What is Consumer Protection?
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, was enacted to provide a simpler and quicker redressal to consumer grievances. The Act seeks to promote and protect the interest of consumers against deficiencies and defects in goods or services. It also seeks to secure the rights of a consumer against unfair trade practices, which may be practiced by manufacturers and traders. It applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Union Government and covers all sectors, whether private, public, or cooperative.
Basic Rights of Consumers
Consumer Redressal Forum
- Right to be protected against marketing of goods and services that are hazardous to life and property
- Right to be informed about the quality, quantity, standard, and price of goods or services so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices
- Right to receive assured access, wherever possible, to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices
- Right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
- Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices.
- Right to consumer education
Under the Consumer Protection Act, every district has at least one consumer redressal forum, also known as a consumer court. Claims of less than Rs. Five lakh should be filed with a district forum, claims of Rs. Five-Rs. Twenty lakh with the state commission, and claims of more than Rs. Twenty lakh directly with the National Commission.
Requirements to file the complaint:
- The complaint should be filed within two years of buying the product or using the service.
- It needs to be in writing. Letters should be sent by registered post, hand-delivered, email, or fax. Do not forget to take an acknowledgment
- The complaint should mention the name and address of the complainant and the person/entity against whom the complaint is being filed. Copies of relevant documents must be enclosed
- The consumer must mention details of the problem and the demand on the company for redressal. This could be a replacement of the product, removal of defect(s), refund, or compensation for expenses incurred, and for physical/mental torture. The claims, however, need to be reasonable
- You should preserve all bills, receipts, and proof of correspondence related to the case. Avoid using voice mail or telephone because such interactions are normally difficult to prove
- The complaint can be in any Indian language, but it is better to use English
- There is no compulsion to hire a lawyer. The main cost consists of correspondence and traveling to the consumer forum for the hearing
- Maintain a complete record of the emails and documents sent and received
An appeal is a legal instrument which enables persons dissatisfied with the findings of a consumer court to approach a higher court to present his case and seek justice. In the context of consumer forums:
- An appeal can be made with the state commission against the order of the district forum within 30 days of the order, which is extendable for further 15 days (Section 15)
- An appeal can be made with the National Commission against the order of the state commission within 30 days of the order or within such time as the National Commission allows (Section 19)
- An appeal can be made with the Supreme Court against the order of the National Commission within 30 days of the order or within such time as the Supreme Court allows (Section 23)
The consumer courts (district court, state commission, and National Commission) are given vast powers to enforce their orders. If a defaulter does not appear in court despite notices and reminders, the court may decide the matter in his absence. The forum can sentence the defaulter to a maximum of three years' imprisonment and impose a fine of Rs.10, 000. Forums can issue warrants to produce defaulters in court. They can use the police and revenue departments to enforce orders.
Consumer rights need to be protected since services are availed based on trust and faith, and thus, it’s a necessity to keep a check on the service providers for the sake of service recipient.