You can file and fight your own case in a consumer court without a lawyer. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is a central government act applicable in all states of India, to provide for the protection of the interests of consumers (including investors). If there is any deficiency in services by any service provider in any sectors like manufacturing, hotels, transport, telephone department, electricity department, hospitals, banks, educational institution etc, then you can approach consumer courts/ forums for speedy resolving of matters.
A Consumer does not include a person who obtains any goods or service for resale. Also, consumer courts cannot entertain issues of rates or fees charged by a provider.
1. Basic points:
- Do not make an emotional decision to go to the consumer court, as it could be a time consuming process, requiring a lot of patience and determination.
- Try to approach a consumer organization (as listed below) to complaint on your behalf, before deciding to a consumer forum.
- Before opting to file a case in the consumer court, please read prior judgements. Please also consider filing a complaint online at the new government portal or the old central government portal.
- Send a notice to the opposite party, before filing a petition, thus giving them a chance to rectify their mistake.
- A complaint can be filed within the period of two years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen. However, a complaint may be entertained after the period of two years, if the complainant satisfies the Forum that he has sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within such period and the Forum records its reasons for condoning such delay.
- The Consumer Protection Act says that a complainant can either personally appear or be represented by an authorized agent or an advocate, by giving such a person the necessary authority on a Rs 100 stamp paper.
- The burden of proof of defense of a false or misleading warranty or guarantee shall lie on the opposite party.
- The first duty of a consumer is to get a receipt whenever he buys something, either goods or services, as proof that he has paid. In a judgment favourable to the consumers, the National Commission ruled (IV (2005) CPJ 207 (NC)) that terms and conditions on the receipt are binding only if they are signed by the customer. The National Commission has also held that contractual terms (even if consumer has signed) which have not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair (and hence null and void) if, contrary to the requirements of good faith, they cause a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations arising under the contract.
- The Department of Consumer Affairs in Delhi has issued a D.O. (D.O. No. 11(11)99- CPU/1647 dated 22-12-99) prohibiting the printing of the condition “Goods once sold will not be taken back” on receipts. Unfortunately, a large number of businesses are still flouting the D.O. and many consumers who are not aware of the law are being cheated. If you are dissatisfied with any merchandise you have purchased, you can return it and get a refund of your money even though the receipt says that goods once sold will not be taken back. If the shop refuses to take it back, file a complaint before the consumer forum and you will get your money back.
2. The District Forum details:
A Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum to be known as the District Forum was established by the State Government with the prior approval of the Central Government in each district of the State under Section 9(a) of the Act. The district forum shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services and the compensation, if any, claimed is less than rupees twenty lakhs. The District Forum consist of one president (District judge) and two other members (one of whom is to be a woman).
The specific fee for filing the case, should be in the form of crossed demand draft or crossed Indian postal order addressed to “President, District consumer dispute Redressal Forum”. Cost of filing a case with effect from 10/2/2005:
Up to 1 lakh – Rs.100
Rs.1 lakh – Rs.5 lakh – Rs.200
Rs.5 lakhs – Rs.10 lakh – Rs.400
Rs.10 lakh to Rs.20 lakh – Rs.500
Procedure to file a petition:
- Jurisdiction is territorial and monetary i.e. either the office of the respondent or address of the complainant can be used. One must try to find out at which forum the backlog is less and file accordingly, as per our convenience.
- Petition must ideally be in English
- Full name & address of the complainant
- Full name & address of the opponent (respondent)
- Information about when and where cause of the complaint arose.
- Detailed particulars and nature of complaint
- Prayer of reliefs sought including monetary claims, compensations; and its total value.
- Certified true copies all relevant documents on which complaint is based and to be attached as Exhibits (in TRIPLICATE keeping one copy for your record with one extra full set for each of the opponent/s).
- The complaint can be submitted by hand delivery or Registered AD or Speed post to the office of the forum. Do not forget to take receipt of acknowledgement of your copy.
For Mumbai city (Colaba to Sion)
Bombay District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum
Plot CS No 4 /296, Administrative building
1st Floor, SS Rao Road, Near Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, Parel East, Mumbai 400012
For Mumbai suburbs (Bandra to Dahisar and Chunabhatti or Kurla to Mulund)
Bombay Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum
New Administrative Building
3rd Floor, Bandra (East), Mumbai 400051.
Thane District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum
The Collector Office Building
1st Floor, Thane, Dist. Thane.
Tel.: 25345042 or 25344069 or Konkan Bhavan at CBD Belapur Navi Mumbai 27574074.
3. Findings of the District Forum:
Rules framed by different State Governments lay down different time limits it is generally 90 days from the date of the first hearing. Every proceeding before the district forum shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding and shall have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court for the summoning of any defendant or witness; production of any document producible as evidence; the reception of evidence on affidavits; the requisitioning of the report of the concerned analysis or test from the appropriate laboratory or from any other relevant source.
If the district forum is satisfied that the goods complained against suffer from any of the defects specified in the complaint or that any of the allegations contained in the complaint about the services are approved, it shall issue an order to the opposite party directing him to take one or more of the following things, namely:
- to remove the defect pointed out by the appropriate laboratory from the goods in question;
- to replace the goods with new goods of similar description which shall be free from any defect;
- to return to the complaint the price, or, as the case may be, the charges paid by the complaint; to pay such amount as may be awarded by it as compensation the consumer for any loss or injury suffered by the consumer due to negligence of the opposite party.
Section 10 of the CP Act can make the respondent produce relevant records of the matter pertaining to other similar consumers, thus converting the matter into a class-action suite.
