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Consumer Courts

  1. 1. Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware! APURVA AGARWAL Consumer Courts in India and how to make them more effective November 9, 2006 Universal Legal
  2. 2. Laws/Bodies for consumers <ul><li>Consumer Protection Act 1986 (‘the Act’) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Appropriate Laboratories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Redressal Agencies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consumer Protection Rules, 1987 </li></ul><ul><li>State Rules </li></ul><ul><li>Consumer Welfare Fund Rules, 1992 </li></ul><ul><li>Voluntary Consumer Organisations </li></ul><ul><li>Competition Act, 2002 </li></ul><ul><li>Council for Fair Business Practices, 1996 </li></ul><ul><li>UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection </li></ul>
  3. 3. The Act is unique in the world <ul><li>Exclusive courts for consumer disputes in all districts, state and national capitals </li></ul><ul><li>6 consumer rights specified </li></ul><ul><li>Consumer Protection Councils from national to state and district levels </li></ul><ul><li>Covers private, public, cooperative sectors </li></ul><ul><li>Prevents practices with adverse effect on competition; promotes & sustains competition in markets; protects interests of consumers & ensures freedom of trade </li></ul>
  4. 4. Consumer's Rights <ul><li>Right to SAFETY against hazardous goods and services </li></ul><ul><li>Right to be INFORMED about quality, quantity, purity, standard, price </li></ul><ul><li>Right to CHOOSE from a variety at competitive prices </li></ul><ul><li>Right to BE HEARD </li></ul><ul><li>Right to seek REDRESSAL </li></ul><ul><li>Right to CONSUMER EDUCATION </li></ul>
  5. 5. Who can file a complaint <ul><li>Consumer </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers - with permission of the District Forum </li></ul><ul><li>Recognized Consumer Association – effected consumer need to be a member </li></ul><ul><li>Central Government or State Government </li></ul>
  6. 6. Where to Lodge a Complaint <ul><li>If claim is less than rupees twenty lakhs, in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal forum </li></ul><ul><li>If more than rupees twenty lakhs but less than rupees one crore, & appeals, in the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission </li></ul><ul><li>If more than rupees one crore, & appeals from SC, in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission </li></ul><ul><li>Appeals from NC lie to Supreme Court </li></ul>
  7. 7. Procedure for Filing a Complaint under the Act <ul><li>There is nominal fee for filing a complaint before the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission </li></ul><ul><li>No stamp paper required </li></ul><ul><li>File in triplicate on plain paper to the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum where the seller has his business or residence or where the cause of action arises </li></ul><ul><li>File complaint within 2 years from the date of the cause of action </li></ul>
  8. 8. Essential Information in the Complaint <ul><li>Name and full address of complainant </li></ul><ul><li>Name and full address of opposite party </li></ul><ul><li>Description of goods and services </li></ul><ul><li>Quality and quantity </li></ul><ul><li>Price </li></ul><ul><li>Date & proof of purchase </li></ul><ul><li>Nature of deception </li></ul><ul><li>Type of redressal prayed for </li></ul>
  9. 9. Applicable Court Fee <ul><li>Central Government has fixed the filing fee payable in Consumer Disputes to be filed before the Consumer forum as follows </li></ul><ul><li>Value of goods, Service & Compensation Claimed determine the amount of fee payable </li></ul><ul><li>Ranges from Rs. 100 to Rs. 500 </li></ul><ul><li>Payment through a Nationalized Bank Demand Draft duly crossed, drawn in favour of &quot;President, Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum&quot;.   </li></ul>
  10. 10. Benefits <ul><li>No lawyer or agent is necessary for filing complaint or to make submission </li></ul><ul><li>If due to lawyer’s conduct consumer suffers, it is a deficiency in service open to redress </li></ul><ul><li>Nominal fees payable </li></ul><ul><li>No charges for dispatching notices to opposite parties etc. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Finality of Orders <ul><li>Every order shall, if no appeal is preferred, be final </li></ul><ul><li>Time allowed for appeal </li></ul><ul><li>After expiry of 30 days the appeal maybe entertained if sufficient cause for not filing within the time limit has been satisfied </li></ul>Within 30 days from order date National Commission to Supreme Court Within 30 days from order date State Commission to National Commission Within 30 days from order date District Forum to State Commission Time limit Level of Appeal
