The Odisha State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (Commission) has directed Amazon to pay Rs. 40,000 as compensation to an aggrieved law student whose order for a discounted laptop at Rs. 190 was cancelled soon after it was confirmed.
Additionally, the online platform was also directed to pay Rs. 5,000 as costs.
The Commission rejected Amazon’s contention that it was not privy to the contract between the student and the laptop retailer.
Rather, the Commission found Amazon to be liable to pay damages for a breach of contract, opining that it cannot go back on its promise (to sell the laptop at Rs 190) once the contract is complete.
The Commission noted that Amazon’s responsibility could not be lost sight of since the retailer was operating on its platform and proceeded to allow the complainant a sum of Rs. 30,000 for the mental agony and harassment caused to him, Rs. 10,000 towards punitive damages, and Rs. 5,000 towards the cost of litigation.
The case, dating back to 2014, arose after the Supriyo Ranjan Mahapatra, a law student, came across an offer on Amazon selling a laptop worth Rs 23,499 at Rs 190. Two hours after he placed the order, he was contacted by the Amazon Customer Care Service Department, which informed him that his order was cancelled owing to a price recession issue.
Disappointed, also because he urgently needed a laptop to complete a project, the student sent a legal notice to Amazon. After the notice failed to elicit a response, he filed a complaint before the District Forum seeking Rs. 50,000 for mental agony and Rs. 10,000 towards the cost of litigation.
Amazon took the stance that the agreement was between a third-party seller that operated over its platform and that the consumer and Amazon was not a party to the contract.
However, the District Forum ruled that the student had accepted Amazon’s online offer and chosen a payment method. Therefore, Amazon was negligent in rendering its services to the consumer and had also indulged in an unfair trade practice.
Dissatisfied with the Rs. 10,000 compensation and Rs. 2,000 awarded towards costs by the District Forum, the student approached the State Commission.
Agreeing with the finding of the District Forum as regards Amazon’s liability, the Commission stated:
“When there is advertisement made for offer placed by the OP (Amazon) who is a reputed Online Shopping Website and made offer as per the materials available on record and the complainant placed the order and same has been confirmed, the agreement is complete between the parties.”
The Commission went on to say that the situation might have been different had there been a cancellation of the order before the receipt of confirmation.
Allowing the appeal, the Commission enhanced the damages claimed to Rs. 30,000 in compensation for Amazon’s unfair trade practice, a sum of Rs. 10,000 as punitive damages and costs of Rs. 5,000.
Pertinently, the matter was decided as per the erstwhile Consumer Protection Act, 1986.