4. How the orders of Forum are enforced?
If the interim order of a Forum is not complied with, the relevant forum may order for attachment of the property of the person concerned, which shall remain force for three months, and if the non-compliance continues, the property so attached may be sold and out of the proceeds thereof the damages may be awarded to the complainant and the balance amount paid to the parties entitled thereto. Further, if any amount becomes due to any person under the orders of a Forum, he can make an application to such forum for issuance of a recovery certificate to the collector of the district to recover the same as arrears of land revenue (section 25 of the Act). Further, if any person fails or omits to comply with the order of a Forum, he may be punished with imprisonment up to three years (section 27 of the Act) or with fine of Rs.2,000, which may extend to Rs 10,000 or both.
5. First appeal (State Commission):
State Commission can hear the cases involving the amount more than rupees twenty lacs and up to rupees one crore. It has also jurisdiction to hear appeal against the orders of District Forum of that particular State, within a period of thirty days from the date of the order. The State Commission is formed under Section 9(b) of the Act and consists of a president (ex-High court judge) and two members one of whom is to be a woman.
Send four sets of the appeal petition and the accompanying papers when making an appeal to the State commission. The number of copies should be increased correspondingly in case there is more than one opposite party.
Procedure to file a petition:
- If there is a delay in filing, an application for the condonation of delay must be made along with the appeal and supported by an affidavit setting out adequate reasons for the delay and accompanied by necessary evidence. There is not limitation period for filing a revision petition under the CPA but it appears that such a revision petition can be filed within 90 days.
- If the applicant has to pay any compensation as per the order of the District Forum, then the State Commission will entertain the appeal only if the appellant deposits 50 percent of that amount or Rs. 25,000/- whichever is less with it.
- Appeal papers can be sent by Registered AD Post or in person.
The payment should be through a Nationalized Bank Demand Draft duly crossed, drawn in favour of “Registrar, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Maharashtra State”. Cost of filing a case with effect from 10/2/2005: 20 lakhs – 50 lakh is Rs.2,000 and 50 lakhs – 1 crore is Rs.4,000
Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Old Administrative Staff College,
Room No. 102, Behind Capital Cinema,
Waudby Road, Mumbai 400001
6. Second appeal (National Commission):
A National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission can hear cases against orders of the state commission, as long as they are filed within 30 days of the order. NCDRC was established by the Central Government is established under Section 9(c) of the act. The National Commission consists of a president (ex- Supreme court judge), and four other members (one of whom is to be a woman). It has all India jurisdiction, and is for matters above Rs. 1 crore.
Procedure to file a petition:
- If a person wants to appeal against the order of the State Commission to the National Commission and he is the party who has to pay the compensation, then the appellant will have to deposit 50 percent of the amount or Rs. 35,000, whichever is less with the National Commission.
- If the respondent has lost has appealed against the order of the state commission, then the appellant would be summoned only if they find merit in the case.
- The appellant must enclose the original copy of the order against which an appeal is made along with the main set of the appeal and copies of the appeal.
- The petition of appeal should also be accompanied by such other documents which an appellant would require to support his grounds of objection mentioned in the appeal.
- While filing an appeal, a memorandum of grounds has to be set out. The appeal petition should be presented in a paper-book form typed on one side of the paper with double spacing. The grounds of appeal should be set forth concisely under distinct heads which should be numbered consecutively. Give an index of the documents attached to the petition on the first page and paging should be done to all papers filed.
- The appeal should be signed by the appellant or by authorized person (along with the authority letter of appellant). The person having an authority in this behalf may sign it and indicate the reasons as to why the appellant himself is not able to sign the appeal. As for example when the appellant is out of India.
- Send six sets of the appeal papers including the additional documents when appealing to the National Commission. The number of copies should be increased correspondingly in case there is more than one opposite party.
- Appeal papers can be sent by Registered AD Post or in person.
The payment should be through a Nationalized Bank Demand Draft duly crossed, drawn in favour of “Registrar, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission”. Cost of filing a case with effect from 10/2/2005 is Rs.5,000.
The President – National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
A-Wing, 5th Floor,
Janpath Bhavan, New Delhi 110001.
7. Procedure to appeal to the Supreme Court:
- An appeal can be preferred against the order of the national commission to the Supreme Court.
- Send seven sets of the appeal papers along with the documents if the appeal is to be filed in the Supreme Court. The number of copies should be increased correspondingly in case there is more than one opposite party.
- While filing an appeal from the National Commission to the Supreme Court, there is a court fee of Rs. 250/-.
Helpful consumer organizations and other resources:
1. Mumbai Grahak Peth Panchayat (MGP)
Grahak Bhavan, (JVPD Market)
Sant Dhyaneshwar Marg, Juhu Vile Parle Scheme,
Juhu (W), Mumbai 400056
Tel.: 26209319/ 32
2. International Consumer Rights Protection Council
B-9/55, Vijay Nagari,
Thane (West) 400615
3. Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI)
A Block, Mahapalika Marg,
Opposite Cama Hospital, Mumbai 400001
Tel.: 22621612/ 23814787
4. Council For Fair Business Practices (CFBP)
Great Western Building
130/132, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg,
Opposite Lion Gate, Fort, Mumbai 400039
5. Consumer Complaints Cell (Mohan Siroya)
7. Association for Consumers Action on Safety and Health
Lawyers Chambers, Room 21,
RS Sapre Marg, Mumbai 400002
Tel.: 23886556/ 7354