The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Exide warranty nightmare

Our UPS is hooked up to three Exide Powersafe EP65-12 SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) batteries. Normally, that gives us about six hours of backup time for my desktop, monitor, and a few assorted peripherals. It's not often that the mains power is off for so long (less than half a dozen times a year, I'd guess), but that capacity has proven invaluable in the past. For the last few months, however, the UPS has lasted for half an hour at most, even when the batteries were fully charged. Using a multimeter, I found that the voltage across one of the batteries fell rapidly to 10.5V just before the UPS died, while the other two remained above 12V. Since the batteries were still under warranty, I contacted the vendor to ask about having them replaced (which I have had to do in the past)

Read more…

Off we go to Consumer court

After our unpleasant experience with trying to have a faulty Exide battery replaced under warranty, Hassath and I didn't want to let the matter slide, and decided to approach the consumer court.

Under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, a number of quasi-judicial bodies empowered to deal with consumer grievances have been set up at the district and state level, under an apex body in Delhi called the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission; in this case, the East Delhi District Consumer Forum was the most appropriate forum for our complaint.

We spoke to someone at the DCF on the phone, and were told to bring two copies of our petition to them the next day. We spent a couple of hours preparing the petition (following an example on the NCDRC web site) and assembling a paper trail to establish our case (warranty cards, reports of the inspection, email correspondence). We stopped by the Post Office to get a blank Postal Order for INR 100 (the filing fee), and submitted all of this documentation to the (very pleasant) officer at the DCF the next afternoon.

He asked us to pick a date for the initial filing, and we decided on the tenth of August—which happened to be when the warranty of our batteries expired. We were told to appear in court at 10:30 on that morning, for the case to be brought before the Forum and admitted (or thrown out).

We went to court this morning, waited around for a while, and were quite surprised to hear my name called first (the invoice for the purchase of the batteries was in my name, so it was my name on the petition). Two of the Forum's three judges in attendance, and they were handling cases in parallel. I was called by the (stern-looking, but very kind) lady judge, and asked to explain the case. She listened to me, reviewed the petition briefly, and told me to add the battery vendor as an opposing party in the case (our petition named only Exide). Fortunately, I had a complete extra set of all the documentation with me, and she allowed me to just scribble an extra name and address on all three copies.

In the end, she assigned a date one month later, and ordered notices to be sent to the two opposing parties. Now we have to turn up in court on the new date, and we'll see what Exide does by way of opposition.

A brief visit to the Consumer Forum

I was scheduled to appear before the District Consumer Forum today, and was curious to see what defence Exide would mount, if any. When my case was announced, I went up to the bench and identified myself. It turned out that the opposing parties (Exide, and the dealer I bought the batteries from) had not even been notified about the case! Their copies of the paperwork were still sitting in the file.

Blah. Next appearance: end of October.

Another brief visit to the Consumer Forum

After my farcical last appearance before the District Consumer Forum, I wasn't expecting much from today's hearing. To my surprise, however, someone from Exide (an ordinary bloke, not a lawyer) was present today. The (lone) presiding Forum member asked for our names, noted our appearance in the file, gave the Exide guy a copy of the complaint (it turns out that the notification sent by the DCF is only a summons to collect a copy of the complaint), and told us to come back a month later. I didn't need to do anything at all.

I'll have to wait until the end of November (at least) to find out how Exide will respond to my complaint. At this rate, I will need to buy new batteries long before the court decides whether Exide should replace the old ones or not.

Slow progress at the Consumer Forum

Today was my fourth appearance before the District Consumer Forum. I expected Exide to respond to my complaint, since they sent someone to collect a copy a month ago, but they weren't there. The judge (the lady who had initially accepted my filing) said she would hear my evidence ex parte at the next hearing in early January. If it's compelling enough, I guess a default judgement will be issued in my favour, and Exide will proceed to ignore that as well.

I usually read a book while waiting for my case to be called, but watching the proceedings can be quite entertaining. Some lawyers argue at length for the reduction of symbolic fines, with no success. Others come prepared to rant and rave about injustice to their clients, but stutter and stumble when questioned about the facts of the case. One case was attended only by two people from the same opposing party. Every once in a while, people are reprimanded for talking in the courtroom.

