TIRUVALLUR: The Tiruvallur district consumer forum in Tamil Nadu has issued an order instructing ITC Ltd Food Division to pay a sum of Rs one lakh to a consumer who filed a complaint regarding an alleged unfair trade practice.
The complaint pertained to Sunfeast Marie Light biscuits, a product of the company, where the consumer claimed that the number of biscuits inside the packets was one less than what was advertised on the packaging.
In a recent ruling, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum also mandated that the company discontinue the sale of the disputed biscuits labeled as ‘Sunfeast Marie Light’ in Batch No.0502C36, along with specific labeling changes.
The company’s argument that the complaint should revolve around the weight of the biscuits rather than the number of biscuits was dismissed. The forum stated that this argument could not be accepted because the packaging clearly indicated that consumers should make their purchase decisions based on the number of biscuits.
The information on the packaging significantly influences consumer buying behavior and contributes to customer satisfaction.
The primary allegation in this case was related to the insufficient number of biscuits, leading the forum to conclude that the company, as the manufacturer and marketer, engaged in unfair trade practices and provided deficient service by misleading consumers. This conclusion was supported by sufficient admissible evidence presented by the complainant.
While the complainant, P Dillibabu of Chennai, initially sought a Rs 100 crore fine against both the company and the store that sold the product, as well as Rs 10 crore in compensation for alleged unfair trade practices and deficient services, the forum deemed these requests excessive.
The shopkeeper, as the second opposing party, was not found responsible for the reduced number of biscuits and was therefore dismissed from the complaint.
As a result, the consumer forum directed the company to pay Rs one lakh in compensation to Dillibabu and an additional Rs 10,000 for his litigation expenses.
ITC’s defense argued that the 76-gram biscuit packs of Sunfeast Marie Light were in compliance with the legal requirement for quantity maintenance. Citing the Legal Metrology Rules 2011, the company contended that for pre-packaged commodities with a declared net quantity between 50 grams and 100 grams, a maximum permissible error of 4.5 grams in excess or deficiency of the declared quantity was allowed.
According to these rules, a package with a declared weight of 76 grams could weigh between 71.5 grams and 80.5 grams.