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Flipkart ordered to refund excess amount charged to consumer; on Intermediary Liability

Flipkart has got into legal trouble for not refunding excess money charged to a consumer in Karnataka, reports Times of India. According to the report, V Narasimha had approached the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Bangalore Urban and alleged that he did not receive the refund promised from the e-commerce major in the time committed to him.

He was apparently charged Rs 1878 extra when he purchased toys worth Rs 583 via Flipkart app in December 2015, because the Flipkart delivery personnel swiped Narsimha’s card twice at the time of delivery. Narasimha was promised a refund in seven days, which he did not get. In April 2016, he approached the consumer forum, and now the forum has ordered Flipkart to refund excess amount of Rs 1878 to Narasimha in 30 days. The order was passed on February 7. (Double swipe of card means, double of Rs 583- which is Rs 1166. So, we are not sure about why the extra refund amount is Rs 1878)

As per the ToI report, in its defence, Flipkart said that its role as a martketplace in the trade was intermediary and is not liable for the products. On which, the court criticized Flipkart and reportedly said that the firm is liable for the act of its employees, including, in this case, the delivery person who collected excess money which amounts to deficiency of service and unfair trade practice.

Intermediary Liability

Since Flipkart is a marketplace (Intermediary), it is somewhat protected by Section 79 of the IT Act, 2008. It proffers safe harbor to Intermediaries, as long as they act on complaints and do not knowingly allow the usage of their platform to break the law. So, legally Flipkart and other marketplaces, aggregators etc seem to be on safe ground. However, as we have repeatedly pointed out, there is a need for better understanding of the  responsibility, accountability and liability of platforms, marketplaces and aggregators, when it comes to aggregators or marketplaces or platforms (Uber, WhatsApp, Flipkart etc etc) which are intermediaries. Who is accountable, when things get screwed up? And what about the liability of these platforms?

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