The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

The end of the Exide saga

In August 2010, I filed a case at my local District Consumer Forum in Delhi over Exide's refusal to replace a faulty battery under warranty. In November 2012, after nearly two and a half years of filings, hearings, and adjournments, the Consumer Forum issued a judgement in my favour, asking Exide to replace the faulty battery and pay compensation.

Today, Exide sent me three new batteries and a cheque.

Consumer Court: Justice!

I called the District Consumer Forum this morning to enquire about the judgement I was told to expect in a week at my last hearing in October. I was told the judgement was ready, and that I should collect it. I did so forthwith.

Here's the interesting part (the last paragraph):

The complainant of this case has been subjected to harassment, he need[s] to be compensated. We allow this complaint and direct the OP to replace the battery in question within a period of 30 days with a fresh warranty of one year. We further award a compensation of Rs.6000/- to the complainant which will also include the cost of litigation.

The judgement was entered on 2012-11-05, and the office keeps one copy for each party to the case for a month; if it is not collected within that period, it is dispatched by registered post. I expect Exide will receive its copy in the second week of December.

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they grind moderately fine.

Consumer Court: waiting for judgement (again)

After the adjournment at the last hearing, I went to court this morning expecting only a new date for the next hearing.

Exide was, once again, represented by the minion rather than the lawyer. I asked if the lawyer would turn up at all, and was told that he was "on the way" (as always). My case was passed over, to wait for the lawyer's arrival. When I was called again, he still hadn't arrived. The (new) president of the forum was not inclined to wait any further, and to my surprise, he asked me to present my arguments.

I tried to state the case according to my notes, but the president was obviously in a hurry, and kept asking me to skip things. But I could see that the forum had read my case file and were familiar with the evidence I had presented. So I skipped to my central assertion, which is that the tests they had conducted on my batteries were misleading. The arguments were admitted, and the president scolded the hapless minion (who was in court only to say that the lawyer was on his way, and didn't know anything about the case itself), and pointed out that the field inspection reports from Exide themselves concluded that one battery was faulty, and that it should have been replaced.

"We'll file an order in one week."

Update Exide's lawyer called me, saying that he reached late and was told that I had agreed to the replacement of one battery. I said I had done no such thing, and said we should wait for the order. Even if the forum orders nothing more than to replace one battery (which would mean I'd be stuck with one battery I couldn't use), it's fine with me.

Consumer court: come back later

I had a hearing today. Nothing happened, as usual. The bench were all on vacation, so they gave everyone a date in October for the next hearing.

Consumer court: WTF?

After the court's stern admonishment to Exide at the last hearing, I really thought today was the day when my arguments were finally going to be heard (since Exide has made no attempt to settle in the meantime).

But I didn't expect today's strategy. The lawyer sent his minion to say that he was "on his way", so my case was passed over. Then I was called again at the end, when he had still not arrived. I requested the bench to hear my arguments, but they said it wasn't possible today (apparently because only two judges were there, and the panel's composition would be changing again). So they gave me a date one month later, and I left… and two minutes later, the Exide lawyer walked in. But even though I saw him and turned back, the two judges were already getting ready to leave, and weren't inclined to tarry.

Oh well.

Exide is too busy to settle

Exide's lawyer, who had asked for an extra two weeks at the last hearing, today asked for another three weeks because the Exide head office in Kolkata has not yet approved my offer for settlement.

The forum members took a dim view of this delay, and grilled him a bit, upon which he promptly changed his story and claimed that my offer was unreasonable, so he didn't know yet if it was possible to settle or not. They finally agreed to give him a last chance at reaching a settlement.

Really final hearing in April.

Does Exide really want a settlement?

In my last hearing at the consumer forum, I was asked to present oral arguments again today. The Exide chap also asked me for my phone number so that the lawyer could discuss a settlement. He never called.

I wondered if they'd try to spring it on me in court today, and that's exactly what they did. Their lawyer (the same one who wrote the response to my complaint) waited until the last possible moment to ask me what it would take to settle, so that when my case came up for hearing, he could say he wanted to discuss a settlement, and I would be unprepared.

I protested to the bench that it was a delaying tactic, but that made me look unreasonable (just as he wanted, I'm sure). I eventually did agree to another hearing in two weeks to see if we can reach a settlement.

When he asked me what I wanted, I referred him to my complaint, which he dismissed as being always exaggerated. I said I wanted all three batteries replaced, plus compensation amounting to a bit less than what I had originally asked for. I also said I was very offended by what they had said about me in their response (unclean hands etc.), and he said that's just a part of litigation.

Anyway, he went off saying he would try to bring some harmony between Exide and me. Meanwhile, I will prepare my oral arguments again, based on what I learned from listening to a somewhat disorganised lawyer presenting hers in court today. I learned a lot about what not to do, and what the forum members look for.

Consumer Court: resurrection!

I went to the consumer forum today, expecting nothing more than the last rites for my case, considering the notice I received. But when I was called up, the president of the forum listed the case for arguments (i.e. to be handled right at the end). I mentioned the notice, but they said that since the bench had changed, the matter would have to be heard again. (The president was the one who was present when I first appeared, and not the one who admitted my arguments. The other two members were the same.)

When I was finally called up again, the Exide guy appeared once again to say that their lawyer was unable to appear, and asked for another month. I protested that the said lawyer had not appeared for four months, but they scheduled oral arguments for a month later. No problem, it gives me some time to prepare.

As I was leaving, the Exide guy ran after me and asked for my phone number. Why?, I asked. Our lawyer asked me to get it. He wants to discuss a settlement.

Oh, does he indeed?

Consumer Court Judgement

At my last appearance before the district consumer forum, my oral arguments were admitted and I was told to expect a judgement by registered post (I called up a few days later to find out how long it might take—a month or more).

Yesterday, I received the following:

With reference to your complaint, dated … you are hereby informed/directed as under:

i) That the complaint is not maintainable before this Forum.

ii) To appear before this Forum on 27/1/12 11.00 a.m. to complete the formalities / to reply to some querries [sic].

iii) Your complaint has been forwarded to Distt. Forum 12/12/11 for further necessary action.

I don't understand how (ii) and (iii) can go hand-in-hand, or what further action may be necessary, but the "not maintainable" part is clear enough.

Perhaps I will be told the rationale on the 27th.

Consumer Court: waiting for judgement

My date for oral arguments in the case against Exide was the 10th of November (yesterday), which was a national holiday. I called the consumer forum to find the revised date, and they asked me to appear today.

Exide was represented by the same chap, with the same story: their lawyer was ill and could not attend. I had expected them to try to file written arguments, but they didn't have any. Fortunately, the two judges present were not inclined to postpone matters further. They asked me to state my case, which I did; and they put it up for judgement.

Now I have to wait for the judgement to reach me by post.