And while the case drags on, the UPS batteries are now completely dead, and we have been forced to order three (slightly cheaper) 42AH batteries to replace them.

Consumer Court: progress at last!

I was #20 in a very long cause list at the District Consumer Forum this morning. In my previous appearance, I was asked to file evidence ex parte because no opposing parties appeared in court despite repeated announcements.

Digression: filing evidence

It took me a while to understand how to file evidence. I asked in the office at the Consumer Forum, but was told only to go to Karkardooma District Court, where "someone would help me". I went and stopped the first lawyer I saw (black coat, white shirt), and he was kind enough to look over my complaint and tell me exactly what I needed to do: compose an affidavit that restates my complaint as a deposition, and have it attested by an Oath Commissioner (and not just a Notary Public).

I found several Oath Commissioners sitting in a hallway, and one of them pointed me to a "computer guy" who would print out my affidavit for him to attest. I had my complaint on a USB stick, and it took only half an hour or so (after the many lawyers ahead of me had finished their work) to cut-and-paste the details of my complaint into a previous filing. I paid INR100 to the computer guy (INR15/page for not-quite-7 pages), and INR10 to the Oath Commissioner.

I then prepared three complete sets of the affidavit with all the evidence (which were "annexures" in the original complaint, but turned into "exhibits" at this stage).

Exide's response

When I was called to appear today, someone from Exide was present. As I had suspected might happen, it turns out that Exide's counsel did appear in court the last time, after I had already left. They filed a response to my complaint, of which I received a copy only today.

The response begins:

The instant Complaint is a gross abuse of the process of law and has been filed by the alleged Complainant with the sole purpose of harassing and pressurizing the Answering Respondent to submit to its unreasonable and mischievous demands. The instant Complaint is based on false, frivolous and baseless facts solely to suit the illegal designs of the alleged Complainant.

It continues on for a long time in the same vein, alleging repeatedly that I have "unclean hands", and making "vehement" and "categorical" denials of everything in my complaint (including a couple of facts of record).

I have been asked to file a rejoinder at the beginning of March. I shall think about how to proceed.

The return to Consumer Court

At my last hearing, where I filed my evidence and collected Exide's response, I was asked to file a response on the 2nd of March. As it happened, that was a holiday, and the court was closed. I called up the office the next morning, and was eventually told to appear on 18th April instead.

I showed up today, and found myself #1 on the cause list. When I was called up, a lawyer from Exide (not the guy who wrote the response, but someone on his behalf) appeared as well. I filed my response and gave him a copy. The next hearing is a month later. Exide will file their evidence and give me a copy.

I wonder how many more two-minute appearances are in store.

Another delayed hearing

I wrote about my Consumer Court hearing on 2011-04-18, at which I filed my response to Exide. The next hearing was on 2011-05-19, but I forgot to mention it here. Exide was supposed to file their evidence, but they did not do so, and thus lost their opportunity to do so. The next hearing was set for today, for "arguments".

I asked a lawyer friend, who said it probably meant oral arguments; so I prepared accordingly. But, after sitting through forty-odd cases, I was asked to submit written arguments. But someone from Exide (the affable but largely clueless chap who has appeared before) was there, trying to file the evidence they failed to at the last hearing. I was asked if I had any objections, and said no. The evidence was duly accepted. Not surprisingly, it's just a rehash of their earlier response, and says nothing new.

Now I have a month to prepare a written argument.

Written arguments in Consumer Court

Exide and I were to file written arguments in today's hearing. I filed mine (which was all of two pages long), but Exide sent someone to say that their lawyer was ill and to ask for an extension. This request was rejected without fuss, and the next hearing was set for oral arguments (after which only the judgement remains).

It wouldn't surprise me if Exide tried to file arguments at the next hearing (just as they filed their evidence late), but if so, I will object to their tardiness and repeated failure to comply with court procedure.

Oral arguments adjourned

Today's hearing at the district consumer forum in my complaint against Exide was for oral arguments. Unfortunately, only one judge out of three showed up, and no quorum was possible while hearing arguments, so they decided to adjourn all arguments to early November.

(Exide didn't show up to today's hearing, at least not by the time I left. So they don't know the date of the next hearing.)

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.

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: 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?

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.

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.

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.

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: 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: 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.

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.