Consumer forum awards Rs. 10 lakh compensation against stem cell storage co.

Murali Krishnan

The Kerala State Consumer Redressal Forum (Consumer Forum) has directed a stem cell storage company, Cryobanks International India Private Limited (company), to pay Rs. 10 lakh as compensation to a consumer for failing to depute a representative for the collection of the umbilical cord, and the umbilical cord blood.

The award was passed by a Bench of K Chandradas Nadar and A Radha in a complaint filed by one Amina Annervaz. Advocate Enoch David Simon Joel appeared for the complainant.

The company, which is in the business of providing umbilical cord blood stem cell processing and storage, had approached the complainant with attractive offers. The complainant and her husband who wanted to store the stem cells of their first child, selected the “Penta power plan” offered by the company.

The complainant was assured that the umbilical cord and the cord blood would be collected under the supervision of an agent of the company and the same would be sent to their Delhi Office for storage on the same day. The complainant was further assured that within a month after delivery the baby would be tested for a range of diseases.

When the complainant specifically informed the company that her delivery was scheduled to take place at the IQRAA Hospital, Kozhikode, the company assured her that the company’s collection agent would contact and apprise the staff and attending gynaecologist about the procedure for collection.

The complainant was further assured that its Collection agent would be personally present during delivery to give assistance to doctors and nurses for collection.

Accordingly, an agreement was executed and advance amount of Rs.10,000 was paid as registration fees, in addition to twelve post-dated cheques. The complainant was provided with a kit containing certain bags and tools for collection of the umbilical cord and cord blood.

But contrary to the assurance the collection agent was not present at the time of delivery. Instead, a delivery boy was sent to the hospital who was not even aware of the contents of the kit, and had been merely instructed to collect the kit and have it delivered.

As a result, none of the doctors or nurses involved knew what was to be done. The complainant, lying on the delivery table, was forced to instruct them as best she could. The situation caused great mental stress and agony to the complainant and her husband and they lost their only opportunity to collect stem cells.

The company also failed to refund the Rs. 10,000 collected from the complainant whereupon the complainant approached the consumer forum alleging deficiency of service.

Based on the clauses in the agreement, the Consumer Forum held that there was deficiency in service on the part of the company.

“In the light of the above provisions in the agreement it is idle to contend that the first has no liability at all to depute its representative for collection of the umbilical cord blood and stem cells. No doubt it is the gynaecologist who attends the delivery has the expertise to make the process of collection but the agreement is that the first owns the responsibility in all the major locations to assist in the arrangement for transport of specimen to their facility….the first very much under took to ensure that their representative would be personally present to supervise the collection of umbilical cord and cord blood at the time of delivery….So the absence of their authorised representative at the crucial time amounts to deficiency in service and the first is vicariously liable for the same.”

It, therefore, directed the company to pay Rs. 10 lakh as compensation to the complainant.

Read the complete order below.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news