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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grievance Redressal Machinery


Consumer Dispute
Section 2 (1) (e) provides "consumer dispute" means a dispute where the person against whom a complaint has been made, denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint;
A Consumer dispute would arise when there is a complaint by a consumer and the person against whom the complaint has been made denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint.
When a material proposition of fact or law is affirmed by one of the party and denied by the other, the issues arise and Court frames those issues in the form of questions. Each of such allegations made by the Complainant and denied by the defendant becomes a “consumer dispute.

Defect and Deficiency
Under Section 2 (1) (f) "defect" means any fault, imperfection or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, potency, purity or standard which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or under any contract, express or] implied, or as is claimed by the trader in any manner whatsoever in relation to any goods; Such a defect must be in relation to the goods and not its title.
Defect means lack or absence of something essential for completeness. When there is a shortage in the quality of goods it amounts to defect in the goods.
If, seller fails to deliver the goods which he agreed to sell, it will be treated as a defect. There are certain legislative enactment e.g. Foods & Drugs Adulteration Act, which require the goods to be particular standard, and any shortcoming in such a standard, would amount to a ‘defect’.
A contract between the buyer and seller may prescribe for particular quality, quantity or purity, standard etc. in such a case, if that prescribed quality, quantity etc. falls short as required by their contract, and it may amount to a defect. Even when the trader makes a particular claim about the product, whether by means of advertisement or by labels on the package or inside the package and the goods fall short of that claim, it would amount to ‘defect’ in goods.
Section 2 (1) (g) further provides the definition of deficient. "Deficiency" means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service;
The distinction between the ‘defect’ as defined under section 2 (1) (f) and the term ‘deficiency’ as defined under section 2 (1) (g) is that, the former is used in relation to goods i.e. when goods can be said to be ‘defective goods’ whereas, the term ‘deficiency’ is used in relation to ‘services’ i.e. there can be ‘deficiency in services’.

Service and Deficiency in service
Under Section 2 (1) (o) "service" means service of any description which is made available to potential users and includes the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, board or lodging or both, 6[housing construction], entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service;
The above definition can be divided in three parts:
What it means?
It means a service of any description. The service is not restricted only to actual users, but is also made applicable to potential or prospective users. I.e. the persons who are likely to use the services in future.
What it includes?
It includes the provisions of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, boarding or lodging or both, entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or their information. Housing construction is also included in the definition of “Service”
What it excludes?
The services which are rendered free of charge, and the personal service e.g. master and servant have been excluded. Therefore, if, services rendered in the hospital are totally free, then no complaint under this Act is maintainable against the hospital.
"Deficiency" under Section 2 (1) (g) means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service;
Following are the cases in which it was held that there is a deficiency in the service:
a)      Delay in delivery of possession of the flat.
b)      Use of substandard material in house construction.
c)       Fault or negligence in setting the claim by the insurance company.
d)      Fault on the part of the carrier of goods.
e)      Disconnection of electric supply on account of arbitrary and excessive billing and without giving notice.
f)       Bank dishonouring the bank draft or cheque despite sufficient funds in the account.
g)      Failure on the part of the courier to deliver cover within stipulated period.
h)      Unreasonable delay in shifting of telephone.
i)        Delay by the examining body to publish the results.

The consumer Protection Act, 1986 as amended by the (Amendment) Act, provides for the constitution of consumer protection councils at Central, State and District levels.
1.    The Central Consumer Protection Council: The Central Government may, by notification, establish with effect from such date as it may specify in such notification, a council to be known as the Central Consumer Protection Council (hereinafter referred to as the Central Council).
a)      The Minister in charge of consumer affairs in the Central Government, who shall be its Chairman, and
b)      Such number of other official or non-official members representing such interests as may be prescribed.
The objects of the Central Council shall be to promote and protect the rights of the consumers such as-
a)      The right to be protected against the marketing of goods 2[and services] which are hazardous to life and property;
b)      The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods 1[or services, as the case may be], so as to protect  the consumer against unfair trade practices;
c)       The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices;
d)      The right to be heard and to be assured that consumers'  interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums;
e)      The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices 1[or restrictive trade practices] or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
f)       The right to consumer education.

2.    The State Consumer Protection Councils
The State Government may, by notification, establish with effect from such date as it may specify in such notification, a council to be known as the Consumer Protection Council (hereinafter referred to as the State Council).
a.       The Minister in-charge of consumer affairs in the State Government who shall be its Chairman;
b.      Such number of other official or non-official members representing such interests as may be prescribed by the State Government.
The objects of every State Council shall be to promote and protect within the State the rights of the consumers laid down in clauses (a) to (f) of section 6. (Objects of National Council)

Section 8-A as inserted by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002
The State government shall establish for every district, by notification, a council to be known as the District Consumer Protection Council
The District Consumer Protection Council (hereinafter referred to as the District Council) shall consist of the following members:
a.       The collector of the district (by whatever name called) who shall be its Chairman; and
b.      Such number of other official and non-official members representing such interest as maybe described by the state government.
The Objects of every District Council shall be to promote and protect within the district the rights of consumers laid down in the clause (a) to (f) of Section 6 (National Consumer Protection Council)

There shall be established for the purposes of this Act, the following agencies, namely,-
a)      A District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum to be known as the "District Forum" established by the State Government   in each district of the State by notification:
b)      Provided that the State Government may, if it deems fit, establish more than one District Forum in a district;
c)       A State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to be known as the "State Commission" established by the State Government in the State by notification; and
d)      A National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established by the Central Government by notification.

The Consumer courts are 3 tiered.
1.       District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums:  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.5,00,000 (FIVE LAKHS), and a complaint can be filed in a District Forum within the local limits of which
a.       The opposite party resides or
b.      Carries on his business or works for gain or
c.       Where the cause of action arises.
2.       State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: 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 Rs.5,00,000 (FIVE LAKHS) but does not exceed Rs.20,00,000 (TWENTY LAKHS).
3.       National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and compensation if any claimed exceeds Rs.20,00,000 (twenty lakhs).

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