By Mohit Agarwal How many times have you bought goods having been lured into a lucky draw scheme floated by the company? Frankly, even I have been a victim on many occasions – getting lured into buying products after seeing fancy prizes on lucky draw but not winning anything. Recently I saw a lucky draw scheme floated by Hewlett-Packard (HP) India Pvt. Ltd known as “Get Lucky with HP LaserJet’s” – “101 Gifts everyday”. The ad continued “Get a chance to win a Car, LCD TV, Motorbikes, laptops, fridges and many more exciting gifts! On purchase of any HP LaserJet printer”. The following guidelines were laid down to be eligible for the lucky draw. “To qualify for the 101 Gifts everyday offer, purchase and register any HP LaserJet printer between 27th July and 31st October 2010. You can register your purchase online at www.hp.com/in/laserjet or SMS <LASER><10 digit printer serial no.> (e.g. LASER VNC3F01874) to 56070 or E-mail your Name, Mobile number and 10 digit printer serial number to HPLaserjets.firstname.lastname@example.org T&C apply. For details visit www.hp.com/in/laserjet.” I smelt a rat in the scheme above and started perusing the Consumer Protection Act. I found out that these schemes constitute unfair trade practice under the Act under Section 2(1)(r)(3)(b) which states that “any sort of scheme adopted by a party, whereby it conducts any contest or lottery or game of chance or skill, for the purpose of promoting its business interest, the same shall constitute unfair trade practice”. It was no rocket science to understand that the scheme was dependent upon luck of the purchaser. Thus since the scheme was dependent on luck and not every purchaser stood to benefit from it. Also the scheme promoted business interest by sale of printers and drawing away customers from competing entities like Samsung, Canon etc. This had to be Unfair Trade Practice by HPbecause it lacked consumer interest.
What Is Consumer Interest?
Consumer interestis when each buyer of a product gets the same reward or benefit as other buyers of the same product. The problem above was that HP would probably reward a few out of lakhs who might have bought the printer thinking they also had a chance of winning a gift.
HP Case One Among Many
The example above is just one in a million. How many times have we seen mobile companies float competition packs on mobile via SMS? They charge subscribers exorbitant sum for SMSs, alluring he/she can win lakhs of rupees. The irony is on most occasions the subscriber who pays is left uninformed of even the results of the contest.
Any scheme which offers prizes by way of lucky draw/lottery on purchase of products amounts to unfair trade practice.
I was also one of them who bought an HP printer during the scheme. Don’t ask me whether I actually wanted a printer or the free gifts lured me in buying. : ) I also enrolled for the lucky draw but executives at HP did not even feel necessary to inform me of the lucky draw results. Not one to keep quiet, I filed a complaint before the District Consumer Dispute Forum, Cuttack, Orissa (Mohit Agarwal vs. HP India Sales Pvt. Ltd.). The Forum gave its decision in my favour and held that HP was indeed engaged in unfair trade practice. It also directed HP India to discontinue such schemes and ordered them to pay me a compensation of Rs.10000 alongside litigation costs of Rs.5000.
I was a lawyer so this was not that difficult as I knew what I was vouching for was right. For a common man though this is a tad difficult. A little knowledge of Consumer Protection Act could really come in handy. I hope that the consumers will rise to this menace and ensure that no Company will further cheat the consumers by floating these Lucky draw schemes/scratch card contest/SMS contest etc. This is a guest post by Mr. Mohit Agarwal, Advocate who practices in Cuttack, Orissa. Views are personal. File your consumer complaint here.