The Delhi consumer commission has directed popular magazine Reader’s Digest to pay Rs 5 lakh to an 86-year-old lady and deposit Rs 50 lakh as punitive damage with the Consumer Welfare Fund of the state for running a “deceptive contest” and promoting its sale “dishonestly”.
The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that the magazine had indulged in “unfair trade practice” by deceptively trapping readers by alluring them with contest prizes of Rs 24 lakh and a luxury car.
The Commission praised complainant R Balamma, a Mysore resident who had filed the complaint, saying such people had a ‘pro bono publico’ spirit and served the public by bringing unscrupulous elements to courts of law.
The magazine has denied all allegations in the district forum and termed them as false and baseless and claimed that the complainant was not a consumer as she did not purchase any goods or avail any of its services. While dismissing the appeal filed by the magazine against a district court order, the commission refused to strike down the directions asking it to stop “unfair trade practice” of sweepstakes lottery, a game of chance to become a subscriber.
A commission bench headed by member N P Kaushik asked the magazine to stop addressing personal letters “in the tone and manner of breaking news” and declaring potential winners, which unnecessarily “drew a person into a whirlpool of hopes of getting super rich overnight”.
It also upheld the district forum’s direction asking the magazine to publish results and methodology of the draw in question in its forthcoming issue. “It shows the ill intentions of the appellant (magazine). They cleverly drafted the advertisement for making the evil design successful. Lakhs of people have been participating in the deceptive contest… Sales of the magazine have been promoted dishonestly,” the commission said.
The complaint alleged that the magazine fuelled desires of becoming a millionaire in the mind of Balamma by writing to her a personalised letter. It reproduced the letter which said that no other entry had a better chance of winning the Grand prize worth Rs 22,00,000 and asked her to reply within 14 days to win the contest.