Consumer Forum Orders Reader's Digest To compensate Subscriber for delay in delivery of magazine
The journal has to pay damages worth Rs.1.5 lakh
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has directed the India Today Group, publishers of the iconic magazine Reader's Digest, to pay a Punjab-based senior citizen for the late delivery of the periodical.
The Commission advised the publishers to ensure delivering the magazine within a reasonable time, say, a week from publication, to all subscribers. Mentioning that Reader's Digest had acquired a considerable brand value for its content over the decades, the Commission said it should adhere to its own advertisement of 'Guarantee of Satisfaction.'
It stated, "It would be self-evident that this satisfaction covers not merely the content and presentation of the magazine, but also its timely and proper delivery."
In 2014, Bharat Kapur, a resident of Ludhiana, had filed a case before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal forum stating that he subscribed to the monthly magazine in May 2014 and was assured of a 'Guarantee of Satisfaction' in the advertisement.
In its order, the Commission recorded, "However, the delivery of the magazine was consistently delayed and was done much after the magazine was available in the market, usually by the third week of the month. A few issues of the magazine were admittedly not delivered and the publishers supplied free copies on this being pointed out."
Kapur argued that the magazine was dispatched by ordinary post with no guarantee of time for delivery. He stated, "The advertisement for an annual subscription, however, does not have any disclaimer for late delivery by post. Rather, the advertisement promises a 'Guarantee of Satisfaction."
In 2015, the district forum directed the publishers to deliver the magazine by "whatsoever means" to Kapur and on time. It also ordered the publishers to pay Rs.4,000 as compensation and litigation expenses to the subscriber. In 2016, the State Commission enhanced the compensation to Rs.15,000. Thereafter, Kapur filed a revision petition before the National Commission.
He argued that the delay constituted a deficiency in service and an unfair trade practice with regard to the amount charged in the subscription and the charges paid to the Department of Post for the delivery of the magazine. The postal department submitted that the publishers availed the "cheapest and subsidized postal service" wherein, there was no guarantee of delivery within a certain time frame.
The National Commission said both the District Commission and the State Commission ruled in favor of Kapur and the central issue was the compensation for the deficiency in service.
NCDRC stated, "Interference with the concurrent findings of the fora is justified only when the findings are either perverse, based on evidence that has not been produced, or on conjectures/surmises, or without jurisdiction."
The quasi-judicial body maintained that the petitioner had raised the issues that largely affect the community of subscribers regarding a delay in the delivery of magazines purchased through a subscription.
While enhancing the compensation and litigation costs, NCDRC ruled, "Considering the fact that the petitioner, a senior citizen, has plowed a lonely furrow seeking to rectify a system that will serve the public interest concerning timely availability of an iconic magazine that offers substantive reading content, and is keenly awaited every month by the subscribers, we are inclined to modify the order."