- On June 7, 2015
Unless insured, a Courier Company does not have any responsibility for the loss or damage of shipment during transit from dispatch Centre to destination place. People, often believes transfer of light or heavy items through Courier and Cargo services is safer than any other mode of transport, it also ensures prompt delivery of goods without any delay. But in recent times, the number of complaints against Courier & Cargo Companies indicates that the need for clear rules and norms in this sector.
The significance of Courier & cargo service in our daily life is ever increasing at a rapid rate. It helps to manage time, cost and the business. Interestingly, how many of us examined the overleaf of Non-Negotiable Instrument (receipt) while booking? In reality, none out of ten have ever noticed the ‘terms and express conditions’ written in atom size letters during Courier booking. Till the dispatch and delivery of the booked item, if everything functioning smooth, there won’t be any problem arise; but if the function stuck somewhere, misplaced or damaged the item booked, due to the negligence of service provider, consignee or the beneficiary won’t have any room left to redress the issue or get back the item as mentioned in the Non-Negotiable Instrument (agreement) created by the Cargo Company. In such circumstances, customers often do calling customer care, request them to inquire and wait for the responses. Most among those service providers are hesitant to redress such queries. Even if a consumer approaches legal action, it will take long years to settle. To bring justice: a consumer should spend money, time and patience, even without any surety. A courier company knows this fact very well.
Therefore, the amendment of Postal law is inevitable to include Cargo Companies under the radar of government exchequer and the judiciary. This will help to protect the interests of consumers, so as to bring them under proper liability-accountability-responsibility clauses. In 2011, former UPA government tried to amend postal law to include Carriers under the law scanner, but unfortunately they didn’t take further actions to bring it alive.
Usually, a Courier and cargo company does not responsible for the loss of packets, if it not insured. On the overleaf of the receipt/consignment note, sender can see the ‘terms &conditions’, once signed in the consignment note, it considered as he has agreed those conditions. Truthfully, these conditions are neither simple nor easy to read and understand, moreover most of those conditions are extremely opposite of what a customer usually expect/believe about the service. So, even if the company lost a packet during transit, aforementioned terms &conditions protect them to limit their liability maximum at Rs. 100/-
Thus, Courier Company will simply skip from its responsibility of safe passage and delivery of the packets even after a customer paid an amount of service fixed by the company. In 1996 Bharathi Knitting Company vs DHL Worldwide Express Courier Case, Supreme Court of India ordered that, once two parties agreed and signed a contract, the terms and conditions must be executable under the law. In this case, Supreme Court accepted the National Consumer Commission’s view, that limited the cost of damage $100 OR Rs. 100. Once both parties agrees to enter into a contract, i.e. consignment signed by the customer, no matter whether it is read or not, considered as the customer understood the ‘terms &conditions’ of carriage. Of late, reality is other way around. For instance, if you face such a situation, it is the duty of a complainant to prove that the Carrier did not bring your attention about the terms and conditions. It really hard and would be indigestible before the judiciary. The Carriers Act 1875, Sec. 8 denotes “Common carrier liable for loss or damage caused by neglect or fraud of himself or his agent. – Notwithstanding anything here in before contained, every common carrier shall be liable to the owner for loss of or damage to any property (including container, pallet or similar article of transport used to consolidate goods) delivered to such carrier to be carried where such loss or damage shall have arisen from the criminal act of the carrier or any of his agents or servants and shall also be liable to the owner for loss or damage to any such property other than property to which the provisions of Section 3 apply and in respect of which the declaration required by that section has not been made, where such loss or damage has arisen from the negligence of the carrier or any of his agents or servants”. Here, the matter is to prove that the content and value of the item properly declared to the Carrier at the time of booking. Besides in 1997, P. Rama Rao vs. P. Nirmala & Ors. – 1997 (1) SCC 757 case, Supreme Court observed that “reading of Section 10 of Carriers Act would make it clear that no suit shall be instituted against a common carrier for the loss or injury to goods entrusted to him for carriage unless notice in writing of the loss or injury to the goods has been given to him before institution of the suit within six months of the time when the loss or injury to the goods first came to the knowledge of the plaintiff. If a notice as required by Section 10 is not issued, a suit would not lie against the common carrier”.
In our personal experience, one of our client lost academic certificate by DTDC courier & Cargo Ltd. Without getting any response to his inquiry, phone calls and legal notice, he approached the consumer court to avail justice. But interestingly, company did not even respond to court notices and used common mimicking to extend the case as maximum. There would be a real reason for their deliberate action; because before filing the case, he took all possible formalities and evidences, which are relevant to tap them properly without any loopholes.
Before the consumer court, if a consumer adds five important allegations given below, a Courier company cannot leave the place without answering it properly. That is;
Consumer should bring the Court’s attention that the ‘Terms & conditions’ are not disclosed/ properly explained by the company official while signing/sending the shipment.
The content of the packet was disclosed clearly. (if it is not insured)
The packet was misplaced by deliberate action/ intentionally/ or by negligence by the company.
Packet is lost not by unforeseen circumstances, like flood, Earthquake, riots, etc.
All normal course of action such as inquiry, requests, legal notice, etc. Should be taken before filing the case.
While making allegations before consumer Courts, customer should bring sufficient proof to support his complaint. Also, while asking for compensation, ask for the direct loss and mental agony. If the aggrieved consumer has enough proof to quash with above points, a Courier company cannot neglect to surpass the complaint without answering. It is also advisable to notice the company that, complainant have such evidences to tackle the issue properly, it might help a consumer to settle the Case out of the Court.