(This article answers various questions of the readers such as who is a consumer, Who can file the case and represent at the consumer court, What is to be done before filing a complaint, Where to lodge the complaints, How to file a complaint, What are the powers of consumer courts, what are the powers of consumer courts?)
The consumer courts in India are quasi-judicial bodies constituted under consumer protection act of 1986. At present, there are 604 district forums, 34 state commissions and one national commission that deal with cases regarding consumer disputes and grievances. A consumer may file the complaint in the consumer court against the seller of products and services about the defects, duplicity, overcharging, cheating, misleading advertisement etc. and seek relief under the above act. The defect may be any fault, inadequacy or shortcoming in quality, effectiveness, purity or standard which is required to be maintained under the contract or under any law in force.
Who is a consumer?
A Consumer means any person who has purchased products or services for his/her personal use (not for commercial purpose or resale). However, a person bought goods or services for self-employment is also considered as a consumer. Similarly, a person might himself have not purchased the item but who uses the same with the approval of the buyer is also a consumer.
Who can file the case and represent at the consumer court?
The complainant himself/herself can present the complaint in person. In the case of death of the consumer, the legal heir or representative may file a case. Besides, in the public interest any registered voluntary consumer association, State or Central Government, may also approach the consumer courts. One or more consumers having the same interest can jointly file the case.
There is no compulsion that a lawyer has to represent on behalf of the consumer. If the complainant is busy and doesn’t want to attend the hearing, a close relative of the consumer may appear in the court if a lawyer is not engaged for the purpose.
What is to be done before filing a complaint?
Before filing a complaint the consumer needs to give notice to the opposite party of the fact of any deficiency in service or of the unfair trade practice and ask for make good of loss suffered by the complainant by replacing the product or returning the value paid for the product or service. The consumer may approach the consumer court only when the supplier of goods or services denies or disputes the allegation contained in the complaint or neglects the complaint.
Where to lodge the complaints?
The Complaints are generally categorized into three sections viz. less than Rs.20 lakh in value, Above Rs.20 lakh in value up to Rs.1 Crore, Above Rs.1 Crore in Value. The complaint shall be filed according to the value of goods and services as under.
|Value of goods and services||Complaint to be lodged|
|Less than Rs.20 lakh in value||District forum|
|Above Rs.20 lakh in value, up to Rs.1 Crore||State Commission constituted in the capital cities of states|
|Above Rs.1 Crore in Value||National commission in New Delhi|
How to file a complaint?
A complaint can be filed in writing on a plain paper comprising following details.
- Complainant’s name and address.
- Name and address of the party against whom the complaint is lodged.
- Full detail of fact which caused to the complaint.
- Documents in support of the complaint
- The relief which the complainant is seeking against the opposite party viz. refunds, damages, litigation costs and interest amount etc. in terms of monetary value.
- Signature of the complainant.
- Nominal court fee shall be paid which will be decided based on the amount of claim/relief.
- The complainant is required to file an affidavit along with the complaint that the facts stated in the complaint are true and correct.
A minimum 5 copies of the complaint shall be filed in the Forum and additional copies to each opposite party. The complaint may also be sent by registered post to the address of the forum. The complaint may also be sent by registered post to the address of the forum. Alternatively, the consumer may register a complaint online through the website of Consumer Online Resource and Empowerment Centre (core.nic.in) run by Consumer Coordination Council and supported by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. To know more click “How to file a consumer complaint online?”
What are the powers of consumer courts?
The consumer court may deal with cases regarding consumer disputes and grievances. In its judgment the court may pass the order to refund the price paid by the customer, compensation for the loss or injury suffered by the consumer, ordering discontinuation of unfair trade practices, ordering to remove the defects or deficiencies in the product or service, withdrawal of the hazardous goods from selling etc. The court also awards adequate costs to parties.
Like other judicial courts, the consumer courts also have the power to enforce their orders through the Police and Revenue Departments. The forum /commission can issue warrants to produce the defaulter in court and may even sentence the defaulter up to three years jail and impose a fine of Rs.10000/-. In some occasions, the court may decide the matter in the absence of accused.
Whether the aggrieved person can prefer an appeal?
Yes. If a person is aggrieved by the order made by the lower court he may prefer an appeal against such order from a higher court. The State commission may admit the appeal filed by an appellant within 30 days from the order of District Forum or if it is satisfied that there were sufficient reasons for not filing an appeal within that period. The appeal against the order of District Forum by the State commission will be entertained only after the appellant has deposited in the prescribed manner 50% of the amount or Rs.25000/- whichever is less.
Limitation Period: The consumer protection act provides limitation period of two years from the date of cause of action. In special cases, if the forum is satisfied with the reasons for the delay, it may condone the delay.