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CONSUMER PROTECTION


“A satisfied customer is the best strategy of all” – Michael Le Boeuf


The goal of the Consumer Protection Act is to remove all barriers to competition among business units. It aims to better protect consumers' interests by establishing consumer councils and other associated authorities for the resolution of consumer disputes. The regulations are intended to provide consumers with effective protection against exploitation and harassment. This statute is more comprehensive in scope and extends beyond punitive or preventive measures. The Consumer Protection Act, unlike other legislation, is also compensating in character. The benefit of this legislation is that it is adaptable, with a broader jurisdiction and a low-cost justice system. Unless specifically exempted by the Central Government, the Consumer Protection Act applies to all goods and services. It is applicable to all sectors, including public, private, and cooperative enterprises. It gives easy, quick, and cost-effective adjudicatory authorities. It also establishes consumer protection councils at the federal, state, and local levels.


Who is a consumer?

Any person who buys goods or services for personal use, and not for manufacturing or resale purpose, is called a customer. A customer is one who chooses whether to purchase an item at the supermarket.


According to Consumer Protection Act,1986 a consumer means any person who-

(i) “buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approval of such person but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or”

(ii) “ hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first-mentioned person”.1


Need for Consumer Protection

1. Consumers require physical protection, such as protection from products that are hazardous or detrimental to their health and welfare.

2. Customers expect to be protected from misleading and unfair trade and market practices.

3. Consumer protection against all sorts of pollution is required so that they can enjoy a healthy environment free of pollution of water, air, and food.

4. Consumer protection against monopolistic and restrictive trade practices is also required. Protection is denied if it is delayed.2


Who can file a complaint?

The Consumer Court can be pursued with a complaint by:

  • A consumer

  • The person has purchased items or received services in exchange for a pecuniary value.

  • The goods must have been purchased for personal use rather than for resale or business reasons.

  • Any established association within the Companies Act, 1956, or under any other law is referred to as a voluntary consumer association.

  • The Central or the State Government.

  • A group of consumers who share a common interest.

  • In the instance of a consumer's death, his or her lawful heir or representative.3

Grounds for consumer complaint:

  • Any trader has engaged in an unfair trade practice or a restricted trade practice.

  • He has one or more issues in the things he has purchased or agreed to purchase.

  • He has a shortfall in any of the services he has hired or promised to hire or avail of.

  • A dealer has charged a price for the items described in the complaint that is higher than the price set by or under any current law or displayed on the products or any box containing such commodities.

  • Items that, when used, will be hazardous to life and safety are being offered for sale to the public in violation of any law currently in existence requiring dealers to show information about the contents, manner, and effect of such goods' usage.4

What are Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies?

Redressal Forums were set up at three separate levels. These redressal forums are formed to hear the disputes between the consumers and the other parties concerned. The redressal forums are:

  • The Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, better known as the District Forum, is the first level of jurisdiction at the lower part of the consumer redress court structure. This mechanism is dealt under sections 10 to 15 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986.

  • The Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is the second stage of courts from the bottom of the hierarchy, better known as the State Commission. It is the court that handles the matters towards the consumer protection agencies. This Commission is dealt with in Sections 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986.5

  • The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, often known as the National Commission, is the highest redressal agency in the country, reporting to the Supreme Court. The appeals against the State Commission are heard by this court. The Commission is governed by the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.6

Mediation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism:

  • A complaint will be referred to a Consumer Commission for mediation if there is a possibility of an early resolution and the parties agree.

  • The mediation will take place in the Mediation Cells, which will be set up under the Consumer Commissions' auspices.

  • There will be no appeal against a mediation settlement.7

Jurisdiction of the Consumer court

Consumer court jurisdiction can be divided into three categories: pecuniary, local, and appellate. The hierarchy of the courts determines the jurisdictions of the courts.;

1. Pecuniary Jurisdiction:

  • The District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum will have monetary authority up to 20 Lakhs.

  • Where the complaint exceeds 20 lakhs but does not exceed one crore rupees, the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission will have pecuniary authority.

  • Where a claim exceeds one crore rupees, the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission has pecuniary jurisdiction.

2. Territorial Jurisdiction:

A case can be filed in court within those local limits under which:

  • Where the opposing party lives in or works voluntarily within those local limits.

  • Where the cause of the action occurs, you should apply the same laws applied to contract law to decide where the cause of the action arises from.

  • Territorial jurisdiction at the time of online transaction.

3. Appellate Jurisdiction:

If a customer is not happy with the district forum's decision, he or she can appeal to the state commission.

  • If a consumer is dissatisfied with a state commission judgment, they may appeal to the national commission.

  • If a consumer is dissatisfied with the national commission's ruling, they may file an appeal with the Supreme Court.8

Procedure to file a complaint in the Consumer Court (offline mode)

  • Step 1- The first and foremost step to file a complaint is to identify the jurisdiction i.e. where the complaint has to be filed. Jurisdiction must be decided based on territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction.

