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Posted at: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM; last updated: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM (IST)CONSUMERS BEWARE!

When packaging hurts, literally

When packaging hurts, literally

Pushpa Girimaji

Last week, while opening a metal cap (closure) on a bottle of medicine that I had purchased for my son, I cut my hand very badly. It was not as if I was careless. The cap was of very poor quality and kept on turning, making it difficult to break the seal by just turning the metal cap (it wasn’t even a child resistant cap). Finally, I had to use a knife to cut open the seal, but the injury was not caused by the knife, but by the sharp edge of the bottom of the cap, which caused a deep cut and bleeding as I opened the cap. I have found the caps of this particular product to be consistently bad and this is not the first time that I have suffered an injury. This time, I do not want to ignore this issue and want to file a case against the manufacturer. Should I go ahead?

A seal is meant to ensure the freshness and safety of the content. However, it should not pose difficulties in breaking it open. Similarly, the closures should be designed so as to facilitate their easy opening and closing, without compromising the quality of the content. And it should be made in such a way that it does not cause injury to the person opening and closing the lid or the cap. And there are specific quality parameters to ensure all this. Yet, one finds many manufacturers using sub-standard closures that pose a threat to the safety of the user. This has to stop and I would certainly encourage you to take this up with the consumer court, more so because from what you say, this is not the first time that you have been injured while opening this bottle.

The manufacturer may well argue carelessness on the part of the user, so keep the bottle and the cap as evidence. Take pictures of the injury cased to you too. A hefty compensation will force other manufacturers to sit up, take notice and ensure that they have more efficient and safe closures. In your complaint, I would also suggest that you seek a general direction from the consumer court to all manufacturers to provide safe and consumer-friendly closures.

I must mention here that a report published in the Telegraph, the UK, in 2003, had said that as many as 60,000 people suffered varying types of injuries requiring hospital treatment each year in the United Kingdom, following attempts to open difficult packages. And this included jars, bottles, cans and even tightly packed goods. Besides cuts, people also sometimes suffered writ strains trying to open bottles. While food cans were responsible for the maximum number of injures, adding up to 17,671, spray bottles and aerosols caused as many as 1,600 injuries as the contents went into the eyes. However, among the most hazardous were the glass bottles which sometimes broke while being opened. The report, which quoted research done at Nottingham University, said 88 people were injured while trying to open a package containing a new knife with an old one!

Unfortunately, we do not have statistical data on injuries caused by caps and closures, so I have quoted this to emphasise the seriousness of the issue and highlight the fact that in addition to caps and closures, even packages need to be consumer-friendly. Certain goods are packed in such a way that it is time-consuming and highly frustrating to open them. Even mail sent through couriers are often so extensively stapled that it is almost impossible to retrieve the content without tearing it or injuring your finger. So, consumer protests will certainly make an impact.

Has anyone gone to the consumer court on such an issue? If so, can you quote the case?

I am not aware of any such case, but that should not discourage you from filing a complaint. Please remember that one of the first rights enumerated under the Consumer Protection Act is the right to safe goods and services and the consumer’s right to be protected from unsafe goods and services. So, consumer courts have a duty to enforce this right, protect consumers from unsafe goods and also award compensation to those who suffer loss or injury on account of unsafe products and services. So, go ahead and file the complaint.


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