Retail store directed to provide free carry bags to customers

The store has been told to pay Rs 1,500 as compensation amount and Rs 1,500 as litigation cost to the complainants. (Express photo by Vignesh Krishnamoorthy/File)

THE CONSUMER Forum of Chandigarh has directed the Lifestyle International retail store to provide free carry bags to all customers forthwith who purchase articles from its shop. The order was pronounced on January 4, following the complaint of a city-based couple who had to pay additional Rs 5 for a carry bag at the retail store counter in Chandigarh.

As per the complaint, a resident of Sector 28, Chandigarh, Pankaj Chandgothia along with his wife Sangeeta Chandgothia went to the store of Lifestyle International at Elante Mall in Chandigarh and purchased certain articles from the store and took them to the billing counter for making necessary payment. Chandgothia alleged that at the counter, the cashier handed over the articles, without putting them into a carry bag, and when asked to provide the same, he was told that he had to buy it for Rs 5. However, in the shop, it was nowhere mentioned that Lifestyle would charge for a carry bag as will. Having no option, the complainant paid Rs 5 additionally. The couple also filed a case in the forum.

The Lifestyle International in its reply submitted that after the ban of plastic bags by the government, they had purchased the paper bags, which are much costlier than the plastic bags, and started providing the same to its customers on payment. It was also submitted that there was no legal obligation on them to provide to its customers any bag for free to carry purchased items.

After going by the submissions of both parties, the forum observed that "it would have been very odd and inconvenient to the complainants to carry the new garments in hand throughout without a carry bag. In this backdrop, charges of such things (paper bags) cannot be separately foisted upon the consumers and would amount to overcharging".

The forum further stated in the order that the Lifestyle store has also argued that post ban of plastic bags, it started providing paper bags to its customers on payment of its price. However, banning a product does not entitle the store to charge for its substitute and the Lifestyle and all other shops like it are obliged to provide their customers carry bags free of cost to carry the purchased items, as the customers cannot be expected to carry the items in hands.

"Carry bag for which the complainants had to shell out extra amount from their pocket is a printed carry bag on both sides, which has a prominent display of the advertisement of the Lifestyle International and is thus apparently serving as an advertisement for them whenever the said bag is carried by the consumer. In this manner, the complainants and other gullible consumers like them have certainly been taken for a ride by the Lifestyle International for advertising their name…", read the order.

The company has several stores across the country and in the same manner they have made a lot of money, thus forcing the gullible consumers to pay additionally for the paper bags. It amounts to deficiency in service and indulgence in unfair trade practice, stated the order.

Thus for causing not only loss, mental agony and physical harassment to the complainants, but also giving rise to undesirable litigation and thereby wasting the precious time of the forum, the forum directed the Lifestyle International at Chandigarh to deposit a cost of Rs 10,000 in the "Consumer Legal Aid Account" in the name of Secretary, State Commission, UT Chandigarh.

The forum also directed the Lifestyle International "to provide free carry bags to all customers forthwith who purchase articles from its shop", refund Rs 5 wrongly charged for the paper carry bag, and pay Rs 1,500 as compensation amount and Rs 1,500 as litigation cost to the complainants.