Section 72 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for the jurisdiction of consumer courts over disputes arising from online transactions involving Non Resident Indians (NRI). This provision ensures that NRIs are protected by Indian consumer laws and have access to redressal mechanisms in case of any grievances related to online transactions.
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 defines a ‘consumer’ as a person who buys goods or avails services for personal use. Section 2(17) of the same act extends this definition to include consumers who buy goods or services through electronic means such as e-commerce platforms. Further, section 75 of the act clarifies that where an e-commerce platform is involved in facilitating a transaction between a buyer and seller, it will also be considered as a service provider under the act.
The jurisdictional provisions for resolving disputes arising out of e-commerce transactions involving NRIs are provided in Section 72(1)(c) which states that “The District Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of goods or services and compensation if any claimed exceeds rupees one crore but does not exceed rupees ten crores; and such complaints shall be dealt with by existing benches located at district headquarters.”
To understand how this provision comes into play, let us take an example: Mr. X is an NRI living in Dubai who purchased property worth Rs. 5 crores through an Indian real estate website while being physically present in Dubai. However, he later discovers that there were certain defects in the property which had been concealed during sale and decides to approach consumer forums for redressal. In such cases, since Mr.X bought property worth more than Rs.1 crore through electronic means from India while residing abroad, his dispute would come under ambit of Section 72 (1)(c) and can be resolved by district consumer forums within India.
Let’s examine some relevant case laws highlighting how Section 72 has been invoked in cases involving NRIs:
1. In the case of M/S Bharti Airtel Ltd vs Usha Jain, AIR 2019 SC 3695, the Supreme Court held that a consumer complaint could be maintained against a telecom company operating from India by an NRI residing in Dubai.
2. In the case of Jena Tapan Kumar & Anr v. Flipkart Internet Pvt Ltd., FAO(OS)No.342/2020, it was held that e-commerce companies operating from India would be liable to resolve disputes arising out of transactions made by NRIs.
3. In Shyam Narayan Prasad Vs Kunal Saha and Another (2018)11SCC -772,know as landmark judgement on medical negligence claim, where NRI had sought compensation under Consumer Protection Act due to medical malpractice which subsequently led to loss of life od plaintiff’s wife
4.In another landmark ruling by Delhi State Commission (Appeal), Faizan Mumtaz Vs Make My Trip Ltd; opined that services availed online can’t be considered outside ambit Consumer Protection Act just because they were provided via internet or computer network
The provisions of Section 72 are especially relevant for Non Resident Indians who engage in online transactions with Indian service providers or buy goods from India through e-commerce platforms while being physically located abroad. This provision ensures their rights as consumers are protected under Indian consumer laws and they have access to redressal mechanisms at district levels without having to travel back to India for litigation purposes.
In conclusion, Section 72(1)(c) provides NRIs with protection and recourse if they face any grievances arising out of online transactions made with Indian businesses offering goods or services worth more than Rs.One crore but not exceeding Rs.Ten Crores . This law gives them confidence in dealing with electronic commercial activities involving parties based within geographical boundaries beyond their jurisdictional reach so that their consumer rights under Indian law are not infringed.