  • Step 2- Depending on the forum the stated charge must be paid along with the complaint made. The court fee is contingent on the value of the purchased goods and the amount of compensation requested.

  • Step 3- Then a complaint must be drafted clearly stating the evidence needed to provide a basis for action. Complaint filing doesn't necessarily involve an attorney. The grieved party may file a complaint on his own.

  • Step 4- After this, you must list the complainant's name, description and address, and the name, description, address of the opposing party or parties to whom relief is sought.

  • Step 5- You have to place your signatures at the end of the complaint. In case any other person is permitted to complaint, the petition must be followed by the letter of authorisation.

  • Step 6- Copies of all the papers which support your claims mu be submitted:

  1. A copy of the bill, shipping receipt, product labelling, online booking record of the products purchased

  2. Certificates of Guarantee / Warranty

  3. A copy of the written complaint and note submitted to the manufacturer/seller.

  • Step 7- The amount demanded can include compensations. A consumer can also apply for refunds, penalties, court costs and interest rate in addition to insurance.

  • Step 8- The complainant must describe how the case falls under the scope of this forum in your petition. A petition must also specifically state what remedy or redressal the opposing party is seeking.

  • Step 9- The limitation period is 2 years from the time the cause of the case occurs if it is brought after this date, one must justify the delay which the court may or may not approve.

  • Step 10- The person seeking to file a lawsuit in the consumer forum is also required to submit a court affidavit. The affidavit should state that the evidence presented and the consumer's comments are correct to their interpretation.9


Procedure for filing a consumer complaint online

  • Step 1- For lodging a complaint online, firstly you have to register on the official website i.e. https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/ of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. The online registration form must be filled in with the complainant's name, email, address and telephone number and an account Id and password must be generated.

  • Step 2- After you have completed the registration process, proceed to log in and fill in the login details. Then go to 'File complaint' to lodge the grievance.

  • Step 3- You can lodge a complaint against any registered brand or service provider. The online complaint system has a drop-down menu of industries, segments and products that includes all products that are registered with the Consumer Affairs Department.

  • Step 4- After registration, a login form will then show up on the computer. The details of the complaint can be attached to the online report, information of any individuals involved and supporting records. It can also show the implications and relief sought.

  • Step 5- Submit the form and then file your complaint will be successfully filed. When the complaint is submitted, a digitally produced number is issued.10

Complainants are likely to get the resolved within three months. However, they may check their complaint status by simply logging in to the website or by the digitally generated number, until it is addressed.


The remedy provided by the Consumer Protection Act,1986 to consumers are:

  • Removal of Defects

  • Replacement of Goods

  • Refund of Price

  • Award of Compensation: If because of the negligence of the seller a consumer suffers physical or any other loss, then compensation for that loss can be demanded.

  • Removal of Deficiency in Service: If there is any deficiency in the delivery of service, then orders can be passed to remove that deficiency.

  • Discontinuance of Unfair/Restrictive Trade Practice

  • Stopping of sale of Hazardous Goods

  • Withdrawal of Hazardous Goods from the market.

  • Payment of Adequate Cost11

Conclusion

In conclusion, the state has taken many efforts to address customer issues speedily. The Act expands the extent of consumer protection and rights, which is a good shift in the consumer's favour. The electronic filing of complaints and the ability to attend a hearing via video conference are critical developments in streamlining the complaint procedure. Mediation is a critical step in resolving their grievances as quickly as possible. A consumer complaint can be lodged in writing, as well as the National Consumer Helpline, and numerous initiatives are being introduced to ease the reporting process for consumers. The government has taken a step forward in quickly resolving/addressing consumer complaints by launching an online form of complaint. Especially during a pandemic, the online approach can be considered one of the most comfortable and effective procedures.




REFERENCES

  1. Section 2(1)(d) in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986

  2. https://www.businessmanagementideas.com/essays/business-law/need-for-consumer-protection-essay-india-law/12348

  3. How to File a Case in Consumer Court? - Prachi Darji- https://www.myadvo.in/blog/how-to-file-a-case-in-consumer-court/

  4. Section 2(1)(c) in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986

  5. https://www.lawinsider.in/jurisdiction-powers-and-process-to-file-complaint-in-consumer-courts/

  6. http://lawtimesjournal.in/consumer-redressal-agencies/

  7. https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/consumer-protection-act-2019

  8. https://cleartax.in/s/consumer-court-complaint-format-procedure

  9. https://cleartax.in/s/consumer-court-complaint-format-procedure,

  10. https://www.vakilno1.com/legal-faq/file-consumer-complaint.html

  11. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/plan/how-to-lodge-a-consumer-complaint-online/articleshow/52373328.cms

  12. http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/consumers/9-essential-remedies-available-to-consumers-under-indian-consumer-protections-act/1133




NAME- AYUSHMAN PATNAIK

BATCH- MAY 2021 (2)

INSTITUTION- LAW DEPARTMENT, MAHARAJA AGRASEN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT STUDIES

YEAR & SEMESTER- 3rd YEAR- 6th SEMESTER




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