In support of the government’s Rs 640-crore class action suit, Mumbai-based consumer organisation Mumbai Graham Panchayat on Thursday moved the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) seeking to hold Nestle India accountable for damages caused, if any, to the public by adopting “unfair trade practices, false labelling and giving misleading advertisements” over the popular Maggi instant two-minute noodles.
A bench headed by Justice VK Jain allowed the consumer forum to intervene and put across its arguments on September 30, the next date of hearing.
The consumer court while seeking Nestle India’s response to the government’s R640-crore class action suit last month had allowed it to send samples of Maggi noodles to an “accredited laboratory” for tests on lead content and MSG. It had also posted the matter for next hearing for September 30.
A week prior to the consumer court’s order, Nestle India had got a significant respite with the Bombay High Court lifting the ban on the sale of nine various instant noodle brand and ordering fresh tests in three separate labs to ascertain that the products complied with the country’s food safety norms.
Usually, individuals move consumer fora but the consumer protection Act also allows the government to file complaints on behalf of consumers. This is the first time that the government has made use of this provision.
In a first-of-its-kind “class action suit, the government has demanded Rs 285 crore for unfair trade practice for selling “defective and hazardous goods” and Rs 355 crore in punitive damages and also an interest of 18% per annum on the amount claimed by it in the complaint till the date of actual payment of the total amount.
The consumer affairs ministry had alleged that Nestle sold “defective” goods to the public by selling Maggi with the presence of lead and MSG and indulged in unfair trade practices by offering for sale Maggi Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker without risk assessment and product approval.