Producer to take blame for poor putty

Pushpa Girimaji

  • When we painted our house this Diwali, we were advised to use wall putty before applying the paint, for a smoother finish and increasing the lifespan of the paint. However, it soon began coming off at several places. Now, neither the manufacturer nor the dealer is taking responsibility for the defect, nor are they willing to compensate or rectify it. I now want to go to the consumer court. How do I go about it?

First of all, take pictures of the falling putty and get the contractor who did the work and is claiming that the product is defective to certify so. Secondly, ask the manufacturer to send a technical expert to assess the damage and tell you how they plan to rectify the matter. Thirdly, call an independent expert to give his opinion on the quality of the putty and the cost involved in redoing the walls. If you have some unused putty left, you can also send it to a laboratory to have its quality checked. Check if there are similar complaints about this particular putty.

Once you have all the evidence, you can seek damages to cover your expenses in re-doing the wall, besides compensation for the harassment caused.

I must mention a recent judgment of the apex consumer court in a similar matter. The consumer here had bought for his house, 20 bags of putty and 45 bags of Plaster of Paris for Rs15,190, engaged seven labourers and got the work completed in six days, at a cost of Rs19,200. However, the putty started falling off. He called the dealer and showed him the problem. When neither the manufacturer nor the dealer offered a solution, he lodged a complaint with the consumer forum.

The manufacturer said it was due to application error. It was also contended that the consumer had not produced any report from a lab certifying to the defect. Besides, no other consumer had complained about the product.

What the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission said in response will go a long way in helping consumers fight such cases. Presiding member Anup K Thakur drew a clear distinction between the ‘onus of proof’ and the ‘burden of proof’ and said that the onus of proof did not lie with the consumer. The consumer had discharged the burden of proof by claiming a defect in the wall putty. If the manufacturer held a different view, he must prove it. The Commission also pointed out that even though a technical executive was deputed by the manufacturer to examine the problem and he submitted a report, neither was he produced before the District Forum nor his report.

The Commission observed: “…arguably, wall putty and POP are works undertaken to get a proper finish and if this finish, in any manner, is not achieved, it does give cause for complaint.” Instead of making amends by undertaking to do up the affected portions, the opposite parties sought to contest the case, the Commission regretted. (JK White Cement Works Vs Rajendra Kumar and Another, RP No 1195 of 2018, date of order September 2, 2020)

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