In a layman’s language, a consumer is the one who buys or rents certain goods or services from traders and manufacturers. He is in a position in which he can be easily exploited and hence to prevent the consumer from the evil encroachments of a trader or manufacturer or simply the seller, the Consumer Protection Act came into being.
Who has the authority to file a consumer complaint?
The question does answer for itself that a consumer has the authority to file a consumer complaint and according to the consumer protection act 2019 – a consumer is anyone who buys any goods or hires or avails any services for consideration. The consideration can be a down payment, partly payment or promised payment or under deferred payment but should not be bought for resale or commercial purpose. However, this doesn’t mean that only an individual consumer could file a case or a complaint. According to the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 under Chapter 1 preliminary 2(5), a complainant means:-
1. “A consumer; or
2. Any voluntary consumer association registered under any law for the time being in force; or
3. The central government or the state government; or
4. The central authority; or
5. One or more consumers, where numerous consumers are having the same interest; or
6. In case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or legal representative; or
7. In case of a consumer being a minor, his parent or legal guardian;”
The consumer protection act is designed in such a manner that it is not time-consuming and expensive for consumers, hence, it gives the freedom to the consumer that they do not require a lawyer to file and fight a case for them.
What is a complaint for which a consumer can file a case?
A “complaint”is generally an accusation which the consumer pens down on paper for acquiring certain reliefs given by the Act. It includes Unfair trade practices, Unfair contracts, Restrictive trade practices, defective goods, deficient services, high prices and hazardous goods and services put on sale deliberately.
Where shall a complainant file a complaint?
There are Consumer Dispute Redressal Forums at three different stages-
1. District forums at the district level,
2. State forums at the state level and
3. National forum at the national level.
The consumer needs to keep in mind the territorial and pecuniary jurisdictions of the above to file a complaint. One cannot directly approach the National Consumer Redressal Forum. He requires to retain in mind the place where the cause of action took place and the place of residence and work of the plaintiff and defendant. For example- Deepak is a consumer and Rajesh is a trader in sweets in Chandigarh. Deepak lives in Ahmedabad. Deepak ordered 20kgs of fresh sweets from Rajesh and Rajesh provided rotten sweets which were a year old. Now Deepak could either sue in Chandigarh- the place of work of Rajesh or in Ahmedabad- the place of residence of Deepak and also the place where the action was initiated (the place from where the order was placed).
Simultaneously, the value of redressal should also be in mind-
If the value is within 1 crore then the consumer has to approach the district forum, if the value is between 1 crore and 10 crores, the consumer can approach the state commission directly and if the value exceeds 10 crores, the consumer can go directly to the national commission. This is known as the pecuniary jurisdiction of the consumer courts or forums.
It is to be noted that if the judgement given by the national commission does not satisfy the consumer, he can appeal to the supreme court as well.
What has the new act introduced?
The act has specified the Central Authority to promote the rights of consumers. It has also established Central protection cells for the promotion of consumer rights and mediation cells for speedy trials. If the process of mediation fails, then the parties can approach the respective forums. A commission investigates the matter and if it finds the point of dispute, it is transferred to the mediation cells. Here the parties to state the same essentials as required in the district, state, or national forum- Name, date and time of purchase of goods, reason, defects, relief, necessary documents and other required details. Parties could either determine the time and procedure or the mediator does the needful if they fail to do so. Mediator also decides on the venue. Meetings are conducted by the mediator jointly or separately. The mediator is required to communicate the views of the parties and their respective intentions. Within 30 days the mediator should arrive at a solution. If the dispute is resolved then the mediator asks both the parties to sign and submit the same to the respective commission and if the dispute is not resolved, then the mediator accedes the same to the respective commission stating the reason for non-settlement.
What are the steps for filing a consumer complaint?
Step 1- Before filing a complaint, the consumer should issue a notice to the defendant about the deficiencies in services or goods and if both of them cannot come to the same platform and acquire a mutual understanding then the consumer can go ahead and file a case in the forum.
Step 2- The consumer should, according to the value of redressal and other factors, determine the jurisdiction of forums under which he will fall and state the same.
Step 3- The consumer can file a complaint physically through writing and virtually through https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/website or Other apps such as the Consumer App. In an online mode, the needful documents are to be uploaded and other essentials like- Name, Mail ID and contact number along with the login credentials provided are required. In an offline mode, a simple sheet is enough and a stamp paper is not necessary.
Step 4- The following are the essentials needed in a complaint:
· The Name and other required details of both the parties involved.
· The date and time of goods or services bought or availed with the amount mentioned.
· Stating the reason for filing the case.
· Stating the defects or deficiencies of the goods and services.
· Stating the details of the goods or services.
· Stating what relief the consumer wants.
· Attaching all the required documents as evidence such as a bill, receipt, invoice, and anything of the same sort.
Step 5- The consumer needs to specify the compensation and damages including the aggravated damages sought under different titles. This helps in deciding the pecuniary jurisdiction efficiently. It should be properly detailed.
Step 6- A statement of a declaration should be attached with the complaint proclaiming that all the facts and the evidence affixed are true.
Step 7- The complaint should be signed at the end.
Step 8- It is appropriate to file a complaint before the District Commission within 2 years of the date of the conflict. Furthermore, an appeal must be lodged before the State Commission within 45 days of the date of the District Commission\’s order. Besides, an appeal should be lodged with the National Commission within 30 days of the date of receipt of the order from the Lower Forum.
Step 9- The fees of the Court in respect of the Registrar of the Commissions concerned must be paid in the form of a Demand Draft or Pay Order. With regard to the National Commission, the appellant shall send Rs. 5,000/- as Pay Order or Demand Draft.
The online mode and the mediation cell have made it easier for the consumer to get speedy and effective justice. It gives an amicable solution and maintains tranquility. The Consumer Protection Act is a full package for the consumers and with consumer awareness of their rights, the exploitation can be prevented.
 The Consumer Protection Act, 2019
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