The Bombay High Court on Thursday stayed an order of the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, Gondia directing Facebook to pay Rs. 25,599 to a labourer for non-delivery of a product he purchased online and fraudulent advertisement.

Facebook India Online Services and META Platforms Inc had approached the Bombay High Court challenging the order of June, 2022.

"As specific directions are given by the Commission to the petitioners to pay an amount of Rs.599/- to the respondent no. 1 for product not delivered and Rs.25,000/- towards mental agony and legal costs, there shall be stay to the impugned order passed by District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, Gondia, subject to the petitioners depositing the said amounts in this Court within a period of four weeks from today", the Nagpur bench of Justice Manish Pitale ordered.

The commission had directed the companies to pay Rs 599 to a person for non-delivery of a product purchased online and Rs. 25,000 for causing mental agony.

Senior Advocates Vivek Reddy and Soli Cooper appeared for Facebook and Meta respectively. Advocates Ajit Warrier and Varun Pathak appeared for the second respondent in both cases.

It was contended by Facebook that it filed writ petitions instead of following the remedy of appeal available against the order passed by the Commission as the impugned order is passed wholly without jurisdiction. They contended that if at all the complainant had any grievance, he ought to have raised it against Mariya Studio i.e. the entity, which had allegedly duped him.

Facebook and Meta contended that they have complete immunity in such matters under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (for short the "Act of 2000") which pertains to exemption from liability of intermediary in certain cases.

They contended that under Section 81 of the IT Act, the provisions of the said Act have overriding effect and they operate notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other law. The distinction between the Act of 2000 and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 was highlighted by emphasizing upon the fact that the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is in addition to and not in derogation of other legislations.

The commission had passed the order on a complaint filed by Tribhuvan Bhongade, a daily wage labourer, who claimed that he had seen an advertisement on Facebook by Marya Studios selling Nike shoes for Rs 599.

Bhongade stated that he had placed an order for the shoes and made payment using his debit card in September 2020, but he never received the shoes. He further claimed that he had tried calling on the customer care number of Marya Studios, where a person further duped him of Rs 7,568.

Cause Title: Facebook India Online Services Pvt. Ltd. vs. Tribhuvan S/o Lalchand Bhongade & Anr.

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