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Posted at: Sep 10, 2017, 1:24 AM; last updated: Sep 10, 2017, 1:24 AM (IST)CONSUMERS BEWARE!

Factory outlets can’t sell junk

Factory outlets can’t sell junk
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Pushpa Girimaji

I wanted a large refrigerator with two (side-by-side) doors, but could not afford one. Now I have found one at a highly affordable, discounted price, in a ‘factory seconds outlet’. It has two large dents inflicted during transportation, but the shopkeeper says that otherwise it is in perfect condition and brand new. My question is: If something were to go wrong, will I have the same rights that I would have if I had bought a refrigerator from a regular shop? 

Let me assure you that even if you have bought ‘factory seconds’, you are still a consumer under the Consumer Protection (CP) Act and you have a right to a fair deal and proper redress of your complaint in case the product turns out to be defective or the dealer has indulged in an unfair trade practice. The redress includes repair, replacement or refund.

Let me explain. As per the retailer, barring those two dents, the refrigerator is absolutely new and in perfect condition. Under the Consumer Protection Act, a product is considered ‘defective’ if its quality or performance does not match the description or the assurances given by the retailer. And you have a right to seek redress against such a product. Similarly, if the retailer made false or misleading claims about the quality or performance of the product, he is guilty of unfair trade practice. As a consumer, you can seek compensation and other reliefs against such a practice too. 

The retailer cannot claim that just because you bought the product labeled as ‘seconds’ you do not have a right of redress. Of course you cannot complain about the two dents since you are aware of them and are getting a discount because of them. But for any other defect, you have the same right as any other consumer. 

You must also remember that even a product labeled as ‘seconds’ should be (a) of merchandable quality, (b) fit for the purpose for which it is sold and (c) usable. And with these products, the damage or the defect should be restricted to what is pointed out to you. And it should come with a proper warranty/guarantee given by the manufacturer. So, make sure that you collect the receipt and the warranty card at the time of purchase.

I bought some clothes at a factory outlet recently. However, after the first wash, one of the T-shirts shrank so much that I could not wear it at all. When I took it back to the outlet, they refused to exchange it saying that there was no exchange policy. The manager at the outlet also argued that there was no guarantee for goods bought at a factory outlet. Can he get away with such a policy?

First and foremost, under the Consumer Protection Act, you have a right to a refund or a replacement against defective goods. And the T-shirt that shrank badly is obviously a defective product. The retailer has to redress your complaint. He cannot escape liability for a poor product by claiming that there was no guarantee for the goods or that there was no exchange policy. 

Secondly, when you purchased the clothes, the retailer did not tell you that it would shrink so badly that you will not be able to wear them. If he had, you wouldn’t have bought it. He didn’t just sell a defective piece, but by not informing you of it and selling it to you, he committed an unfair trade practice. And to make matters worse, he is refusing to redress your complaint. 

Send him a mail saying that if he does not exchange it or refund your money, you will sue him for unfair trade practice as well as for selling a defective product. These days, consumer courts are taking a very strong view of such unfair trade practices and awarding steep punitive damages.

In fact, factory outlets should clearly tell us what they are selling. Are they selling the goods at a discount because they are selling it directly to the customer? Are they selling unsold or excess stock of the previous year? Is it a clearance sale? Are they also selling defective pieces? Every factory outlet should clearly demarcate each variety and declare it so that consumers know whether or not to buy from such outlets.

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