  12. 12. Consumer Complaint <ul><li>Under the Act, a complaint means any allegation in writing made by a complainant in regard to one or more of the following :- </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Any unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practices </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>One or more defects in goods are hazardous goods to life and safety </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deficiencies in services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A trader charging excess of price </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>o         Fixed by or under any law for the time being in force; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>o         Displayed on goods; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>o         Displayed on any packet containing such goods </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Redressal a Consumer may seek <ul><li>Removal of defects in goods or deficiency in services </li></ul><ul><li>Replacement of defective goods </li></ul><ul><li>Refund against defective goods or deficient services </li></ul><ul><li>Compensation </li></ul><ul><li>Prohibition on sale of hazardous goods </li></ul>
  14. 14. UNFAIR Trade Practice (1) <ul><li>Adopting unfair methods or deception to promote sale use or supply of goods or services: </li></ul><ul><li>Misleading public about price (e.g. bargain price when it is not so) Misleading public about another’s goods or services </li></ul><ul><li>Falsely claiming a sponsorship, approval or affiliation </li></ul><ul><li>Offering misleading warranty or guarantee </li></ul>
  15. 15. UNFAIR Trade Practice (2) <ul><li>Sale of spurious or sub-standard goods or services. </li></ul><ul><li>Offering used or renovated goods as new. </li></ul><ul><li>Using banned food colours. </li></ul><ul><li>Creating artificial scarcity of goods. </li></ul><ul><li>Exaggerated, misleading advertising. </li></ul><ul><li>Offering, then withholding gifts/prizes. </li></ul><ul><li>False claim of offering gifts/services when cost is included partly in the charge </li></ul>
  16. 16. Restrictive Trade Practice <ul><li>Price fixing or output restraint re: delivery/flow of supplies to impose unjustified costs/restrictions on consumers </li></ul><ul><li>Collusive tendering; market fixing territorially among competing suppliers, depriving consumers of free choice, fair competition </li></ul><ul><li>Supplying only to particular distributors or on condition of sale only within a territory </li></ul><ul><li>Delaying in supplying goods/services leading to rise in price </li></ul><ul><li>Requiring a consumer to buy/hire any goods or services as a pre-condition for buying/hiring other goods or services </li></ul>
  17. 17. Consumer Education should cover <ul><li>Health, nutrition, food-borne diseases, food adulteration </li></ul><ul><li>Product hazards </li></ul><ul><li>Product labeling </li></ul><ul><li>Protective laws </li></ul><ul><li>How and whom to approach for redress </li></ul><ul><li>Information on weights, measures, packaging, prices, quality, availability of basic needs </li></ul><ul><li>Environment, pollution, sustainable consumption </li></ul>
  18. 18. Trends in Consumer Courts <ul><li>Courts to decide a complaint within 3 months from date of receipt of notice by opposite party </li></ul><ul><li>Adjournments despite of strict rule </li></ul><ul><li>Backlog of pending suits </li></ul><ul><li>Inadequate infrastructure </li></ul><ul><li>Not enough courts/forums </li></ul><ul><li>Consumer not aware of his rights </li></ul>
  19. 19. Unique Achievements of West Bengal <ul><li>The only state to have a separate Department of Consumers Affairs (November 1999) with the State Commission and the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Fora (DCDRF) under it </li></ul><ul><li>Legal Metrology was added in June 2001 and upgraded to a Directorate in 2003 </li></ul>
  20. 20. Protecting Consumers’ Rights <ul><li>District Consumer Protection Council was created in all the 18 Districts including Rotary & Lions Clubs, VCOs, Chambers, Traders Associations within a few months of the new provision in the Act </li></ul><ul><li>Kolkata Consumer Protection Council was set up—the only one for a Metro City of India. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Proactive (1) <ul><li>Most proactive Consumer Website of Government launched on 31 July 2001 (http://kolkata.wb.nic.in.consumers ) </li></ul><ul><li>Any Grievance Box entry or e-mail complaint is responded to within 24 hours </li></ul><ul><li>Newspapers are scanned and consumer complaints taken up. 352 resolved so far (consumer goods, post & telephone, electricity, gas supply, medical negligence, educational institutions, NBFC) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Proactive (2) <ul><li>W.B. Consumer Protection Rules in 1987 prescribed time-limit of 90 days for decisions and prohibited more than one adjournment </li></ul><ul><li>In March 2003 these provisions were incorporated in the central Act </li></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>Universal Legal Advocates </li></ul><ul><li>5th floor, Kimatrai Building </li></ul><ul><li>77/79, Maharshi Karve Road, </li></ul><ul><li>Mumbai-400002 </li></ul><ul><li>Ph: 22034293-95 Fax: 22039845 </li></ul><ul><li>Email: apurva@universallegal.firm.in </li></ul>