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THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY SHRUTI KAPOOR, A STUDENT OF LUCKNOW UNIVERSITY.
We all areconsumer of goods & services. When anyone purchases some goods, say a truck, mobile, car, refrigerator or air conditioner, he may be consumer of good. When anyone open a bank account, take an insurance policy or get a Scotty repaired, he could be the consumer of service. Everyone is consumer of one good or the other, or one service or the other as the case may be and this make them entitle to seek relief under the Consumer Protection Act. A consumer can file a complaint under CP Act 1986 when the goods purchased are or the services provided are subject to some deficiency.
There are some laws which protect the consumer to some extent which are Indian Contract Act, Sale of Goods Act, The Food Safety and Standard Act, Standards of Weights and Measures Act, The Dangerous Drugs Act, The Agriculture Product Act, and The Indian Standards Institution Act.
The aforesaid laws involve the filing of civil suit which is very expensive, time consuming and plaintiff has to wait for long time before he can hope for relief. Therefore, need was felt for the enactment of Special Act which will provide speedy and less expensive justice to consumers and in year 1986 CP Act was enacted for the same.
WHO IS A CONSUMER?
Section 2(d) of CP Act defines ‘Consumer’ means any person who:
- Buys any goods for a consideration but does not include any person who obtains such goods for re-sale or for any commercial purpose; or
- Hires or avails any service for a consideration.
SC in Bihar School Examination Board v. Suresh Prasad Sinha ruled that the School Examination Board was not a “service provider” and student who took examination was not a “consumer” within the meaning of Section 2(1) (o), (d) of CP Act, 1986.
In Anant Raj Agencies v. TELCO, the company was considered as consumer as the car was purchased for the private use of director of the company and not for profit making activity.
In Sterling Computer Ltd. v. P.R. Kutty,the complainant purchased the computer for the personal used but computer was used in office by his workers. The National Commission held that complainant was not consumer because computer was use for commercial purpose.
RIGHTS OF CONSUMER UNDER CP ACT 1986
The rights of consumer which are protected under this act are:
- The right to be protected against the marketing of hazardous goods & services;
- Right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services as the case may be;
- Right to be protected against unfair trade practices;
- The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices;
- The right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forum;
- Right to seek redressalagainst unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumer; and
- The right to consumer education.
WHO CAN FILE A CONSUMER COMPLAINT IN INDIA
The Consumer Protection Act under SECTION 12(1) itself provides a list of persons who can file a complaint under the Act which are:
- A consumer
- Any recognized consumer association. The association can make complaint even though consumer concerned is not its member.
- One or more consumer, where there are numerous Consumers having the same interest, with the permission of District Forum.
- The Central government or the State Government.
Besides the above list the following can also file a Consumer Complaint:
- Any person who is a beneficiary of the goods/services.
- Legal representative of deceased consumer.
- Husband of the consumer.
- Relative of the consumer.
- Legal hers of the deceased consumer.
TIME LIMIT TO FILE CONSUMER COMPLIANT
Section 24A of CP Act 1986 defines that time period for filing consumer complaint with District Forum, State or National Commission is 2 year from the date of cause of action arisen. It is also provided that complaint filed after the limitation period can be entertain if complaint satisfies the District Forum, State or National Forum with sufficient reason that prevent him from filing compliant within prescribed period.
There is also time limit for challenging order of District Forum, State or National Commission:
- Appeal against the order of District Forum is filed in the State Commission within 30 days of order being passed.
- Appeal against the order of State Commission is filed in National Commission within 30 days of order being passed and
- Appeal against the order of National Commission is filed in Supreme Court within 30 days of order being passed.
LEGAL STEPS OF FILING A CONSUMER COMPLAINT BEFORE A CONSUMER FORUM
Any personbefore filing a consumer complaint should give notice to opposite party regarding deficiency in service, unfair trade practice etc. If the trader is willing to make good the loss suffered by the consumer either by replacing the community or returning the price with interest, the issue resolves then and there. But if the trader refuses or neglects the right of consumer then he can approach the Consumer Court for justice.
