Consumer complaints in India

INTRODUCTION

With a view to protect the rights and interest of the consumer, the government has come up with the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which addresses the grievances and resolves the matter.

A “Consumer” as defined u/s 2(d) of the Act means any person who buys goods for a consideration and/or hires or avails of any services for a consideration but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose or avails of such services for any commercial purposes.  

WHO CAN FILE A CONSUMER COMPLAINT

At the outset, it is clear that the consumer can file a complaint against immoral and dishonest businessman. To be specific, as per Section - 2 of the Act, the Complainant may be:
  • A consumer;
  • any registered voluntary consumer association; or
  • the central government or any state government; or
  • One or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest; or
  • In case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative.
And in case, if a person wants to file a complaint under the Act then he is required to send a notice to the opposite party (seller or trader) to compensate the same. If he ignores such notice then the Consumer can move to the Court.

CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH A CONSUMER COMPLAINT CAN BE FILED

The complaint can be made in writing in the following cases:
  1. If the unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices is carried out by the trader or the service provider;
  2. If there is any defect  regarding the quality of the goods or with the standards or measures set by the competent authorities or any other imperfections in the goods bought or agreed to be bought;
  3. If there is any deficiency or lack with respect to any faults, imperfections or any kind of shortcomings in the services hired or availed of or agreed to be hired or availed of;
  4. If any trader or the service provider has charged the additional price from the price agreed or displayed or fixed by any law for time being in force.
  5. If the hazardous goods which is affecting the life and safety of the consumer, are being offered for sale to public in contravention of any law for the time being in force.

JURISDICTION OF THE FORUM/COMMISSIONM

Under the Act, Following are the three levels of the Consumer court in which consumer settle his dispute:
  1. District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum (District Forum) - This is formed by the State in each district with the permission of Central Government.
  2. State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (known as State Commission)- This is formed by the State Government in every state with the permission of Central Government.
  3. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (Known as National Commission) - This is formed by the Central Government.
With respect to the jurisdiction of the above mentioned forums/Commissions:
  1. Territorial Jurisdiction: It has the jurisdiction over the place where the residence/business of the opposite party carried out and where the course of action has taken out.
  2. Pecuniary Jurisdiction: It has the jurisdiction with respect to the value of goods or the services.
    • Upto Rs. 20,000/- of the relief claimed, the complaint is filed before the district forum.
    • From Rs. 20,000/- to Rs.1, 00,000/- , the State Commission has the authority to hear the complaint.
    • When the claim exceeds from Rs.1, 00,000/- then the National Commission takes up the matter.

LIMITATION

The complaint filed before the consumer court at District, State or National level must be supported with all the relevant documents along with the prescribed fees in accordance with the Act which is less as compare to the civil suits. The limitation period for filing the complaint is two years from the date on which the course of action has taken place.  

RELIEFS SOUGHT

The remedies available to the Complainant are as follows:
  • Removing the defects/deficiency from the goods and services.
  • Replacing the goods.
  • Refund of the price paid for the services/goods.
  • Compensation for loss or injury suffered by the goods and services.
  • Paying damages to the party.

APPEALS

The State Commissions has the jurisdiction over the appeals against the orders passed by the District Forums within thirty days from the date of the order.
The Second appeal is made to the National Commission against the orders passed by the state commission and final appeal is made to the Supreme Court of India against the orders of the National Commission.

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