Toyota penalised for vehicle owner’s frequent workshop visits

New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) Automobile major Toyota has run into a road bump with the top consumer court directing it to shell out Rs.50,000 as compensation to a car owner who was forced to take his vehicle to the workshop some 17-18 times due to its high fuel consumption and emitting excessive black smoke.

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Presiding Member J.M. Malik and Member S.M. Kantikar awarded the compensation to Hira Lal, a resident of Gurgaon and owner of a Toyota Innova, and said: “It is apparent that the diesel vehicle was not a plier but proved to be a pain in the neck.”

Sympathising with the vehicle owner for the mental agony he suffered, the national commission, in a recent decision, said: “The complainant is not supposed to visit the service centre time and again. The complainant had to go to the service centre for about 17-18 times.”

Taking note of Toyota’s plea that the vehicle did not suffer from any manufacturing defect, Malik said: “Even if it is assumed that emitting of smoke was not a manufacturing defect, it caused harassment, mental agony, anger and sadness to Hira Lal. He wasted a lot of time towards this newly purchased car in the year 2005. Even after a lapse of 7-8 years, he is suffering.”

The commission, however, rejected Hira Lal’s plea to replace the vehicle.

“So far as replacement of the car is concerned we give no importance to these arguments.It is an undisputable fact that car has already run 151,000 km at the time of hearing of this argument,” said Malik, upholding the Haryana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’s decision not to accept Hira Lal’s plea to replace the vehicle.

Hira Lal said in his complaint that he bought the vehicle Dec 26, 2005, and his complaint of it emitting thick black smoke and giving low mileage persisted even till 2008.

Agonised by the “trouble” with the vehicle, he then filed a complaint in the district forum, which ruled in his favour and directed the manufacturer to replace the car or refund the price of the car along with costs of Rs.25,000.

The company appealed before the state commission that relied on the Supreme Court case of Maruti Udyog Ltd. vs Susheel Kumar Gabgotra and another (2006) in which a vehicle owner requested a replacement due to a manufacturing defect. The Supreme Court held that the obligation of the car maker during the warranty period was only to make repairs or replace any part found to be defective.

The state commission, in its order Oct 19, 2012, granted Hira Lal compensation of Rs.20,000 and litigation expenses of Rs.5,000 and told the manufacturer to repair and remove the defects in the car and also replace the defective parts as may be pointed out by the complainant, free of cost.

Aggrieved that the compensation was on the lower side, Hira Lal moved the national consumer commission which enhanced the amount to Rs.50,000, including all costs.

Malik said “the defects, in case the vehicle is produced before the company, be removed” by July 15, the date by which the compensation of Rs.50,000 has to be paid or it will carry interest of nine percent per annum till its realisation.

The manufacturer took the defence that “in the absence of any expert evidence, merely on the fact that the car was repeatedly brought to the service station for repairs/rectifications, it cannot be held that there was a manufacturing defect”.

“Whenever the car was brought to the service station, it was attended to by the company. The company is the service provider of the car and the complainant was unable to show any deficiency on the part of the company in attending to the car whenever it was brought to the petitioner’s service station,” said counsel for Toyota.

The manufacturer has the option of challenging the national consumer commission’s decision in the Supreme Court.

(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at [email protected])

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