Consumer forums are fast turning out to be the automatic choice for consumer redressal. For first timers, here is a guide to when and how to approach consumer court:
- Know if you are a consumer: Understand if you are actually a consumer. Remember you are not a consumer if 1) you have bought a product or availed a service free of cost or 2) if the purpose of product/service is commercial or if 3) relationship between two parties is of a master and slave.
- What amounts to consumer rights violations: If right to be informed, right to safety, right to be heard, right to choose are in violation, one may approach consumer forum. In other words, if it is a case of Unfair Trade Practice or supply of defective goods or deficiency in service provided or collection of excess price, you qualify for filing the complaint.
- Within what time period from cause of action can I file: Complaint can be filed within 2 years from such instances that amount to violation of consumer rights.
- Talk after you make up your mind: Talk to consumer helpline to explain your situation and ask for suggestion. Help Line numbers are given at http://consumeraffairs.nic.in/WriteReadData/userfiles/file/ConsumerHelplines.pdf. There are consumer protection councils at district, state and national level that help provide advisory to ensure protection of consumer rights.
- What are available redressal forums: District consumer disputes redressal at District level, State consumer redressal at State level and National consumer redressal forum at National level.
- Who can file: 1) A consumer, 2) voluntary yet associated consumer association, 3) group of consumers with similar interests or 4) legal heir or representative can file.
- Where to file: Apply in district forum if value of total claims amount is less than 20 lakhs rupees. Apply in state forum if value of total claims amount is between 20 lakhs and 1 crore. Apply in national forum if value of claims exceed 1 crore.
- How to define the consumer forum boundaries/jurisdiction: If the opposing party does business, resides or has branch office in the limits of jurisdiction, case can be filed at the forum of jurisdiction.
- Fees involved: For district court, it is up to 500 rupees depending upon claimed amount. For state court, it is up to 4000 depending upon claimed amount. For national court, it is flat 5000 rupees.
- How to file: Application in plain paper without stamp paper can be filed. It should contain detail of opposing party like name, address etc (details below). Complaint can be provided in person, through an authorized representative or registered post along with fees. If you are filing in district/state consumer forum, 3 sets of complaints need to be submitted while for national forum, 4 sets are required. A consumer need not engage a lawyer to complaint and fight his/her case.
- Details to be provided in complaint: 1) Name and Address of complainant 2) Name and Address of opposing party 3) Date of purchase of goods/service availed 4) Amount paid (completely or in advance) 5) Details of product bought or service availed 6) Category of violation – refer point 2. 7) Bills/receipts/contract copy 8) Relief sought/complainant claim 9) Signature of complainant or authorized representative
- Can I file complaint at National consumer court if I do not satisfy the criteria of total claims amount: Unless you are appealing against state consumer court judgment, you can not.
- Do I have an option after National consumer court: Yes, you may appeal in Supreme court.
- Are there any time limitations for filing appeals: Yes, appeal in court of next hierarchy needs to be filed within 30 days of judgments.
Comments/Feedback invited.Last updated: January 28, 2016 at 18:49 pm