The Future Group, which owns Big Bazaar, the biggest retail market chain in the country, has launched ‘Profit Club Card’ with an eye on making easy and quick money throwing the legalities to the wind. The new scheme intends to mobilise deposits from the customers for the goods to be supplied in future, which is nothing but violation of various laws.
It may be recalled that the Newlook Retails Private Ltd also known as NMart launched similar scheme in the past and collected nearly Rs 1,500 crore from public. However, it ran into rough weather after the police filed criminal cases against the company. Its chief Gopal Singh Shekhawat was put behind bars and the company was closed.
A glance at the Profit Club Card brochure reveals its true nature of violating the law of the land. An adult could become a member of the Profit Club to acquire its card by paying Rs 10,000 plus Rs 100 as admission fee. In the second type of Card, a member needs to deposit Rs 5,000 plus Rs 100 as admission fee.
The Cards could be used to purchase every month ‘selected’ products worth Rs 1,000 on Rs 10,000 Card for 12 months and Rs 400 on Rs 5000 Card for 15 months. The Card is valid only to purchase products in Big Bazaar, fbb and Food Bazaar of the Group and not other sister-concerns.
Mastan Vali, an advocate of the Hyderabad High Court, opined that deposit was defined in Sec 2 (b) of Andhra Pradesh Protection of Depositors Act, 1999. As per the Act 'deposit' means the deposit of a sum of money either in lump sum or instalments made with a financial establishment for a fixed period, for interest or return in any kind. The definition for deposit under the RBI Act and SEBI Act are different to definition of deposit under the AP protection of Depositors Act. As per the RBI Act and the SEBI Act, advance for sale is not deposit whereas in Depositors Act, there is not such exemption in the definition. As such, any person collects deposits with a promise to return in any kind falls within the definition of the Depositors Act. Hence, he opined that the government should suo motu enquire into this matter under the provisions of the AP Protection of Depositors Act, 1999 before any cause of action or grievances at large has taken place, he added.
The Profit Club Card also attracts the provisions of the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978 as it intends to mobilise deposits through its direct selling agents. A senior police officer also opined that it was an outright violation of the law of the land.
As per the General Terms and Conditions of the Profit Club brochure, one could be enrolled as member through direct sales agents/agencies duly appointed by Future Group. It also absolves its own liability to fulfil its obligations if there is change in law. More, The Future Group sets a condition that in case of disputes, the Mumbai Courts have exclusive jurisdiction. In essence, if anybody wants to file a suit against the Future Group if it fails to fulfil its obligations, one has to go to Mumbai to file the suit. Practically, it is not economically feasible to an ordinary customer.
It is high time that the law enforcing agencies took initiative to curb such illegal activities.