What happens to your state of mind if an urgent business consignment you had sent somewhere using a foreign carrier gets misplaced? Leave that, what happens if you are traveling and your baggage gets misplaced at the airport? Nightmarish isn’t it? But the bigger questions would come up once you are in such a soup. What would you do? Where do you go? Whose help do you seek? Where do you file a complaint? And many more such questions.
It’s not a good situation to be in but for all those who have already started to shiver, please relax. The Supreme Court of India recently gave a judgment that could surely cheer you up. The apex court held that Consumer Forum and Commissions have the authority and jurisdiction to decide cases and to award compensation pertaining to foreign airlines.
We are sure even after the judgement you still have a few questions up your sleeve. This is an effort towards answering those.
1. Does Consumer Forum have jurisdiction in this case? Can one file a complaint in India?
Ans: An aggrieved person can file a case in India. The reason being as simple as the fact that since the sender of the goods has sent the goods from India, the cause of action arose here. Also since the carrier also operates (flies) from India, it can be sued in India.
A reference case is Trans Mediterranean Airways vs M/S. Universal Exports & Anr. Where the consignor (M/S. universal Exports) was shipping garments to the consignee (Barclays Bank) in Spain through an agent in India who availed the services of the carrier (Trans Mediterranean Airways). However, the carrier delivered the consignment wrongly to M/S Liwe Espanola.
When the consignor filed the case in front of the National Commission, it directed the carrier to
a) Pay a sum equivalent to US $71,615.75 with 5% interest from the date of the complaint, till its realization, and
b) Imposed fine of 1 lakh for deficiency in service.
Hearing the order, the carrier appealed to the Supreme Court, questioning the jurisdiction of the National Commission but the apex court upheld the decision of the commission.
2. Which consumer forum should one approach?
Ans: The answer to this is pretty simple and has been answered by us on numerous occasions. Your approach will depend on the cost of consignment and compensation claimed. So, if the cost of goods or services and compensation claimed is:
- Up to Rs.20 lakh, the complaint should be filed with the concerned District Forum.
- Above Rs. 20 lakh but less than one crore, the complaint should be filed with the State Commission.
- Above Rs. one crore, the complaint should be filed with the National Commission (NCDRC).
Our reference article in which court should I file a complaint will surely help.
3. Whether there is deficiency of service?
Ans: This one is for the courts to decide. In the case above the national commission held the carrier liable as the sender had provided all documents needed for dispatching the goods. Also the carrier’s excuse that the address was tough to find does not stand on strong grounds as there was only one branch of Barclays Bank in Madrid. Having said that as earlier mentioned deficiency of service is something in which the line definitely belongs to the judges.
4. Whether the foreign carrier can claim immunity from being sued in consumer forums?
Ans: No, a foreign carrier cannot claim immunity from being sued in consumer forums. The explanation is clear in the following case Ethiopian Airlines Vs. Ganesh Narain Saboo. In this case the Supreme Court held that proceedings before a consumer forum have the same meaning as a ‘suit’ under the Civil Procedure Code.
Based on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Ethiopian Airlines case, the carrier cannot claim immunity from being sued in consumer forums.
So basically an apex court judgment has made clear that any one aggrieved by the foreign airlines can approach an appropriate consumer forum with a complaint. However the onus of establishing that there is deficiency in service rests upon the complainant’s case and judge’s point of view.
See more articles on Airline sector here.
See more company pages:
Singapore Airlines Complaint
Qatar Airways Complaint
Kingfisher Airlines Complaint
Spice jet airlines complaint
File your complaint here
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thundershead/442700299/sizes/m/in/photostream/