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The Consumer Protection Act, of 2019 was enacted to protect the interest of consumers and effectively resolve disputes. India has billions of consumers across markets ranging from small necessities like food and beverages to luxury products.
There are various consumer forums where consumers can file insurance complaints against sellers or service providers. A complaint is filed when a lawyer has served a legal notice to the vendor or service provider and still, they have not resolved the issue.
In the customer service field, dealing with angry customers is inevitable, but it is not the end of the world. When done well, helping customers solve their problems can be very satisfying and loyalty-building.
As per Section 2(5) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, “complainant” means:
As per Section 2(7) of the 2019 Act, a consumer is a person who purchases goods or avails of services for financial consideration, excluding any customer who has acquired goods or services for resale or commercial use. According to the definition, the expressions "purchases any goods" and "enjoys any services" include online transactions through digital communication, as well as direct selling, teleshopping, and multi-level advertising. Online transactions are a specific feature of this Act that was added in response to the growing e-commerce industry and technological advancements. The state or Central Govt is also eligible for filing a consumer complaint.
VCA shall be registered under the provisions of the Companies Act 2013 or 1956 or any other law for the time being relevant.
The Central Government or the State Government can file a complaint in the interest of consumers.
As per Section 2(4) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Central Authority means the Central Consumer Protection Authority established under section 10 of the said Act.
A group of people who have the same grievance against a particular seller or service provider can file a joint complaint. It should be noted that consumer complaints cannot be filed on behalf of persons who are unknown consumers or by associations not registered under the Companies Act or relevant laws.
In case of the death of the consumer, his legal heir or representative on behalf of the deceased has the right to file the consumer complaint. Legal heirs of the deceased too would be made beneficiaries in case the complaint succeeds .
If a parent or legal guardian believes that their minor child has been the victim of unfair or deceptive business practices, they can file a complaint with the appropriate consumer forum under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
It should be noted that parties who can file a complaint in a consumer court are eligible to do so when a 'statutory notice' has already been issued to the accused party to allow them to compensate the victim's party, either by replacement or return of value. After serving such legal notice, if the accused party still does not agree to pay compensation, the customer can file a complaint when the customer is dissatisfied;
It is pertinent to note that the complainant is eligible to file a complaint in a consumer court only when a ‘statutory notice’ has been served to the opposite party for adequate compensation, either by replacement or return of value. After the service of such legal notice, the complainant can file a complaint to the appropriate consumer forum.
The following are the grounds for complaint:
Following is the procedure for filing a consumer complaint:
Before filing a formal complaint in court, the first step in any type of consumer dispute is to send a legal notice to the accused party. Each aggrieved party must send a legal notice to the accused person regarding defects in services and/or unethical business practices like selling defective goods and products etc.
If the defendant does not respond to the legal notice within 30 days, or the victim neglects or refuses to act on the conditions imposed in the notice, the victim has full rights to seek redress through the appropriate consumer commission or court.
When the accused fails to respond to the legal notice, the consumer must first determine the right of the forum where the complaint must be submitted. The complainant must consider both the economic and territorial jurisdiction of the tribunal. Financial Jurisdiction of District, State and National Commission Rs. is up to 10 million, Rs. 10 million to Rs. 100 million and above Rs. 100 million respectively.
Territorial jurisdiction must be sought at the territorial limits of the district, state, or national commission within whose jurisdiction the accused has his residence or his place of business or subsidiary office. In cases where there is more than one accused, the jurisdiction may cover any one of the accused. It may also be where the ‘cause of action’ appears.
Thereafter, the complainant shall pay with the complaint the standard fee to the District, State, or National Commission, wherever applicable.
The complainant should carefully draw up the consumer complaint along with all relevant factual evidence, with his attestation and signature. The complaint must contain the name, address, and description of the complainant and the accused against whom relief is sought in court. Furthermore, if the complainant has authorized another person to file the complaint, the complaint must be supplemented by an authorized letter from the complainant.
The complaint must include a copy of invoices for goods or services obtained from the accused, warranty or/and guarantee of goods/services, copy of the letter of complaint, and all supporting and relevant documents including legal matters. He served a notice to the accused asking him to return the goods sold or to pay compensation.
Finally, the complainant must submit an affidavit along with the complaint that in his opinion the facts asserted in the complaint and the evidence presented are completely accurate and factual.
Apart from that, the complaint must be submitted in the forum with at least 5 copies and supplementary copies for each accused party.
The complainant must clearly state in the consumer complaint what kind of relief or compensation he/she seeks from the accused party. The compensation cost or loss suffered by the complainant should be clearly stated in the consumer complaint.
In addition, customers have the right to demand reimbursement of goods/services, cost of product injury, litigation costs, as well as certain additional interests. The complainant must give a detailed description of the amount requested for compensation under various separate heads.
A plaintiff has only two years from the date the cause of action accrued to file a suit. Further, an appeal must be filed with the State Commission within 45 days of the order of the District Commission. An appeal to the National Commission must be filed within 30 days of the order being received by the lower court.
When there is a delay in filing the complaint, the complainant only must explain such delay to the satisfaction of the Tribunal. Delay can be condoned only if the Tribunal is satisfied that the reason for the delay is reasonable and not malicious.
A consumer complaint may be personally addressed by the complainant, her/his representative who has an authorization letter, or her/his lawyer.
The complainant has the option of sending the complaint by registered mail, the receipts of which should be stored for future reference. However, the complaint can also be filed online through the official website at https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/, which is more convenient for consumers as it saves time. The complaint fee must be submitted through the available online payment portal.
Following are some landmark judgments on consumer protection and redressal:
The Commission held, If the builder is unable to provide the possession within the stipulated time, they will be responsible for paying an interest rate on the deposited amount that matches the interest rate of the bank loan acquired by the buyer.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) decided on a case involving medical negligence, which was later appealed to the Hon'ble Supreme Court. The question posed in the appeal was whether the case fell within the purview of the Consumer Protection Act, of 1986 and whether both parties could be considered consumers under the Act. The NCDRC held the hospital liable for the actions of its resident doctor and nurse, awarding compensation of Rs. 12.51 Lakh to the child and Rs. 5 Lakh to the parents for mental anguish. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, imposing a fine of Rs. 5,000.
The case at hand pertained to an inequitable agreement between a builder and an allottee, where the builder was imposing penal interest on the allottee but not providing any compensation for delayed completion. The court ruled that the builder's liability, as per the agreement, was limited to refunding the amount paid by the allottee without any interest or compensation, in case the builder abandoned the project in whole or in part. However, if the allottee had delayed payment of installments, they were liable to pay 20% interest and the entire outstanding amount. This agreement was deemed unfair by the court. As a remedy, the builder was directed to pay interest on the deposited amount equivalent to the interest rate of the bank loan.
Supreme Court held- “We are of the view that the incorporation of such one-sided and unreasonable clauses in the Apartment Buyer’s Agreement constitutes an unfair trade practice under Section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act. Developers cannot compel the apartment buyers to be bound by the one-sided contractual terms contained in the Apartment Buyer’s Agreement.”
Supreme Court held- The manufacturer of a vehicle cannot be held responsible if a dealer or authorized center fails to provide adequate service in assisting with vehicle repairs.
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