We are all consumers of goods and services in one way or the other. The moment we take birth on this earth we become consumers and are entitled to seek relief under the Consumer Protection Act. These days we see that consumers are cheated and harassed in many ways. At times they are provided with inferior quality of goods, at times with less quantity than actually demanded whereas at other times the consumer is charged with excess prices than otherwise fixed for the commodity. The traders considers consumers as persons who are morons having paying capacity and can try to deceive them in every possible way. Therefore there was a strong need felt to protect the consumers.
Some laws which protect the consumers to some extent which are listed as follows:
- The Indian Contract Act, 1872
- Sale of Goods Act, 1936
- The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
- Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976
- The Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952
- The Agricultural Produce ( Grading and Making) Act, 1937
- The Indian Standards Institution (Certification Mark) Act , 1952
But these laws involve the filing of a civil suit which is very expensive and time consuming and takes years in final disposal of the case. So a need was felt that a Special Act should be enacted for Consumers which will provide speedy and simple access to justice for the Consumers. The legislature did not want the technicalities of law to be involved in an act which provides relief to the Consumers. Therefore Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was passed keeping in view the need to protect Consumers.
WHO CAN FILE A CONSUMER COMPLAINT?
Only a “CONSUMER” can file a complaint under the Act.
WHO IS A CONSUMER?
A person has to satisfy the following conditions in order to be a CONSUMER:-
- The person must have purchased goods for some value i.e. he must have paid money
- A person who has not himself purchased the goods but who uses the goods with the approval of the buyer is also a consumer
- A person must not have bought goods for resale or commercial purpose. But a person buying goods for self employment is a consumer.
WHO FILE A CONSUMER COMPLAINT IN INDIA
The Consumer Protection Act itself provides a list of persons who can file a complaint under the Act which is described hereunder-
- Firstly a Consumer
- Secondly, Any voluntary Association Registered under the Companies Act, 1956, or under any other law for the time being in force
- Thirdly the Central government or the State Government
- Fourthly one or more consumers, where there are numerous Consumers having the same interest.
Besides the above list the following can also FILE A CONSUMER COMPLAINT:
- Any person who is a beneficiary of the goods/services
- Legal representatives of deceased consumers
- Legal hers of the deceased consumer
- Husband of the consumer
- Relative of the consumer
HOW TO FILE A CONSUMER COMPLIANT
Before formally filing a Consumer Complaint, it is desired that the Consumer gives notice to the opposite party of the fact of any deficiency in service or of unfair trade practice etc to see if the trader is willing to make good the loss suffered by either replacing the commodity or returning the value of the purchase. If yes, the issue resolves then and there. But if the trader refuses or neglects here that the consumers needs to approach the Consumer Court.
At first identify the Jurisdiction of the Forum where the complaint is to be filed. This issue needs to be identified from two angles of jurisdiction i.e. Territorial and Pecuniary.
The Consumer has to take into consideration both the territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction of the tribunal in mind before filing his complaint and has to choose the correct forum.
Territorial Jurisdiction of the Consumer Forums:-
A complaint shall be instituted in a District Forum or State Commission or National within the local limits of whose jurisdiction,—
- a) the opposite party resides or caries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain, or
- b) If there are more than one opposite aprty, then any one of the opposite parties resides, or carries on business or has a branch office, or personally works for gain,
Provided that in such case the permission of either District Forum, State Commission or National Commission as the case may be, or the opposite parties who do not reside in such place or carry on business or have a branch office or personally works for gain as the case may be, must be obtained , or
- c) The cause of action arose.
PECUNIARY JURISDICTION OF CONSUMER FORUMS
|1||District Forum||Upto Rs. 20 Lakhs|
|2||State Commission||Rs. 20 Lakhs to Rs. 1 Crores|
|3||National Commission||Exceeding Rs. 1 Crores|
You will be required to pay a prescribed fee along with your complaint before the District Forum, State Commission & the National Commission as the case may be.
Then you have to draft your complaint stating facts necessary to establish a cause of action.
At the end of the complaint you have to put your signatures. In case any other person is authorized to file the complaint then complaint has to be accompanied with authorization letter.
Don’t forget to mention the name, description and address of the complainant and the name, description, address of the opposite party or parties against whom relief is claimed.
Copies of all the documents supporting your allegations. In this you can put on record the copy of the bill of the goods bought, warranty and guarantee documents and also a copy of the written complaint and notice made to the trader requesting him to rectify the product.
You can also ask for compensation costs which should be specifically alleged in the complaint. Besides compensation, a consumer can also ask for the refunds, damages, litigation costs, and interest amount. You must give the breakup of amount claimed under different heads but do remember to claim compensation or other relief as per the pecuniary value of the forums.
Explain in your complaint as to how the case falls within the jurisdiction of this forum.
Complaint must clearly state as to what relief is sought against the opposite party.
The Act provides for limitation period of two years from the date of cause of action. In case there is delay in filing the complaint, please explain the delay which can be can be condoned by the Tribunal.
You are also required to file an affidavit along with the complaint that facts stated in the complaint are true and correct.
The complainant can present the complaint in person or by his/her authorized representative without engaging any advocate. The complaint can be sent by registered post. A minimum of 5 copies of the complaint is to be filed in the forum. Besides this you have to file additional copies for each opposite party.
Consumer needs to be more aware of the malpractices followed by the trader and should stand up for their rights. With this article, an endeavour is made to educate the consumers to file their complaints and of taking action against the unscrupulous traders who thinks that consumers can do nothing if any wrong is caused to them. Let us be all Vigilant of the quality and quantity of goods supplied to us by the traders.