From real estate frauds including delay in possession and unsatisfactory utilities and services provided by the builder to agreement disputes between seller and buyer to poor medical care (medical negligence) to schools/ colleges arbitrarily demanding extra fee to receiving broken product from an online portal to not being able to claim insurance are few of the many examples where a consumer is dissatisfied and aggrieved with a service he is provided or a good he has purchased. Therefore, to minimize this dissatisfaction and resentment of a consumer, a remarkable law called the Consumer Protection Act was introduced in 1986 to exclusively address as well as redress consumer complaints by the Ministry of Law and Justice of the Government of India.
However, with passage of time and progressive industrial development throughout led to the influx of multiple consumer goods and services into the Indian market to cater to the needs of every consumer with a variety of services such as real estate, insurance, transport, medical, banking, financing, entertainment, etc. got easily accessible to consumers. Therefore, in order to safeguard consumers from exploitation, unfair trade practices and protection from adulterated substandard goods and services a fresh new Act called the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has now been implemented with certain significant reforms to strengthen interests of consumers and to institute regulatory authority for expedient and effective administration and settlement of consumer disputes in India.
Under the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 a consumer is someone who:
A consumer complaint can be filed when the consumer has been aggrieved from:
Now, the first step towards the fight against unfair trade practices and towards getting compensation against the same is to send a Legal Notice to the trader (opposite party) a chance to compensate for the loss suffered by the consumer by either entirely replacing the product/ services or by entirely returning the complete value of the product/ services purchased. However, in case the accused trader rejects to acknowledge the said legal notice then the consumer has all the right to approach a Consumer Court to be compensated by law.
Under law the following people can file a consumer complaint:
However, no complaint can be filed in case of a complaint on behalf of public consisting of unidentifiable consumers or a complaint filed by an unregistered association.
The following are the key highlights:
It is advisable to file a complaint at the earliest so that there is less delay in obtaining compensation, however, it must not be filed later than 2 years from the date from which the cause of action arose.
Majority of the times Courts do not entertain any delayed complaints, however, in extraordinary cases where the complainant has bona fide evidence to prove that there was sufficient cause for delay in filing the complaint, then the court may permit the complaint.
The primary step towards any kind of civil litigation (consumer dispute) is to send a legal notice to the accused party (real estate company/ developer/ trader/ manufacturer, etc) prior to filing a formal complaint in a court.
It is critical for every aggrieved consumer to send a legal notice to the accused party relating to deficiency in services and/ or unfair practice in running the business/ selling of faulty goods and products, etc.
A legal notice is sent to identify if the accused party is willing to admit its fault and offer to pay compensation against the unnecessary loss suffered by the consumer.
If the accused does not send a reply to the legal notice or simply neglects or refuses to act on the demands made in the notice by the aggrieved consumer within a period of 30 days, then the aggrieved consumer has the complete right to approach an appropriate consumer commission/ court .
Now, once the accused fails to reply to the legal notice, the following step for the consumer (complainant) is to first identify the jurisdiction of the Forum where the complaint has to be filed.
The complainant must take into consideration both the pecuniary as well as the territorial jurisdiction of the tribunal.
District Commission : up to INR 10 million
State Commission : INR 10 million to INR 100 million
National Commission : above INR 100 million
(1 million equals Rs. 10 lakh)
A consumer complaint must be introduced in a District Commission or a State or a National Commission within the local limits of whose jurisdiction,-
According to the law, a standard fee is to be paid along with the consumer complaint before the District Commissions, State Commissions as well as the National Commission wherever the case may be applicable.
The complainant with or without the help of a lawyer has to diligently draft the consumer complaint which must state all the relevant facts and evidence. The complaint must bear signatures of the complainant.
Additionally, in case the complainant authorises some other person to file the complaint then the complaint must be accompanied with a valid authorization letter from the complainant.
The complaint must furnish the name, address and description of the complainant as well as the name, address and description of the accused party or parties against whom relief has been claimed in the court.
