VISAKHAPATNAM: The district consumer disputes redressal commission-I, in a recent order, directed two doctors and coordinator of a Vizag-based fertility centre to refund 15 lakh to a couple for failing to provide a child through surrogacy despite taking the huge amount from them. The centre was also asked to pay a compensation of 1 lakh to the couple besides 10,000 towards legal expenses.

Slamming Universal Srushti Fertility and Research Centre, Rahimunnisa Begum, woman member of the consumer body, said it resorted to unfair trade practices. The couple from Vizag city – Illibilli Ugandhar and Illibilli Ekta – were married for 12 years but had no kids. After coming across an advertisement put up by USFRC, the childless couple approached the fertility centre where doctors suggested to have a child through surrogacy. The couple agreed to pay 15 lakh to the fertility centre as service charges to doctors in the fifth month of surrogate mother’s pregnancy.

They paid 2 lakh in September 2019 and made the final payment in May 2020. But the surrogate mother was not shown to the couple as promised. The fertility centre told the couple that the surrogate mother will give birth to a baby in August 2020. However, in July 2020, the two doctors who they were dealing with – Dr Patchipala Namrata and Dr Tirumala – were arrested by Vizag city police along with six others on child trafficking charges. When the doctors were released on bail, the couple asked them to return their money but they kept giving all kinds of excuses. Ugandhar and Ekta then filed a petition in the consumer forum.

A senior police officer told STOI that the fertility centre was sealed after the child trafficking incident came to light. However, the hospital later reopened and has been functioning as usual.