Recently, the Delhi High Court passed an interim injunction order against defendants who adopted the business name, AJIO Online Shopping Pvt. Ltd. and were based in West Bengal to carry out fraudulent activities.
The plaintiff, Reliance Industries holds registrations for trademarks ‘AJIO’, AJIO logo and other formative marks. Reliance Retail Limited is the Indian retail company of Reliance Industries. The e-commerce platform of Reliance Retail at www.ajio.com is a business-to-consumer (B2C) platform which was launched in 2016. This is also available on mobile apps with the same name ‘AJIO’. Consumers can directly order and purchase goods from the retailer on the AJIO website and app, which have gained immense popularity in India.
The plaintiff became aware of fraudulent business activity of several persons who were sending various communications under the name and style ‘AJIO Online Shopping Pvt. Ltd.’ to various customers across India including the plaintiff’s employees. The content of the communication mentioned that the customer receiving such a letter had won a lucky draw contest, prize money as well as a scratch card coupon. The modus operandi seemed that certain directions mentioning specific toll-free helpline numbers were given to the customer to collect the prize and reward money. The impersonating defendant/s then collected money from unsuspecting customers under the garb of encashing the scratch card or paying government taxes and processing fees. The investigations revealed that the defendant/s were using various mobile numbers and bank accounts to receive the deposits made by the customers.
The Court perused the submitted documents and observed that it seemed like a large-scale fraudulent operation carried out by the defendant/s in order to scam the customers under the name of ‘AJIO’ and ‘AJIO Online Shopping Private Limited’ and make illegal monetary gains.
The Court took into account AJIO’s popularity that any customer who may receive such communication may believe it to be true. With such a level of fraudulence being played out and a number of communications sent to various customers, it was noted that the plaintiff had made out a prima facie case for ex-parte ad interim injunction. The injunction was granted restraining the defendants from using the mark ‘AJIO’. The banking institutions were directed to immediately freeze the connected bank accounts and submit complete statements of account for such bank accounts along with KYC details and other important information. The telecom service providers were directed to immediately block the mobile numbers and submit the documents which were initially submitted by the individuals who secured such mobile numbers. The Cyber cell was directed to identify and investigate the defendants. The plaintiff was also given the liberty to move an application before the Court as soon as it becomes aware of any new mobile number/s or bank account/s.
This order concisely shows that immediate and stronger directions are to be issued when the public interest is in jeopardy. E-commerce platforms and marketplaces have definitely proved to be a convenient portal for customers; however online scams based on the popular e-commerce platforms and marketplaces need to be strictly handled as these scams not only tarnish the reputation of the brand but also deceive consumers. This case serves as a reminder that the law is vigilant in safeguarding the interests of both businesses and consumers against fraudulent practices in the marketplace.