Keep An Eye
Laws For You
You can spend hours preparing the grocery list or checking up the availability of products on the websites, but everything turns into a wild-goose chase if you land up buying goods well past their expiry date.
Gaurav Shah, a diamond merchant from South Mumbai, bought his favourite brand of ice-cream soda, ACE Sip, produced by Naik Brother, a local manufacturer, on 11 June 2010 with manufacturing date on it as June 2010. However, after consuming half the soda he realised that the original manufacturing date is January 2008, with an expiry date four months later. It had been hidden with marker ink. He lodged a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maharashtra, and waiting for an investigation to start. Here’s how law defines defects and complaints:
The Tamil Nadu government has stated that any trader in the state indulged in selling expired products will face severe action under the Section 273 of the Indian Penal Code and the Section 7 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. Customers can also call the helpline number, 044-28592828. But, what about the rest of India, who do you approach for redressal if you are sold an expired or defective food product or drug? Consumer courts are the only places to find some respite. Arun Saxena, president, International Consumer Rights Protection Council (ICRPC), an NGO helping consumers, says, “If the buyer can prove that the product had expired at the time of buying, there is 100 per cent chance of winning the case.”
However, the principle of caveat emptor (buyer beware) is applicable under the Sale of Goods Act, 1930. In the Saroja Vyas vs Sethi Medical Store case, Vyas, the appellant, said that she was sold Rebax-C, a cough syrup, on 25 October 1993 with the expiry date as 11 October 1993. Though the Rajasthan State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission awarded a compensation of Rs 1,000 for the mental agony caused to the customer, it dismissed an appeal for an increase in compensation.
Jehangir Gai, joint secretary, Consumer Welfare Association, guiding consumers to fight cases, says, “There is no law which says that the expiry date of a packaged product needs to be stated in the cash memo, except for scheduled drugs. So, if the consumer is not careful enough at the time of purchase, it will be impossible for him to establish his point.” Saxena asks people to avoid imported food products, which are sometimes repacked. Since there is often no mention of the local agent on the wrapper, one wouldn't know who to file a complaint against.
On an honest note, consumer awareness in India still has a long way to go. While a few people lodge complaints or file cases, most of them let them go halfway.
pheji AT outlookindia.com