Complaint to Consumer Forum
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is a benevolent social legislation that lays down the rights of the consumers and provides for promotion and protection of the rights of the consumers. The first and the only Act of its kind in India, it has enabled ordinary consumers to secure less expensive and often speedy redressal of their grievances. By spelling out the rights and remedies of the consumers in a market so far dominated by organized manufacturers and traders of goods and providers of various types of services, the Act makes the dictum, caveat emptor (‘buyer beware’) a thing of the past. The Act mandates establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Centre as well as in each State and District, with a view to promoting consumer awareness.
The Central Council is headed by Minster, In-charge of the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Central Government and the State Councils by the Minister In-charge of the Consumer Affairs in the State Governments. It also provides for a 3-tier structure of the National and State Commissions and District Forums for speedy resolution of consumer disputes.
To provide inexpensive, speedy and summary redressal of consumer disputes, quasi-judicial bodies have been set up in each District and State and at the National level, called the District Forums, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission respectively. At present, there are 629 District Forums and 35 State Commissions with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) at the apex. Each District Forum is headed by a person who is or has been or is eligible to be appointed as a District Judge and each State Commission is headed by a person who is or has been a Judge of High Court. The provisions of this Act cover ‘goods’ as well as ‘services’. The goods are those which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers. The services are in the nature of transport, telephone, electricity, housing, banking, insurance, medical treatment, etc.
A written complaint, can be filed before the District Consumer Forum for pecuniary value of upto Rupees twenty lakh, State Commission for value up to Rupees one crore and the National Commission for value above Rupees one crore, in respect of defects in goods and or deficiency in service. The service can be of any description and the illustrations given above are only indicative. However, no complaint can be filed for alleged deficiency in any service that is rendered free of charge or under a contract of personal service. The remedy under the Consumer Protection Act is an alternative in addition to that already available to the aggrieved persons/consumers by way of civil suit. In the complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act, a consumer is not required to pay any court fees but only a nominal fee. Consumer Fora proceedings are summary in nature. The endeavor is made to grant relief to the aggrieved consumer as quickly as in the quickest possible, keeping in mind the provisions of the Act which lay down time schedule for disposal of cases.
If a consumer is not satisfied by the decision of a District Forum, he can appeal to the State Commission. Against the order of the State Commission a consumer can come to the National Commission.
In order to help achieve the objects of the Consumer Protection Act, the National Commission has also been conferred with the powers of administrative control over all the State Commissions by calling for periodical returns regarding the institution, disposal and pendency of cases.
The National Commission is empowered to issue instructions regarding (1) adoption of uniform procedure in the hearing of the matters (2) prior service of copies of documents produced by one party to the opposite parties (3) speedy grant of copies of documents (4) generally over-seeing the functioning of the State Commissions and the District Forums to ensure that the objects and purposes of the Act are best served, without interfering with their quasi-judicial freedom.
WHY To Raise A Complaint In Consumer Court In India Consumer Court is a strong legal body formed to protect the real rights of the consumers. It also ensures fair business practices and deals. However, still a great percentage of customers do not know their real rights and powers. And many who know about the rights are scared to approach the legal system. However, things have changed now. The digital age has made everything possible and hassle free. All you have to do is to know about your rights as a consumer and the proceeding you have to follow for fighting for your rights. Basically, there are different types of Consumer Courts operating to deal with the grievances and issues of the customers. These are National Level Consumer Court (NCDRC), State Level Consumer Court (SCDRC) and District Level Consumer Court (DCDRF). The customers have to approach these legal bodies based on the amount of claim and the type of case they are dealing with.
Consumer is a person who deals with a company or service provider by purchasing their goods or services. The consumer can make the payments fully or partially. However, once the first payment is made, he or she is considered as an existing customer of a company or service provider. On the other hand, the customers also have an option to make a decision to purchase or not to purchase an item or service from a store or company. Basically, there are different types of rights provided for the customers. If any of the above mentioned rights are violated by a company or service provider, the consumer have all the rights to file a case and obtain the right compensation for the mental or physical problems they have faced. Initially, filing a case was quite a complex task. The customer had to approach the respected court and spend time to file and follow up with the case. However, things have become quite simple and hassle free with the options available online.
Fight for your Consumer Rights on your Finger Tips: With the help of the internet technology, filing a complaint has become quite simple and hassle free. However, it is also important for you to provide the necessary documents that can support the case. Document can be anything such as bills, invoice no, warranty card or other documents that shows you have done business with the particular company. The document should specify the date and amount of the purchase. If you have the necessary documents in hand, filing a case in the consumer court takes only few minutes. You can also visit online consumer forum anytime to follow up with the case.
There are many steps from filing the case to judgement. And for every step, the opposite party can be absent for upto 3 to 4 times. Therefore it is not uncommon to take even 25 hearings to pass the judgement. And there is generally only one hearing per month. This could mean that it could take well above two years for the judgement. Not to forget, the opposite party can again challenge the judgement in a higher consumer court. Therefore, unless you have a strong reason, and strong evidence, the effort and time you put in might not justify the end result.
Steps Involved To Raise A Complaint In Consumer Court In India
Sending a notice to the opposite party – The first step involved, although not an actual part of filing a complaint in Consumer Court, but is nevertheless needed, is to send a notice to the Opposite party. This notice should mention the details of the complaint, and what you are seeking, and also that you would file a case in consumer court if no response is received within the stipulated time. It often happens that the opposite party tends to resolve your concern at this stage.
Filing the complaint in Consumer Court – The first step involved is filing the complaint. For this, you will have to submit two copies to the court, and an additional copy for each of the opposite party. Kindly note that you should not submit the original evidence, such as invoices, right now. Another important point to keep in mind is that you can also demand monetary compensation for the time, effort and mental harassment that you had to go through.
Counter / Response from Opposite Party – After you file the case, the complaint is sent to the opposite party. The opposite party then responds to the complaint. This is known as Counter.
Evidence Under Affidavit / Rejoinder – Next step involved is to file a rejoinder to the counter that has been given by opposite party. The rejoinder serves two purposes. First is to counter-argument the response given by the Opposite Party. Second is to submit the original evidence in support of your arguments (invoices, etc.).
Marking of documents – Next the documents that are submitted as evidence have to be marked by the judge.
Evidence by Opposite Party – After marking of the documents submitted as evidence, the opposite party is asked to submit evidence. In my case, the Opposite Party requested to use the counter as evidence.
Written arguments by Complainant – Next comes submission of the written arguments by the complainant.
Written arguments by Opposite Party – Similarly, the opposite party will also submit the written arguments. In several case, the opposite party requests that the counter be considered as written arguments.
Judgement – Now comes the most crucial stage of the entire process, the judgement. The judgement is delivered in the form of a written order.
Petition – Assuming that the order is in your favour, and that the opposite party has not responded to the order within 40 days, you will have to file a petition requesting the court to take action against the opposite party for enforcing the order. After filing the petition, either the Opposite Party might agree to uphold the order or it might challenge the order in a higher level consumer court.