Misleading Advertisements, Overcharging on Angioplasty: NCDRC fines Gurugram Hospital
New Delhi: The apex consumer commission has imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on a private hospital in Haryana for indulging in unfair trade practices by issuing misleading advertisement and charging extra amount from a patient for angioplasty and stent implant. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) noted that Brahm Shakti Sanjivani Hospital had given misleading advertisement about the offers of Rs 12,500 for angiography procedure and Rs 1,25,000 for angioplasty with medicated stent, but charged the patient higher.
"It is a clear case of unfair trade practices adopted by the hospital through the misleading advertisement. Therefore, in our considered view, a cost of Rs one lakh on the hospital is just and reasonable. Hospital is further directed to restrain from such misleading advertisement in future," said a bench comprising presiding member S M Kantikar and member Dinesh Singh.
The commission said that out of the amount, Rs 50,000 shall be paid to the complainant, Haryana-resident Surya Kant, and the rest Rs 50,000 shall be deposited in the Consumer Legal Aid account of the district forum in Jhajjar.
It asked the hospital to discontinue its "deceptive" advertisement with immediate effect.
According to the complaint, Surya Kant had developed chest pain in 2015 and got admitted to the hospital in Bahadurgarh. He underwent angioplasty during which one medicated stent was implanted.
It was alleged in the complaint before the district committee that the hospital had charged Rs 2.30 lakh for the angioplasty and stent whereas, as per the advertisement published by the hospital in the local newspaper, a patient was required to pay only Rs 1.25 lakh for angioplasty with a medicated stent. He had to pay Rs 1.05 lakh in excess, it had said.
The lower fora had directed the hospital to refund the excess amount along with litigation charges of Rs 5,500 to the complainant.
This was challenged by the hospital before the state commission, which had set aside the lower fora's order.
Aggrieved with it, Kant approached the apex commission where he alleged that the hospital had obtained the consent of his wife for the stent having higher charges with "mala fide intention".
Deciding his plea, the apex commission said, "The hospital attracted the complainant (Kant) with its advertisement, and, after the complainant was totally in its and it's treating doctors' hands with a cardiac problem in emergency conditions, imposed its conditions and additional costs high handedly and arbitrarily at its end."
The hospital contended that the stent implanted was of the high quality and the wife had given consent for the same. It further claimed that the offer was available for cash payment basis only and was not applicable for emergency patients but for the planned/routine patients.
To this, the apex commission said, "The so-called 'consent', taken from Kant's wife, was in emergency conditions and in forced duress."
It further said that nowhere in the advertisement it was stated that this was only for 'cash payment basis' or that this was applicable only for 'planned/routine patients', or 'emergency patients' were excluded, or stent whose price was stated in the offer was any other than the best quality medicated stent available with the hospital.
"He (Kant) opted for angioplasty with the best quality medicated stent available with the hospital, as would a normal and reasonable man suffering from the cardiac problem in emergency conditions normally and reasonably opt for.
"All applicable salient terms and conditions, and including those relating to 'quality' of the medicated stent and 'excluded categories', were required to and should have been stated upfront in the advertisement, which was not done by the hospital. The acts and conduct of the hospital were unfair and deceptive," the commission said.