At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE V.K. JAIN
By, PRESIDING MEMBER
For the Appellant: Natansh Kumar Pal, Advocate. For the Respondent: Archana Pathak Dave, Advocate.
The complainant is engaged in the business of selling jewellry etc. and it is alleged in paragraph one of the consumer complaint that he is carrying the said business for the purpose of earning his livelihood by way of self-employment. The complainant had installed EDC machine issued by the respondent ICICI Bank. The said machine was used for the purpose of swiping the credit cards which were presented to the complainant for the purpose of making purchases from him. The case of the complainant is that five transactions were made by him using credit cards and debit cards between 09.02.2009 to 03.04.2009. As per the procedure adopted by the parties, the respondent Bank was to issue an authorization slip once the credit card was swiped on the EDC machine provided by it to the complainant. The authorization slip was required to be signed by the purchaser of the goods and returned to the seller. The seller was required to produce the said authorization slip if required by the respondent Bank. Ordinarily, the respondent Bank would require such authorization slips signed by the purchaser in a case where the transaction is disputed by the purchaser.
2. The respondent bank, made payment to the complainant for the above-referred five transactions but later on debited the amount of two transactions in his account and also discontinued providing the service of EDC machine to him. The complainant, therefore, approached the concerned State Commission by way of a consumer complaint.
3. The complaint was resisted by the respondent which took a preliminary objection that the complainant was not a ‘consumer’ he having hired or availed the services of the respondent Bank for a commercial purpose. On merits, it was stated in the written version filed by the Bank that they had received a retrieval request or chargeback from the card holder/issuing bank in respect of the several transactions made through the EDC machine installed in the premises of the complainant.
4. The State Commission vide its order dated 18.07.2013 directed the appellant Bank to pay a sum of Rs.9,59,000/- to the complainant along-with interest @ 9% p.a. from the date of complaint. The said amount represented two transactions one of Rs. 2,74,000/- dated 25.03.2009 and the other of Rs. 6,85,000/- dated 03.04.2009.
5. The appellant has placed on record some additional documents permitted to be filed by this Commission. The documents show that the above-referred transactions were disputed by the card holder(s) whereupon the issuing bank namely Deutsche Postbank AG, sought copies of the authorization slips bearing signatures of the credit card holder(s). There is no evidence of the authorization slips signed by the card holder(s) having been provided by the complainant to the appellant. There is no specific averment in the consumer complaint that the authorization slips duly signed by the card holder(s) were provided to the appellant bank. No letter/e-mail forwarding the said authorization slips duly signed by the card holder(s), was filed before the State Com mission. The complainant, however, did file documents which are referred as annexure 1 to 5 of complaint in the impugned order. The copies of annexure 1 to 5 of the complainant have not been filed either by the appellant or by the respondent. It appears from the paragraph 5 of the consumer complaint that annexure 1 to 5 to the consumer complainant included the confirmation letters from the purchaser of the goods. In my opinion, the question as to whether the transactions for which payment was sought by the complainant from the bank cannot be decided in the absence of the card holder(s) and Deutsche Bank which had issued the credit cards. It is evident from the additional documents filed by the appellant Bank that the card holder(s) had disputed transactions and that was the reason Deutsche Bank had requested the appellant Bank to provide the authorization slips duly signed by the card holder(s). The complainant did not implead the card holder(s) as parties to the consumer complaint. The complainant may not be having the address(s) of the card holder(s) and without their address(s) it cannot be possible for him to implead them as a party to the consumer complaint. However, Deutsche Bank would certainly be having the address(s) of the card holder(s), the said Bank being the issuing bank of the cards. Therefore, in my opinion, the complainant ought to have impleaded Deutsche Bank as a party to the consumer complaint and thereafter the Deutsche Bank could have been asked to submit address(s) of the card holder(s) to the State Commission which could have then impleaded them as the parties to the consumer complaint in order to verify whether the disputed transactions were actually been done by them or not. I would, say, at the cost of repetition, that the question as to whether the disputed transactions were actually made by the card holder(s) or not and whether the confirmation letters filed by the complainant were signed by them or not could not have been decided and cannot be decided without impleading the card holder(s). If the appellant bank is made to pay to the complainant for the disputed transactions, it can seek to recover the said amount from Deutsche Bank which had issued the card and Deutsche Bank, in turn, can seek to recover that amount from the card holder(s). Thus the card holder(s) may be saddled with a liability, fastened upon him without giving him an opportunity of being heard in the matter, despite they having disputed the transactions.
6. For the reasons stated hereinabove the impugned order is set aside the appeal is remitted back to the State Commission with the following directions:-
(a) The complainant shall file an amended memo. of parties impleading the Deutsche Bank as a party to the consumer complaint. The complete address of Deutsche Bank shall be provided by the appellant to the complainant within one week from today.
(b) If Deutsche Bank appears before the State Commission, it shall be asked by the State Commission to disclose the address(s) of the card holder(s) who have disputed the transactions. On such address(s) being provided the card holder(s) will be impleaded as parties to the consumer complaint.
(c) The consumer complaint will be decided afresh after Deutsche Bank and card holder(s) have been impleaded as parties to the consumer complaint.
(d) If Deutsche Bank does not appear before the State Commission despite notice being served upon it by the State Commission it shall be assumed that the transactions in question were genuine transacti
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ons and the complainant will be entitled to the amount of those transactions along-with interest @ 9% p.a. from the date of institution of the consumer complaint till the date of payment. (e) If the card holder(s) do not appear before the State Commission, the transactions will be accepted as genuine and the complainant will be entitled to payment in terms of the impugned order. (f) If e-mail address(s) of the card holder(s) is available with Deutsche Bank the said e-mail address(s) shall also be provided to it to the State Commission which can send the notice, with copy of the consumer complaint, to the card holder(s) on e-mail ID. The parties shall appear before the State Commission on 19.10.2020.