Jasbir Singh (Retd.), President
1. This appeal is directed against an order dated 30.11.2015, rendered by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum-I, U.T., Chandigarh (hereinafter to be called as the Forum only), vide which, it accepted a complaint, filed by the complainants (now respondents).
2. As per facts, on record, the respondents desired to settle in Canada. For that they hired services of the appellants/opposite parties, to get expert advice and help them, in getting the process completed, for the said purpose. The respondents were told by Officials of the appellants that they had a strong case to settle in Australia. Requisite amount to the tune of Rs.50,000/- plus taxes, towards professional fee, was paid by the respondents to the appellants. The respondents were asked to give details of their qualification and work experience. It was so done. Thereafter, an Agreement/ Contract of Engagement was executed between the parties, on 12.08.2013. On asking of the appellants, the respondents also deposited 866 AUD (Rs.53,000/-) with the Skills Assessment Authority i.e. VETASSESS, towards fee, for assessment of their eligibility. They were not found eligible. The respondents wanted refund of the amount of Rs.50,000/- plus taxes, paid by them, to the appellants, towards professional fee and also the fee, paid to the Skills Assessment Authority, named above. When nothing was done, a consumer complaint bearing no.205 of 2015, was filed by the respondents, before the Forum.
3. Upon notice, reply was filed by the appellants, controverting averments made by the respondents, in their complaint. It was specifically stated that against the result declared, when the respondents did not qualify for immigration, reassessment process should have been initiated by them, within a period of 90 days, however, they (respondents) did not opt for the same. Liability to refund the amount, as claimed by the respondents, was denied. It has come on record that, in the meantime, professional fee received to the tune of Rs.55,000/- was refunded by the appellants, to the respondents, during pendency of the consumer complaint. However, by stating that Skills Assessment Authority, to whom 866 AUD, was paid by the respondents, was not made a party and their exist no privity of contract with the appellants and the said body. It was stated that the amount paid i.e. 866 AUD cannot be refunded to the respondents. The remaining averments, were denied, being wrong.
4. In the short rejoinder filed by the respondents, they reiterated all the averments contained in the complaint, and repudiated those, contained in written version of the appellants.
5. The parties led evidence, in support of their case.
6. After hearing Counsel for the parties, and, on going through the evidence, and record of the case, the Forum, accepted the complaint, and granted following relief, in favour of the respondents:-
'In view of the above discussion, we are of the opinion that the present complaint should succeed. The same is accordingly, allowed. The Opposite Party is directed to:-
[a] To refund Rs.53,000/- (i.e. 866 AUD) to the Complainants which was paid as fees to VETASSESS on the direction of the Opposite Parties.
[b] To pay Rs.25,000/- on account of deficiency in service and causing mental and physical harassment to the Complainants;
[c] To pay Rs.10,000/- as costs of litigation;
The above said order shall be complied within 30 days of its receipt by the Opposite Parties; thereafter, they shall be liable for an interest @12% per annum on the amount mentioned in per sub-para [a] and [b] above, apart from paying costs of litigation of Rs.10,000/-, from the date of institution of this complaint, till it is paid.'
7. Feeling aggrieved, the instant appeal, has been filed by the appellants/opposite parties.
8. We have heard Counsel for the appellants, at the preliminary stage, and, have gone through the evidence, and record of the case, carefully.
9. It is vehemently contended by Counsel for the appellants that in view of terms and conditions of the Agreement/Contract of Engagement, entered into between the parties, it was known to the respondents that they had to pay Skills Assessment fee to VETASSESS. If found ineligible for immigration, fee paid by the respondents to the said Skills Assessment Authority, was not to be returned. Noting above arguments, and on perusal of documents on record, the Forum vide impugned order, rightly stated that merely because respondents had not impleaded VETASSESS, as a necessary party to the complaint, their claim to seek refund of amount paid cannot be defeated. There is ample evidence on record that amount of Rs.53,000/- (866 AUD) was paid by the respondents to the said Authority, on asking of the appellants. The respondents had no direct connection with the said Skills Assessment Authority.
