Although it is tempting to try to resolve a contentious issue by negotiations between the concerned parties, consumers must be aware that in the event that the problem needs to be escalated to a court, there is danger of a justifiable case being dismissed because it is time-barred.

Take the case of Belgique Fashions, owned by M Sivaraj. It had exported garments to a buyer in Italy in January 2001 and raised four bills of payment, which were to be handled by Indian Overseas Bank. The buyer was to be given a discount if he remitted the payment within a specified time. However, despite the fact that payment was not made within the time period, and one bill was not even paid, the bank allowed the discount, and also released the export documents to the buyer.

Belgique Fashions filed a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against the bank on December 30, 2006, holding it responsible for the loss of almost Rs. 4 lakhs that it had incurred in the process. The Commission dismissed the complaint on the ground that it was time-barred. Belgique Fashions then challenged this order in the Supreme Court, which remanded the matter to the Commission, to consider condoning the delay after issuing notice to the bank and considering its submissions.

The complainant explained that efforts were made for amicable resolution of the issue, given the company’s long-standing relationship with the bank, and that oral assurances were given that the matter would be sorted out, leading to the delay in seeking legal redress. Belgique argued that even if the Commission concluded there was a delay in filing the complaint, it should be condoned in view of the ongoing correspondence. IOB opposed the application.

A Bench of the Commission however turned down Belgique’s plea, saying that correspondence between the two parties showed that the complainant had been aware of the deficiency and had threatened legal action as early as in 2001. The two-year limit expired on August 18, 2003. There is no plausible explanation why legal action, though threatened, was not initiated till 2006. It refused to condone the delay.

Source: http://smartinvestor.business-standard.com


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