The complainant must attach all the supporting documents with the complaint which must include the following:
In the complaint, the complainant must explicitly mention and describe the compensation costs. Along with the compensation cost, the consumer has the right to request for the refund of the goods and services, cost against damages to products, cost of litigation that the complainant had to bear unnecessarily, and some additional amount of interest. The complainant must provide a detailed breakdown of the amount that is sought to be compensated under different separate heads.
The complainant in the complaint must explicitly mention as to what relief/ compensation is the complainant seeking from the accused party.
As mentioned earlier, the law provides the complainant with a limitation period of only 2 years from the date the cause of action arose. And therefore, in cases where there has been delay in filing the complaint, it is solely the responsibility of the complainant to explain and satisfy the Tribunal for such a delay. The said delay can only be condoned off by the Tribunal is satisfied that the reason for such a delay was rational and not mala fide.
Besides this, the complainant has to furnish an affidavit along with the complaint explaining that the facts stated and the evidence provided in the complaint are entirely true and correct according to him.
A consumer complaint can be presented by the
The complainant can send the complaint by registered post. The postal receipts of the same must be saved for future references. Apart from this, a minimum of 5 copies of the complaint have to be filed in the forum and additional copies for each accused party.
An aggrieved consumer must look to seek the following remedies under the Consumer Protection Act:
Under Indian law, an appeal is a remedial procedure where cases are reviewed in which parties to the dispute request for a formal replacement to an official order of a court. Every appeal functions as both a procedure to correct and rectify error as well as a procedure to appropriately clarify and interpret the law in discussion.
As per the hierarchy of the forums and courts, an appeal from the order of the District Forum goes to the State Commission, an appeal against the order of the State Commission goes to the National Commission and an appeal against the order of the National Commission goes to the Supreme Court.
Under the law, every appeal must be filed within a time period of 30 days from the date of the order that is to be challenged. Every appeal has to be accompanied by the certified copy of the order of the court.
This limitation period of 30 days is not counted from the date of the order to be challenged but from the date of the order when it was communicated to the appellant (party seeking an appeal).
Any individual/ party to the case who neglects or refuses to comply with the order of either the District Forum, or State Commission, or the National Commission, as the case may be, shall be liable to punishment with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 1 month but the same may get extended to 3 years, or with a penalty which shall not be less than Rs. 2,000/- but the same may also get extended to Rs. 10,000/-, or with both.
Every consumer complaint filed under the Consumer Protection Act shall be supplemented by a fee in the form of a crossed Demand Draft which is to be drawn on a nationalized bank or through a crossed Indian Postal Order to be drawn in favour of the Registrar of the State Commission and payable at the respective place where either the State Commission or the National Commission is located.
What are Consumer Protection Councils?
The Consumer Protection Act has empowered the Central Government to establish Consumer Protection Councils at both the state and central levels with the fundamental aim to spread consumer awareness in India and promote and protect the consumers. These consumer councils have been established to assist and advice the consumers in an effort to seek and enforce their rights.
The objective of such consumer councils are to promote as well as protect the rights of consumers like:
One of the major change that was brought in by the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 entitles the Central Government to institute a Central Consumer Protection Council which shall consist of the Minister in charge of the Consumer Affairs in the Central Government as the Chairman and such number of other non- official and official members to represent consumer interests as may be stipulated.
Under the Consumer Protection Council Rules of 1987, the number of members of the Central Council is limited to 150 members which includes the Central Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs as its Chairman.
The term of the Council is 3 years. In addition to this, the Central Government to supervise the execution of the suggestions of the Central Council.
Besides this, the Central Government can also set up a standing working group from amongst the 150 participating members of the Central Council under the Chairmanship of the Member Secretary of the Council.
The Central Council shall meet as and when essential, but at least 1 of the meetings of the Central Council shall be held at a time and place to be decided by the Chairman whenever he deems fit.