Nov 1, 2017
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Consumer Forum

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Consumer Forum

The Consumer Forum as recognized by the consumer, for seeking justice and compensation for any defect, fraud or deficiency found in any good or services purchased or hired by him.

Therefore, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, has set up Consumer Dispute Redressal Agencies at various district, state and national level in the form of district, state and national forums respectively.

Consumer Forum is the generalized term for Redressal Agencies, set up under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Additionally, it is important for the grieving consumer to know where and and how to file a consumer complain under this Act, to get proper compensation.

As the overview of the Consumer protection Act, 1986, mentions the composition and role of various district, state and national forums, we get to the sole criteria of forming these forums, that is the consumer redressal.

To fall within the jurisdiction of the consumer forum, person must fulfill the the criteria of a consumer.

1.Who is a consumer?

Before filing a consumer complaint in the consumer forum, ensure the person falls under the definition of a ”consumer” as stipulated by the Official Act.

  1. Consumer under the Act also includes:
  • One or more consumers, if there are numerous consumers having the same interest.
  • In case of death of a consumer, his heir or representative.
  • Also includes any voluntary association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or any other law in force at the moment.
  • Furthermore, it also includes, the Central or any State Government.

However, any product or service used as re-selling in business purpose does not come under the definition of consumer.

Furthermore, a flat owner owning or having invested in more than one flat, is not a consumer.

2.TYPES OF CONSUMER FORUM

Consumer Forum is the generalized term for Redressal Agencies, set up under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

I.REDRESSAL AGENCIES

Consumer Protection Act, 1956, sets up a Redressal Agency in the form of a District Forum, State Commission and  National Commission to achieve the aims and objectives of this Act.

  • 1.District Forum

  1. District Forum consists of a person who is qualified or qualifies as a District Judge as its President.
  2. The forum should consist of  at least one female member among the other members of the forum.
  3. Every member of the District Forum, holds office for a term of 5 years or up to the age of 65 years which ever is earlier.
  4. It has the jurisdiction to entertain complaints, where the value of the goods or services and the compensation claimed does not exceed Rs.20 Lacs.
  •  Power of a District Forum
  1. Remove any defect detected by the appropriate laboratory from the goods in testing.
  2. Replace the defective goods with new goods free of any defect.
  3. Pay the consumer for any loss or injury suffered to him due to negligence of defaulting party.
  4. Furthermore, compensate the complainant for any expense of redressal.
  • 2.State Commission

  1. The State government issues a notification for establishing a State Commission.
  2. Where the value of compensation for goods or services claimed exceeds Rs. 20 Lacs but does not exceed Rs.1 Crore.
  3. Additionally, State Commission can entertain an appeal against the orders of any District Forum within the State.
  • 3.National Commission

  1. National Commission qualifies a person who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court as the President.
  2. The forum should consists of at least 4 members but not more than the number of members prescribed. Of these number of members, one member has to be woman.
  3. Every member of the National commission holds office for a term of 5 years or up to the age of 70 years, which ever is earlier.
  4. It has jurisdiction to entertain complaints, where the value of goods or services and compensation, claimed exceeds Rs. 1 Crore.
  5. Moreover, it can entertain appeals against the orders of any State Commission.

II. Consumer Protection Councils

  • District Consumer Protection Council

District Consumer Protection Council shall consists of;

  1. The Collector of the district, as the Chairman of the council,
  2. Any number of other official and non-official members as the State Government prescribes,
  3. The District Council meets at least twice in every year,
  4. Additionally, the State Government also prescribes its various procedures.
  • State Consumer Protection Council

State Consumer Protection Council consists of;

  1. A Minister of the State government in-charge of consumer affairs as the Chairman,
  2. Any number of other official and non-official members as the State Government prescribes,
  3. The State Council meets at least twice every year.
  4. Additionally, the State Government also prescribes its various procedures.
  • Central Consumer Protection Council

Central Consumer Protection Council consists of;

  1.  A Minister of the Central Government in-charge of Consumer Affairs as the Chairman,
  2. Any number of other official and non-official members as the Central Government prescribes,
  3.  The Central Council shall meet at least once a year.

2.Where to file a consumer complaint?

An aggrieved consumer should know the jurisdiction of a consumer forum that applies to him as per the valuation of his goods or services availed.

  • District forum – Up to Rs.20 lakh.
  • State commission – Rs 20 lakh to Rs. 1 crore.
  • National commission – Above Rs. 1 crore.

The Consumer has to take both the territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction of the tribunal into consideration.

Territorial Jurisdiction of the Consumer Forums:-

District Forum or State Commission or National can institute a complaint within the local limits of their jurisdiction—

a)  the opposite party resides or caries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain, or

b)   If there are more than one opposite aprty, then any one of the opposite parties resides, or carries on business or has a branch office, or personally works for gain,

Provided that in such cases the permission of either District Forum, State Commission or National Commission as the case may be, or the opposite parties who do not reside in such place or carry on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain as the case may be, must be obtained , or

c) where, the cause of action arose.

