complainant is not required to personally appear more than 3-4 times.
Since 21 years of its being, Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is most underused law yet. Consumer is still the king only till they buy the product. What do you think could a way to get consumers exercise their rights?
I agree that Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has not got the attention it deserved. Most consumers take the bad experience in their stride as a part of destiny. I can assure you that the Consumer Protection Act is one of the strongest laws on the subject as compared to similar laws existing in various countries. There is a requirement to spread awareness among the citizens of the country. Our consumers are still at the mercy of shopkeepers, service providers, MNCs and the like. The Govt agencies, NGOs and media need to play a greater role towards spreading the awareness. We have to force the Sellers to become accountable which is lacking at the moment.
Do you think any improvisation or revisions are required for the Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
The question merits serious thinking which requires detailed study of the problems faced by the consumers and the service providers as well. I have just experience of a few such cases and may not be able to do justice to the issue. However, one step I felt required to avoid undue harassment of consumers is that the service provider must at least pay 50% of awarded penalty before it can go in an appeal in the higher forum against an affidavit from the consumer to refund in case of any change in court decision.
Colonel, here is an interesting disadvantage of Consumer Protection law. Most doctors claim that this consumer law leads to their harassment; they are demanding a review of the law. What is your take on the subject?
There might be some cases of harassment but I do not agree to the premise that people are filing cases merely to harass the medicos. Cases of negligent attitude of medicos are rampant and a matter of routine. Most practitioners do not even hand over the case histories to patients as a routine. And to say that people wait for their dear ones to die in order to harass the medicos is not palatable. Yes, I will agree to the suggestion that independent technical advice may be sought in case of doubt but to let the doctors off from the jurisdiction of CCs is not an answer. The Judges at the CCs are a learned lot and not illiterate people. The CCs have merely simplified the procedure and do not in anyway dish out judgments off their whims.
Have you got any general tips to the consumers?
Be vigilant and spend some time on details like terms of warranty etc while buying a product. Must have everything recorded on paper rather than verbal assurances. You must keep the bills for future references if required.
Post your court case, which of the consumer issues have you taken up? How did you get so well-versed with the consumer law? Did you specially take out time to read all the legalese?
I am presently representing one personal case against M/S American Express Tours Ltd. I have also helped various consumers on their grievances against various cellphone companies, banks etc. Most cases have got resolved before even filing a consumer complaint. Majority of these cases were regarding defective handsets, poor service, excessive billing etc. Contrary to popular belief, this law is very simple and does not require any detailed study.
You spoke about a yahoo group called Adhikaar you started. Tell us more about it.
Yes, I have started Adhikaar with the aim of spreading awareness on consumer rights and also help the victims with sound advice on how to go about their cases. I have got voluntary help from advocates who will render legal advice to the members. This group is slowly but surely drawing attention of people. I hope to play my part in this movement through this group. Maybe in future this group plays a larger role.
Do you have any more plans in pipeline to help the consumers?
I have a aim to work for an NGO someday in life when I get an opportunity. Presently in my spare time, I am helping a group of friends who are keen on a similar NGO. I have also offered to give a talk on the subject to a few schools to educate the students who, according to me, should start expecting better services. But I have constraints of time due to the nature of my service. I am following this up as a hobby and a passion.
Any last word you have to say to the readers of this blog?
I must thank you for writing such a wonderful blog. I read it by sheer chance and find it very interesting and educative. I request all readers to take up at least one cause and devote at least some spare time may be an hour a month to begin with towards it. It gives you a huge amount of satisfaction.
And once again, Thank you for taking time for the interview. May your group Adhikaar help many!
Now it is your turn, readers! Share your views on the Lt. Col. Rajesh Yadav’s story!