Jet Airways (India) on Friday moved the Supreme Court against the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission’s (NCDRC) order that asked it to deposit R25 lakh as penalty in the Consumer Welfare Fund for indulging in “unfair trade practices” by way of alleged misleading advertisements.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur asked the airline to place before it legible copies of the contentious advertisements within two weeks.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan and counsel Ujwal Rana, appearing for Jet Airways, argued that there was no intention of deceiving or misleading passengers and the advertisements did say that taxes and surcharges would be extra. “It was mentioned that basic fare is starting from R500 onwards and the advertisement mentioned that conditions apply,” the counsel said.
The NCDRC judgement had come on a complaint filed by Gujarat-based consumer organisation Jagrut Nagrik, an NGO, and a private individual. The complaint had pointed that no mention was made in the ads of the fuel surcharge, congestion charge, transaction fees, and other heads under which the passenger had to pay a whole lot more. The complainants had sought R10 crore as “punitive charges” from Jet Airways and the the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
“An ‘asterisk’ was prominently placed in the advertisement to draw the consumers’ attention to the phrase: (*conditions apply) and the conditions included the other charges and taxes as applicable from time to time in addition to the sum of R500 which was advertised (with the asterisk).The conditions also included the requirement of booking of ticket well in advance to avail the offer. Advertisements issued by the airline did not in any manner deceive or mislead any consumer. Further conditions include the requirement of advance booking of the ticket to avail of a lower fare and certain amounts as fuel surcharge etc. In addition to the base fare, the prospective passengers were required to pay fuel surcharge and congestion charge, being the additional expenses incurred by the airline due to steep increase in the price of ‘aviation turbine fuel’ (ATF),” the appeal filed by Jet Airways stated.
The Commission had noted in its August judgment that the two airlines had advertised airfares at ‘throwaway prices’ ranging from R 0 to R999, while in actual the passengers were charged much more. This, the NCDRC said, amounted to unfair trade practices. It held that advertisement disclosing only the minimum basic fare to potential consumers is misleading in the light of the fact that the other charges payable by a passenger far exceeded the said minimum basic fare.