STEP 1: APPROACHING THE RIGHT TRIBUNAL
There are two ways of deciding the appropriate court to appear
- Territorial Jurisdiction: A complaint shall be instituted in a District Forum or State Commission or National Commission within the local limit of whose jurisdiction:
- The opposite party resides or carries on business or has branch office or personally works for gain.
- If there are more than one opposite party, then any one of the parties resides or carries on business or has a branch office, or work for gain
In such condition permission of either District Forum, State Commission, or National Commission as the case may be, or the other opposite parties.
- Cause of action arose wholly or partly.
- Pecuniary Jurisdiction: On the basis of cost of the goods or services and compensation District Forum, State Commission and National Commission jurisdiction is as under:
- The District Forum shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and the compensation, if any, claimed is not more than Rs.20 lakhs.
- State Commission shall entertain complaint where the value of goods or services and compensation, if any, claims exceeds Rs.20 lakhs but does not exceed Rs.1crore. It can entertain appeals against the order of District Forum within the State.
- National Commission can entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and compensation, if any, claimed exceed Rs. 1 crore. It can entertain appeal against the order of any State Commission.
STEP 2: DRAFTING OF CONSUMER COMPLAINT
After deciding the appropriate court to file consumer complaint next step is drafting it either on your own or with the help of lawyer. In complaint following things should be specifically mention:
- The complaint should, if possible have a heading.
- The name, description and address of the complainant.
- The name, description and address of opposite party or parties as the case may be.
- Facts necessary to establish a cause of action.
- Details of goods purchased or services availed as the case may be and defect in the goods and services.
- Complainant should also mention that he informed the opposite party or parties about the defect in goods or deficiency in services as the case may be but no step is taken by them.
- If complaint is filed after the expiry of limitation period (i.e 2 year from the date of cause of action arises) reason of delay and prayer to condone delay.
- Copies of document in support of the allegation contained in petition. For example copy of bill of the goods bought, compliant and notice made to trader, warranty and guarantee card etc.
- If complainant asks for compensation costs then the cost should be specially alleged in the complaint.
- State how the case falls within the jurisdiction of forum to which he has approach for justice.
- Complaint must clearly state as to what relief is sought against the opposite party.
- Cost of the complaint can be claimed from opposite party by mentioning the same in the complaint.
- At the end of the complaint signature of complainant or of other person authorized to file complaint. In latter case complaint has to be accompanied with authorization letter.
STEP 3: PAYMENT OF COURT FEE
Under original Act of 1986, there was no requirement of court fee. However, after amendment of 2002, complainant has to pay a nominal fee for filing a consumer compliant before any forum.
District Forum: It can entertain matter upto value of Rs.20 lakh for which court fee is
- INR 100 for the matter upto 1 lakh,
- INR 200 for the matter between 1-5 lakh,
- INR 400 for the matter between 5-10 lakh,
- INR 500 for the matter between 10-20 lakh,
State Commission: Where the value of goods and services exceed Rs.20 lakh it is entertain by State Commission and the court fee for the same is.
- INR 2,000 for case above 20 lakh and upto 50 lakh.
- INR 4,000 fore case above 50lakh and upto 1 crore.
National Commission: Matter above 1 crore is dealt by National Consumer Forum and court fee in such case is INR 5,000.
In present scenario it is very important that consumer should be aware of their right as a consumer and should take legal step against unfair trade practice or defected goods and deficiency in service. So, that such malpractices and be control and consumers will not be cheated by the traders. Every consumer should be vigilant of the quality and quantity of goods supplied to them by consumer and shall never hesitate of filing a consumer complaint against trader for deficiency in goods and services.
Hereinafter called as CP Act 1986
A.I.R 2010 S.C. 93.
 R.K. Bangia’s The Law Of Torts
 I (1996) CPJ 268 (Delhi)
I (1996) C.P.J. 118 (N.C.).
 See section 6 of CP Act, 1986
 See section 11(2) of CP Act 1986
 See section 11(1) of CP Act 1986
 See section 17 of CP Act 1986
 See section 21 of CP Act 1986