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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Consumer Protection Act: Complaint and Procedure for filing Complaint

In Section 2 (1) (c) "complaint" means any allegation in writing made by a complainant that:
a)      an unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice has been adopted by any trader;
b)      the goods bought by him or agreed to be bought by him suffer from one or more defect;
c)       the services hired or availed of or agreed to be hired or availed of by him suffer from deficiency in any respect;
d)      a trader has charged for the goods mentioned in the complaint a price in excess of the price fixed by or under any law for the time being in force or displayed on the goods or any package containing such goods;
e)      goods which will be hazardous to life and safety when used are being offered for sale to the public in contravention of the provisions of any law for the time being in force requiring traders to display information in regard to the contents, manner and effect of use of such goods.

With a view to obtaining any relief provided by or under this Act; the essential features of a “Complaint” are -

a)      The complaint must be in writing;
b)      The complaint must be made with a view to obtain any relief under the Act;
c)       The Complaint must make any of the five allegations stated under section 2 (1) (c), against a trader or manufacturer;
d)      The complaint must be filed in a manner prescribed under law i.e. under section 12 of the Act.
e)      The complaint must be filed before appropriate consumer commission having jurisdiction to entertain complaint. Section 17 & Section 21.
Ordinarily, the complaint must contain name, description and address of the Complainant and the purpose for which he bought the goods. It must also contain the name, description and address of the trader or manufacturer. It must state clearly, the facts of the case e.g. when the things was purchase? For what purpose? When the things were consumed or used? Defects in goods or deficiency in the service etc., what injury suffered etc. These facts must be supported by all relevant and proper documents. Lastly, the complaint must mention the relief or relief’s asked for against the trader or manufacturer i.e. the opposite party.

Section 2 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines the term "complainant" as: Complainant means
a)      a consumer; or
b)      any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 (1 of 1956), or under any other law for the time being in force; or
c)       the Central Government or any State Government,
d)      one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest;
e)      who or which makes a complaint;
A person seeking redress before the Consumer Redressal Forum must come within any of the four categories stated above; otherwise he has no locus standi to proceed with his case. The ‘Complainant’ among others means a ‘consumer’ generally. The expression ‘complainant’ as defined in section 2 (1) (b), is comprehensive to enable consumer as well as any voluntary consumer association. This definition is very suitable in a country like India, where majority of the people are illiterate and therefore, power to file a complaint is given to the voluntary consumer associations. The only restriction laid down under the Section in this regard is that, the association must be registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or any other law for the time being in force.
However, a consumer association cannot file a complaint on behalf of unspecified or unidentified number of consumers. In the Case of Upbhokta Sanrakshan Samiti V/s. Winsard foods Ltd., the consumers association found that, the biscuit packets sold by a food company were less in weights. A complainant demanding compensation for the public of the State of Rajasthan was not maintainable.
The act contemplates an identified consumer in order to make the application of its provisions or any consumer association to represent it. An act also contemplates an action in representative capacity, by providing that, when there are numerous consumers having same interest, one or more consumers must file complaint on behalf of others.

Procedure for Filing Complaint
The complainant or his authorised agent can present the complaint in person or send it by post to the appropriate forum or Commission, as the case may be. No fee is charged for filing a complaint before the District Forum or the State Commission or the National Commission.
Important Points
a.       Each of the members and the opposite parties are to be sent a copy of the complaint.
b.      The complaint himself should possess two or more copies of the complaint.
c.       If the complainant desires so he can send a copy to an active voluntary consumer organisation.
d.      A complaint should always be supported and verified by an affidavit.

The time period within which a complaint must be filed
The District Forum, the State Commission, or the National Commission shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen. However, where the complainant satisfies the District Forum/State Commission, that he had sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within two years, such complaint may be entertained by it after recording the reasons for condoning the delay.

Decision Time
The District Forum, State Commission and National Commission are required to decide complaints, as far as possible, within three months from date of notice received by the opposite parties. For those complaints which require laboratory analysis or testing of commodities, the period is extended to five months.

In case it is proved that there exists a defect in the goods or that the services rendered were deficient in nature the following remedies against the seller are available to the Consumer.
a)      To remove the defect pointed out by the appropriate laboratory from the goods in question or;
b)      Replace the goods with new goods of similar description, which shall be free from any defect;
c)       Return to the complainant the price of the goods or the charges for the services rendered and / or;
d)      Pay such amount as compensation for any loss or injury suffered by the Consumer or;
e)      Remove the deficiency in the service and/ or;
f)       Discontinue the unfair or restrictive trade practice and not to repeat them and / or;
g)      Not to offer hazardous goods for sale and / or;
h)      Withdraw the hazardous goods for sale and / or;

i)        Provide adequate costs to the parties.