Who is a consumer?
A consumer is defined as someone who buys or acquires goods and services for direct use or ownership and not for resale or manufacturing and production purpose. Their protection in the market has been the prime concern of administration since ages. Laws related to consumer protection dated back to the earliest civilization. Every civilization had some set of rules to secure certain rights for their consumer. It has been stated by Arthur Silverstein that the Talmudic civilization provided for more rigorous punishment for false weighing measures than for incestuous marriages. He also stated that the Talmudic civilization rejected the doctrine of caveat emptor (buyer beware) (be aware buyer) in its entirety and rather emphasized on the absolute responsibility of the seller to disclose all defects in the product, thereby, forbidding intentional misrepresentation/omission.
What is a complaint?
Any allegation in writing by an aggrieved consumer with respect to:
· Unfair Trade Practice / Restrictive Trade Practice adopted by any trader or service provider;
· Defective goods;
· Deficiency in Service;
· Charged higher amount than permissible;
· Hazardous goods/services offered without safety measures
Who can file a complaint?
· Any consumer of goods/services or their legal heirs/representatives in case of death of the aggrieved consumer.
· One of or more consumers jointly, where there are numerous consumers aggrieved with a similar happening
· Any voluntary consumer association registered under Companies Act
· State Government or Central Government
Forum for filing a complaint
A consumer can file a complaint at the following forums, depending on the jurisdiction:
· DISTRICT FORUM
· STATE COMMISSION
· NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
Jurisdiction – District Forum
· Pecuniary Jurisdiction: Value of goods is up to Rs. 20 Lakhs
· Territorial Jurisdiction: Where the opposite party/parties reside or carry on business or have a branch office; or Where the cause of action, wholly or in part arises
Jurisdiction – State Commission
Pecuniary Jurisdiction: Value of goods is above Rs. 20 Lakhs but lesser than Rs. 1 crore
Territorial Jurisdiction: Where the opposite party/parties reside or carry on business or have a branch office; or Where the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises State Commission may hear appeals against the order of District Forum-
Jurisdiction – National Commission
Pecuniary Jurisdiction: Value of goods is above Rs. 1 crore
Where the opposite party/parties reside or carry on business or have a branch office; or Where the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises
The National Commission may hear appeals against the order of State Commission-
· The limitation period for filing a complaint is 2 years from the date of cause of action
· In case of Appeals, the limitation period is 30 days from the date of order of the lower forum.
Manner of complaint
· Complaint can be made on plain paper
· Can be filed by a consumer or authorized agent
· Can be filed through registered or regular post
· 4 copies to be filed along with additional copies for opposite parties
· In case of an appeal, a certified copy of the order
· Complaint to be accompanied with fees 11
Procedure to file a complaint
Procedure at the time of filing
· At the first instance, the Forum will either allow the complaint to proceed or reject it (ordinarily within 21 days of filing)
· If it rejects, it has to be by way of an order
· Opportunity of being heard to provided to the complainant
· If allowed, copies to be served to opposite party(s)
Procedure after admission
· Opposite parties will be given 30 days to file their written reply(The limit to file the same is extendable by 15 days)
· Where allegations are denied and the allegations relate to a defect in goods, the same will be sent to a designated lab for analysis.
· Reasonable opportunity after the test.
· Where it is not possible to test (in case of services) – proceed on the basis of evidence
· Forum has the powers of a civil court under CPC 13
Kinds of orders/directions
· Remove defects
· Replace goods
· Return price charged for the good/service
· Discontinue unfair trade practices
· Appeal to State Commission within 30 days
· Deposit of 50% of the award/compensation amount or Rs. 25,000/- whichever is lesser
· Appeal to National Commission within 30 days
· Deposit of 50% of the award/compensation amount or Rs. 35,000/- whichever is lesser
· Appeal to Supreme Court within 30 days
· Deposit of 50% of the award/compensation amount or Rs. 50,000/- whichever is lesser 15
E-Filing of complaints
· No provision for e-filing as of now
· Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India has launched a National Consumer Helpline- https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/ or 1800114000 This is an advisory platform and not a legal recourse
· Many disputes are redressed through this procedure as complaints are sent directly to the company.
Meditation under the consumer protection act, 2019
The State Governments shall establish a consumer mediation cell to be attached to each of District Commissions and State Commissions of state. (Section 74(1))
Central Government shall establish consumer mediation cell to be attached to the National Commission (Section 74(2))
Muskan hails from DY Patil University, Navi Mumbai and she spends most of her time in charity and reading. Her Interest area lies in Consumer laws. For any clarifications, feedback, and advice, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org