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Legal Remedies for Countering the Menace of False Consumer Complaints against Beauty & Cosmetics Companies in India: Lawyers Advice

Best and Experienced Lawyers online in India > Business Laws  > Legal Remedies for Countering the Menace of False Consumer Complaints against Beauty & Cosmetics Companies in India: Lawyers Advice

Legal Remedies for Countering the Menace of False Consumer Complaints against Beauty & Cosmetics Companies in India: Lawyers Advice

The scope of Consumer Protection Act has increased manifolds in the last decade. Under this act, the provisions available for the protection to the consumers has strengthened. This has resulted into fall down of displaying misleading advertisements and false claims made by the sellers. However under the garb of protection provided under this act, many consumers have started making false and frivolous complaints. These types of complaints can be of two types, first one being the complaint which has been filed by the consumer for negligently using the products and second one could be frivolous complaints for purpose of scoring money from big brands. These types of complains clearly results in the abuse of process of law. The false complaints can involve complaints against various bid brands involving cosmetics industry as well.

When we talk about cosmetics and beauty products, there has been numerous provisions for punishment and method of redressal available against false or misleading representation by the manufacturers. Section 2(r) (vi) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986, provides that if seller makes a false or misleading representation concerning the needs of the consumer, it will amount to an unfair trade practice. Section 27 A of Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 provides that if cosmetics are manufactured in contravention of the act then it will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which can extend to three years and fine of fifty thousand rupees. However a very small amount of fine has been imposed on those individuals who file wrong complaints as provided under section 26 of Consumer Protection Act. This might encourage more consumers to file the misleading complaints for the purpose of getting huge amount of compensation from the big cosmetic industries.

Some consumers are even aware about the harm, cosmetics can cause to their skin, but still they go ahead and buy those products only to file complaints in the court of law against the products for causing harm to their skin thereby causing loss of reputation of the various big brands.
Schedule M-II of Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945 puts a duty on the manufacturer to reveal on the label the basic ingredients involved in the cosmetics or drugs and also to issue a mandatory warning if it contain any unusual ingredient. Hence the consumer also have a duty to check contents of products before making a purchase.

Now days the consumers have shifted their focus towards using more natural and herbal cosmetics for better skin care. Some consumers might develop a tendency for filing false complaints against the cosmetic manufacturer claiming that they have expected only natural ingredients in the cream or powder but they were not able to find the same and hence they want compensation. Such cases do exist for example in the case of Nikhil Jain vs. M/s Emami Ltd FA No. 549 of 2013, Order dated 24-9-2015 (DCDRC), consumers filed the case against fair and handsome, claiming that they were not able to get the expected fairness as shown in the ad campaign.

Along with the natural ingredients there is a necessity to add preservatives for better skin care only and such products are governed by Drugs and Cosmetics Act and manufacturing licenses are issued by the Directorate of Ayurvedic and Unani Services of State Government as provided under section 18(C) of the Act. Hence, all these products undergo a lot of regulations and trials before finally getting the approval from the Aayush Ministry and State Governments. Therefore the consumers should think twice before making any false allegations on the big brands. It becomes the duty of the consumers to self-aware themselves before taking such steps.

In the case of M/S. Emami Ltd vs. Nikhil Jain FA No. 549 of 2015, Order dated 1-5-2017 (SCDRC), State Consumer Forum has provided that the complainant/respondent was not able to produce any relevant evidence about the condition of the skin before or after using the product and without any proper evidence they managed to filed the complaint only on the basis that complainant was not able to achieve the level of fairness as depicted in the ad. Also the district forum did not take the proper cognizance of the reports which has been produced by the appellant for proving that their cream provides a healthy nourishing and glowing skin and the effect of the same can differ on the basis of different skin types

Many of the cosmetics and beauty products have a refund policy, so if the customers are not satisfied with the products, they can refund the products within that prescribed period or can even call the customer care for their grievances. There is no requirement to file complaints for small and curable problems. For example in the case of Amway India Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. and Ors. v. 1MG Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and Ors. (2019) 260 DLT 690 cosmetic product like Amway, has provided that they have an exclusive customer refund policy which provides that if the customer is not content with any of their products, the same can be refunded within the period of 30 days, and a full repayment can be acquired. Also the refunds will be still available, even if the consumer has used about 30% of the product.

Therefore there is a high time now that all these misleading complaints without any proper base should be curbed and strict action should be taken against such complaints for abusing the process of law. Although, section 26 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986, provides for imposing a penalty of Rupees 10,000 for false and vexatious complaints but the amount of penalty is comparatively less than the harassment big brands has to undergo because of huge amount of money and time involved in all such proceedings.

The only way to control such practices is to charge exemplary compensatory costs on the consumers so that it could set an example for many consumers out there and they will restrain themselves from filing such false complaints, only with a purpose of scoring money from the big sellers.

Section 85 of Consumer Protection Act provides that the manufacturer will be held liable for the “product liability” if there is negligent commission and omission on his part. However there is lack of proper provision for punishing the consumers for their negligent acts. Hence, only Judiciary can protect the rights of the sellers against the negligent acts and false claims by the consumers. In the case of Delhi Development Authority vs. D.C Sharma (RP No. 895 of 2013, decided on Feb 18, 2014), the consumer forums has provided that no leniency should be shown to all those party (consumer or manufacturer) who try to cover up their own negligence by filing such petitions to waste the time of courts and further delay in providing the justice.

Rights of the consumer are protected under the Consumer Protection Act but along with the rights there are some responsibilities too. When consumers themselves choose to buy unsafe products instead of the safe ones or when they choose to be negligent themselves about the products, they must consent to the consequences as well, including the accountability for any damages subsequent from those choices.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Bheeni Goyal

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