3.How to file a consumer complaint in Consumer Forum?

The following is the procedure for filing a Complaint before the Consumer Forum(District Forum):
(State Forums and National Forums have their own set of procedures; which, are essential the same as district forum)

A typed complaint is preferred in comparison to a written complaint.

The basic format followed -> double spaced, with margin space of at least 1½ inches on the left, top and bottom.

Arrange the complaint in the following order and number all pages of the document.

1. Index giving the page number of each document.

2. Application for condonation of delay (if there is delay), give valid reason, duly affirmed before a notary public.

3. Complaint – containing details of the grievance, stating reason for claiming relief including relief of legal costs, damages and interest.
Complainant has to sign the complaint.

4. The consumer can appear before the Consumer Forum in person, or his close relative can also appear on his behalf.  Authorizing, a close relative to appear on behalf requires a letter of authority.
However, a consumer can also appoint an advocate to appear on their behalf, here the, advocate does all the paper work, attends the hearings as scheduled.

5. Affidavit – stating the contents of the Complaint are true.

6. All documents/evidence in support of Complaint in original and photocopies.

Before filing a complaint:

Prior to filing of complaint, aggrieved party must give a notice in writing to the supplier or service asking him to rectify any faults, defects and deficiencies found.
The notice should clearly establish the reason for grievance and recourse sought to rectify the fault, defect or replacement of good.
Normally, a notice period of one month is served. Additionally, the said notice should also be addressed to the nearest forum in the area of the respondent.

Thirdly, complaint must be filed within 2 years from cause of action. (in case of delay; valid reason to condone delay)

4.What are the fees for filing a consumer complaint?

The fee for filing a complaint before the consumer forum depends upon the amount involved.

1.Before District Forum:

  • For claims up to Rs. 1 lakh = Rs. 100.
  • For claims from Rs.1 lakh up to Rs. 5 lakhs = Rs. 200.
  • For claims from Rs.5 lakh up to Rs. 10 lakhs = Rs. 400.
  • For claims from Rs.10 lakh up to Rs. 20 lakhs = Rs. 500.

2.Before State Commission: 

  • For claims from Rs.20 lakh up to Rs. 50 lakhs = Rs. 2000.
    For claims from Rs.50 lakh up to Rs. 1Crore = Rs. 4000.

3.Before National Commission

  • For claims exceeding Rs. 1 crore = Rs. 5000.

The fee has to be paid in the form of a demand draft on a nationalized bank in favor of the President of the concerned District Consumer Forum (Registrar of the State or National Commission, if the Complaint is filed in these places).

5.What is the process after consumer complaint?

On filing of complaint by consumer or  consumers advocate in the office of the concerned forum, the Consumer Forum’s office goes through the Complaint and point out any deficiencies.

If the forum finds any deficiencies, corrections are made and refiled again.

The Consumer Forum’s office assigns the consumer a short date for admission.
On the date assigned consumer or his representative appears and gives his genuine reason for filing a consumer complaint.

Additionally, on admission of complaint,  the Consumer Forum gives directions to submit complaint copies to various respondents along with a notice prepared by the Commission’s office.

The consumer and respondent appear before the forum. The forum takes the required recourse of redressal to secure justice, compensation and gain to the aggrieved  consumer.

An appeal can be made by the consumer, if not satisfied by verdict of district forum to state commission and further to national commission, within a period of 30 days, which can be extended to 15 days more.

What action does the Consumer Forum take?

1.Redressal:

The forum takes the required recourse of redressal to secure justice, compensation and gain to the aggrieved  consumer.

Lets take the example of a case law where the consumer forum gave recourse to an aggrieved party:

  • Chetan Prakash vs. MET Institute of Computer Science

Prakash, appeared for his final year BSc exams, however prior to the declaration of his results, he sought admission to MET Institute, towards pursuing his Masters in Computer Science. However, the institute laid a condition, that in order to pursue the MCS course,a student has to clear his final year exams. Prakash, however, went ahead and deposited his fees towards the MCS course before the declaration of his result. On declaration of his result, Prakash fails his exams. On failing his exams, he goes to withdraw his admission from the MCS course and requests for a refund, to which the institute does not responded. Finally, he sends a legal notice to the institute, and registers a complain with the consumer forum.

The forum gave a judgement directing the institute, to pay the complainant, Chetan Prakash, Rs. 32,000 as compensation for harassment, along with the course fee of Rs.62,200.

2.Penalty

  • The consumer forum (district forum, state commission and National Commission) are given vast powers to enforce their orders. If a defaulter does not appear in forum despite notices and reminders, the forum may decide the matter in defaulters absence.
  • The forum can sentence the defaulter to a maximum of three years’ imprisonment and impose a fine of Rs. 10,000.
  • Forum can issue warrants to produce defaulters in forum. They can use the police and revenue departments to enforce orders.

Find an online lawyer for filing consumer complaints

 

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