Consumer Protection in India

In order to protect the consumers from exploitation and to save them from adulterated and substandard goods and deficient services, the Consumer Protection Act came into force on 15th April, 1986. This article discusses the key elements of the Act and provides a brief insight into consumer complaints at different forums in India.

Fri Jul 15 2022 | Civil Litigation and Others | Comments (0)

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Industrial development in the field of manufactured goods has led to the influx of various consumer goods into the Indian market to cater to the needs of the consumers and a variety of services such as banking, financing, insurance, transport, housing construction, entertainment have been made available to the consumers.

In order to protect the consumers from exploitation and to save them from adulterated and substandard goods and deficient services, the Consumer Protection Act came into force on 15th April, 1986 and it applies to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Who is a Consumer

The definition of consumer under the Consumer Protection Act would includes:

Any person who obtains the goods for resale or commercial purposes is not a consumer. But a person buying goods for  self-employment is a consumer.

Who can file a complaint

Following persons can file a complaint under the Act:

A complaint on behalf of the public, which consists of unidentifiable consumers cannot be filed under the Act. An unregistered association cannot file a complaint under the Act.

Complaint

A complaint must contain any of the following allegations:

Limitation Period for filing Complaint

A complaint should be filed at the earliest but not later than two years from the date on which the cause of action arose. However, the Court may entertain the complaint after a period of 2 years if the complainant is able to satisfy the court that there was sufficient cause for the delay.

Remedies

A consumer can seek for the following remedies under the Act:

Consumer Protection Councils

The Consumer Councils have been created to advise and assist the consumers in seeking and enforcing their rights. In India, there are Consumer Councils both at the Center level and State level. The State Government shall establish a District Consumer Protection Council for every district. These councils work towards the promotion and protection of consumers. They make investigations and give publicity to the matters concerning consumer interests, take steps towards furthering consumer education and protecting consumer from exploitation, advice the Government in the matter of policy formulation keeping consumer interest as a pivotal concern, etc. Although their suggestions are  recommendations ,  they have significant impact in policy making.

Objects of the Consumer Council

The objects of the Central Council shall be to promote and protect the following rights of the consumers:

Consumer Protection Forums

The Consumer Protection Act provides a three tier machinery for redressal of consumer grievances:

At the lowest level are the District Forums and these are established in each District and have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of goods or services and the compensation if any, claimed does not exceed Rs. 50,00,000 (Fifty Lakhs) and a complaint can be filed in a District Forum within the local limits of which:

  1. the opposite party resides or
  2. carries on his business or works for gain or
  3. where the cause of action arises.

The State Consumer Disputes Redress Commission is established in each state and these have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of goods or services and the compensation if any, claimed exceeds rupees fifty lakh but is below rupees two crores.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and compensation, if any claimed, which exceeds rupees two  crore.

Appeal

An Appeal from the order of the District Forum lies to the State Commission, against the order of the State Commission to the National Commission and against the order of the National Commission to the Supreme Court.
 
All appeals are to be filed within 30 days of the order appealed against and are to be accompanied by a certified copy of the order.

Period of 30 days is counted not from the date of order but from the date when the order is communicated to the appellant.

Penalties for non-compliance

Any person who fails or omits to comply with the order of the District Forum, or State Commission, or the National Commission, as the case may be, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one month, but which may extend to three years, or with fine which shall not be less than two thousands rupees, but which may extend to ten thousand rupees, or with both.

Fee for making complaints before District Forum

Every complaint filed under the Act shall be accompanied by a fee in the form of a crossed Demand Draft drawn on a nationalized bank or through a crossed Indian Postal Order drawn in favor of the Registrar of the State Commission and payable at the respective place where the State Commission or the National Commission is situated.

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