10. Contention of Counsel for the appellants that fee aforesaid, cannot be refunded to the respondents because they were declared ineligible by the Skills Assessment Authority, was negated by the Forum, by observing as under:-
'10. So far as the contention of the Opposite Parties that educational qualification of the Complainant No.1 was assessed as positive and his experience was assessed a negative, is concerned, the same is contrary to Annexure C-1 which is an e-mail dated 07.07.2013 (infact 07.06.2013) wherein it has been mentioned that 'we are pleased to inform that you are qualifying for Australia Immigration. Your occupation comes under list of SOL occupation under fast track immigration for 12 months'. In this way, on the one hand the Complainant No.1 was given excitement through e-mail Annexure C-1 that he has got qualified and on the other hand, he has been informed about the negative Skills Assessment result as per Annexure R-8 dated 26.04.2014. Meaning thereby, throughout the case, the Opposite Parties gave a rosy picture to the Complainants and neither supported the Complainant No.1 nor performed their duties up to the level as required. If Opposite Parties themselves were not competent enough to proceed the case of the Complainants, then there was no reason for them to get into any kind of contract/agreement with the Complainants. This act of involving its innocent Clients unnecessarily into Agreement with unknown parties for their own selfish motive proves deficiency in service.'
11. It is evident from record that when respondent no.2 contacted office of the appellants, and showed her intention that she and her husband wish to migrate to a foreign country; taking look at the papers supplied, she was advised that it is a fit case for migration to Australia. It was also so affirmed to respondent no.1, through an email dated 07.06.2013 Annexure C-1, sent by Yuvraj Sobti, Territory Manager of the appellants. Relevant contents of the said email reads thus:-
We are pleased to inform that you are qualifying for Australia Immigration.
Your occupation comes under list of SOL occupations under fast track immigration of 12 months.
We are dealing in immigration and settlement & placement in Canada & Australia & enjoying the best reputation all over world.
About company & our bridging role in linking you with Canadian & Australian culture & employment
PFA or do reply me with your Decision'
12. It is categorically stated in the email above, that the respondents are qualifying for immigration to Australia. By another email Annexure C-2 dated 02.07.2013, respondents were intimated that before they could migrate to Australia, as skilled migrants, they must get their skills assessed, from Skills Assessment Authority i.e. VETASSESS. It was further said that based on documents submitted by the respondents, the said Assessing Authority will provide advice to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, qua their qualification and work experience to get immigration to Australia. In this email, there is nothing to show that, in case, assessment of the respondents is not positive, the amount paid by the respondents to the said Assessing Authority, will not be refunded.
13. It is also on record that the amount in dispute, was paid by the respondents to VETASSESS, on asking of the appellants. Argument of Counsel for the appellants that the appellants were only to help the respondents, to process their case for immigration to Australia, as such, any liability cannot be fastened upon them, is liable to be rejected. It is on record that, on the very first day, the documents/CV/resume was given by the respondents to the appellants, for perusal. The appellants are expert in handling the immigration matters to foreign countries. If the respondents were not eligible to migrate, it was duty of the appellants to inform them accordingly. However, it was not done. Rather, to the contrary, through email dated 07.06.2013, Annexure C-1, they were intimated that they are qualifying for immigration to Australia. In view of above circumstances, interference cannot be made in the order under challenge.
14. The Forum took n
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ote of pain and sufferings undergone by the respondents, and granted compensation to the tune of Rs.25,000/-, which we feel is on the lower side. However no interference can be made qua it, as the appeal has been filed by the appellants and no cross appeal has been filed by the respondents, for enhancement of compensation.15. No other point, was urged, by Counsel for the appellants. 16. In view of the above discussion, it is held that the order passed by the Forum, being based on the correct appreciation of evidence, and law, on the point, does not suffer from any illegality or perversity, warranting the interference of this Commission. 17. For the reasons recorded above, the appeal, being devoid of merit, must fail, and the same is dismissed, at the preliminary stage, with no order as to costs. The order of the Forum is upheld. 18. Certified copies of this order, be sent to the parties, free of charge. 19. The file be consigned to Record Room, after completion.