Simply receiving calls from a landline does not make one a consumer: NCDRC

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, on 19th March 2021, decided in a revision petition filed before it.

Background:

The genesis of the issue took root when the complainant, Ajay Kumar Swami took a landline connection installed in his father’s residence from BSNL, Uttarakhand. However, the landline did not function properly and there was a deterioration of services from BSNL. The complainant was a resident of Delhi and thus filed a complaint under the Delhi District Forum. 

However, the Delhi District Forum rejected the plea stating the issue of territorial jurisdiction. The Complainant was a resident of Delhi. However, the landline was connected in his family home at Uttarakhand. All communication was exchanged between the parties in Uttarakhand. Thus, the Delhi Forum did not have the jurisdiction to decide the matter and the complaint was thus returned to the Complainant. 

Aggrieved, the Complainant filed an appeal in the Delhi State Commission. The State Commission was found in agreement with the District forum. Not just the jurisdiction aspect, it also raised a question on the status of the Complainant as a consumer. It stated that as the landline was installed in his father’s house, the father is a consumer and not the current complainant. The complaint was not a consumer under the definition of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The argument that he received calls from the landline was not a stansible.

The complaint had thus now been appealed in the National Forum.

Proceedings and Decision of the Court:

The Court considered the provisions of the Act dealing with jurisdiction of district forum and the definition of ‘consumer’. 

From the bare reading of the provisions, it was apparent that a complaint can be lodged only where all parties are actually and voluntarily residing or carrying on business or has a Branch Office. It was clear that the Respondents, i.e BSNL were not in the same place. One office was in Delhi and another in Uttarakhand where the main cause of action arose. Thus, the complaint could be launched in the Uttarakhand office itself. 

On the status of the complainant as a consumer, the court stated that it is not the complainant who is using the services of the respondent, rather was his father doing so. Since the complainant was not residing with his father, and not obtaining the benefit of the landline, he could not be said as a consumer. “Simply because he is receiving calls from that landline does not make him fall in definition of ‘consumer’ under Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The Revision petition was thus dismissed by the Presiding Member of the NCDRC, Pooja Sharma. 

Click to Read/Download Judgment

Story by Sai Kulkarnni-Intern

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