Fate of consumer cases filed by registered society to be decided next week

Cases filed by registered societies against builders (and other respondents) got a shocker on 20th December, 2016 when the NCDRC stalled the hearing of the cases till 20th January, 2017. All cases of such nature have been forwarded to the larger bench which is slated to meet next week on 20th January to ponder upon the admissibility of such cases to National consumer forum.

Background:

Section 12 (1) of consumer protection act allows for filing a consumer complaint by any of the below individuals or entities:

(a) the consumer to whom such goods are sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or such service provided or agreed to be provided;
(b) any recognized consumer association whether the consumer to whom the goods sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or service provided or agreed to be provided is a member of such association or not;
(c) one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest, with the permission of the District Forum, on behalf of, or for the benefit of, all consumers so interested; or
(d) the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, either in its individual capacity or as a representative of interests of the consumers in general.

Accordingly, consumer case filed by a registered society were being debated under section 12 (1) (b). However, of the numerous cases of this nature, advocate of one of the respondents raised objections against acceptance of such cases under section 12 (1) (b) due to debatable definition of a recognized consumer association. Taking cognizance of the objection, the court has requested to constitute a larger bench to interpret the term “Recognized consumer association” as used in the Section 12 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Act.

The complete contents of the observations made during the court proceedings on 20th January are given below:

Section 12 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Act provides for a Complaint to be filed by any recognized consumer association whether the consumer to whom the goods sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or service provided or agreed to be provided is a member of such association or not.

The explanation below Section 12 provides that For the purpose of said section “recognized consumer association” means any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or any other law for the time being in force

Thus though the Act requires such an association to be registered, it does not define the terms “Voluntary Consumer Association”. The aforesaid term has not so far been interpreted either by this Commission or by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Since a large number of Consumer Complaints are now being filed under Section 12 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Act, the interpretation of the term “Voluntary Consumer Association” becomes important. It is, therefore, desirable that the aforesaid term is considered and interpreted by a larger bench. Hence, the Hon’ble President is requested to constitute a larger bench to interpret the term “Voluntary Consumer Association” as used in the Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act.

The learned counsel for the Complainants request that in order to obviate the necessity of issuing a notice of hearing before the larger Bench and to ensure an expeditious hearing, on account of the fate of hundreds of Consumers being involved in these Complaints, a specific date for hearing by the larger Bench may be fixed.

In view of the said request, but subject to the Order of the Hon’ble President, list these matters before the larger bench initially on 20.01.2017.

Last updated: January 13, 2017 at 16:40 pm

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