New Delhi: Two non-government organizations and two individuals filed a class action suit before the national consumer forum against app-based taxi aggregators Ola and Uber. The complainants have asked for a refund of Rs.9,239 crore from the two companies for the surge-prices charged by them.
The development was first reported by legal news website Bar and Bench on Tuesday evening.
The case against the two cab aggregators was filed on 19 September, according to information available on the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) website. The complaint has been filed by NGOs Nyayabhoomi and Pariwar Unity Road Safety Life Safety and Delhi-based individuals Anu Jain and Manisha Pandey. It is scheduled to be heard on 5 October.
The two cab companies, that now may likely have to counter this fresh salvo, have faced litigation for charging higher prices based on demand—also called surge pricing.
The situation is not unlike Nestle India’s Maggi, which was also taken to the NCDRC by the union government asking for a compensation of Rs.640 crore, even as it faced bans on sales in several states.
India now also has the option of class action suits in its company laws, a provision notified earlier this year.
The Consumer Protection Act permits individual consumers to file complaints on behalf of or for the benefit of others who have similar interests or are affected by the same wrong.
There haven’t been too many judicial precedents where such class actions have been brought in the past, says Ashish Bhan, counsel at Trilegal, a law firm.
“Such collective action enhances the accountability and ensures that the consumers are protected at all times,” he said. “Class action is the need of the hour given that a larger consumer base is affected by these acts. More so, in the new age of e-commerce, one individual complaint of a faulty product or service could be treated as that of a larger group of people, or ‘class’, in similar circumstances.”
He also added that the government introduced the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 to strengthen the laws for better protection of the consumers with the changing trends.
So are class action suits to protect consumer interests the new norm?