Bad haircut and hair treatment that triggers mental trauma and jeopardises career prospects will amount to negligence on the part of salon, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal (NCDRC) held, while awarding ₹2 crore compensation to a woman who suffered due to a deficient services of a salon at a 5-star hotel in 2018 [Aashna Roy v. ITC Hotels].
A Bench comprising NCDRC president Justice RK Agrawal and member Dr SM Kanitkar said there was “no doubt” that women were “cautious and careful” when it came to their hair.
“They spend a handsome amount on keeping the hair in good condition. They are also emotionally attached with their hair,” it added.
The Bench further underscored that the complainant, Aashna Roy, was a model for hair products because of her long hair and had done modelling assignments for VLCC and Pantene.
“But due to hair-cutting against her instructions, by the Opposite Party No.2 (ITC Hotels) she lost her expected assignments and suffered a huge loss which completely changed her lifestyle and shattered her dream to be a top model,” noted the bench.
This apart, the NCDRC also held ITC Hotels guilty of medical negligence in hair treatment.
"Her scalp was burnt and still there is allergy and itching due to fault of the staff of Opposite Party No.2 (ITC Hotels)," the order said.
A week before Roy was stated to appear before an interview panel, she went to the salon at Hotel ITC Maurya, New Delhi, on April 12, 2018 for a haircut. She asked for her regular hairdresser but since she was not available, another stylist was assigned.
The complainant had not been satisfied with the other hairdresser’s services in the past but on the assurance of the salon’s manager she agreed to give it a shot. Roy is stated to have specifically instructed the hairdresser for “long flicks/layers covering her face in the front and at the back and 4-inch straight hair trimmed from the bottom”.
It came on record that Roy was wearing high-power glasses and was requested by the hairdresser to keep her head constantly down, as a result, she alleged of not being able to see herself clearly in the mirror.
What according to her was a simple haircut, took over an hour, and on asking the stylist how much longer it was going to take to finish, she was told she was being groomed with a “London haircut”.
Roy stated she was in “utter shock” when she saw that the stylist had “chopped off her entire hair leaving only 4 inches from the top and barely touching to her shoulders” which was against her instructions.
She thereafter complained about the stylist to the manager of the salon and was stated to have not been given any bill though the she would generally pay heavily. The woman alleged that following the haircut she was not happy with her looks and “stopped to lead her normal busy life”.
It was stated that the woman tried to reason with the senior officials at the hotel and learnt her hair had been sold off by the salon.
“An offer was also made to her by the opposite parties for extension of hairs for interview or for treatment of hairs free of costs for which she agreed after lot of persuasion,” it came on record.
On May 3, 2018, when Roy is stated to have gone to the salon for the hair treatment, she was told that an in-house hairdresser would do the treatment under the supervision of her regular stylist. She agreed for it as the hotel staff reportedly convinced her that the in-house stylist was trained and very good at their work.
However, during the treatment, she said her hair and scalp were “completely damaged with excess ammonia and there was lot of irritation". The complainant, therefore, asserted that the hairdresser scratched and cut her scalp with nails on the pretext of massaging the scalp to open the hair cuticles.
She claimed that her scalp was burnt after an ammonia-laden cream was applied on it. Only a hair spray provided her with a temporary respite.
Post treatment, she alleged her hair turned “hard and rough” in addition to an itchy and burnt scalp. She later tried to seek the assistance of the hotel staff in the matter but alleged that they were “abusive, rude and disrespectful” and she was threatened.
Roy stated that she even approached the management of ITC Group and Hotels in vain. She, therefore, filed the plea alleging deficiency in service on the part of opposite parties and sought written apology from the ITC Management besides ₹3 crore in compensation alleging harassment, humiliation and mental trauma.
For Roy, it was argued that hair was the most essential part of a human being and it shaped a person’s looks.
“Especially for woman, hair forms the looks either in their daily lives or on their wedding day. Many of the ladies feel pride on their crowning glory and work hard to ensure that their hairs are in good condition. If some (sic) mishappening takes placed with the hairs, it can effect the mental state of the ladies and it can last for an entire life time,” it was submitted.
On the contrary, the opposite parties, including ITC chairman, stated that Roy was not a “consumer” defined under Section 2 (1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act as admittedly no consideration was paid by her for hair cutting as the payment by card issued by Master Card for ₹1,770 was declined. The hair treatment, it was contended, was also provided to her on a complimentary basis.
“The compensation claimed by the complainant is ex-facie exaggerated and without any basis. No basis whatsoever has been set out in the Complaint on which the claim for compensation has been quantified at ₹3 crore,” it was pointed out.
The bench highlighted that since no evidence has been produced by Roy to prove that the chairman was personally involved or was related to the alleged deficiency of service, he had been improperly joined as a party and ordered for his name to be struck out.
The Bench underlined that owing to the haircut against Roy’s instructions, by the hotel’s salon, she lost her prospective assignments and “suffered a huge loss” that completely changed her lifestyle and “shattered her dream to be a top model”.
“She was also working as senior management professional and earning a decent income. She underwent severe mental breakdown and trauma due to negligence of the opposite party no.2 in cutting her hair and could not concrete (sic) her job and finally she lost her job,” it stated.
Resultantly, the Bench on September 21, held, “This apart, the opposite party no.2 is also guilty of medical negligence in hair treatment. Her scalp was burnt and still there is allergy and itching due to fault of the staff…For the aforesaid discussion, the complaint is allowed partly and we are of the considered view that it would meet the end of justice in case the complainant is granted compensation of ₹2 crore. Hence, we direct the opposite party no.2 to pay a compensation… within a period of eight weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the order.”
The complainant appeared in person whereas Senior Advocate Parag P Tripathi with Advocates L K Bhushan, Aditi Awasthy and Srinivasan Ramaswamy represented the opposite parties.