CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

Consumer Protection Act 1986 is a law to protect the interests of the consumers. This act was inevitable to resolve a large number of pending consumer complaints in consumer courts across the country. This is a Central Govt. Act applicable in all states of India, to provide for the protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith.

FEATURES OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

Key features of the Consumer Protection Act are as follows:

FEATURES OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 1986

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CENTRAL CONSUMER PROTECTION AUTHORITY (CCPA)

The act has the provision of the Establishment of the CCPA which will protect, promote and enforce the rights of consumers. The CCPA will regulate cases related to unfair trade practices, misleading advertisements, and violation of consumer rights. 

The CCPA will have the right to impose a penalty on the violators and passing orders to recall goods or withdraw services, discontinuation of the unfair trade practices and reimbursement of the price paid by the consumers. The Central Consumer Protection Authority will have an investigation wing to enquire and investigate such violations. The CCPA will be headed by the Director-General.

WHO CAN FILE A COMPLAINT?

According to SECTION 2(1)(b) a complainant can be a person who is:

  • A consumer, or
  • Any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act of 1986 or under any other law for the time being in force, or
  • The Central Government or any State Government, who or which makes a complaint, or
  • One or more consumers, where there is more than one consumer they shall have the same interest for filing a collective complaint, or
  • In the case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative who or which makes a complaint.

HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT?

The very first step before filing a complaint the aggrieved party should do is to send a notice to the service provider from whom the goods were purchased or the service was availed informing him about the defects in the goods or the deficiency in the service or unfair practice. This notice is sent to the trader or the aggrieved party in order to see if that company or trader is willing to give the compensation or offer any other remedy. If in case the trader or service provider is not willing to provide with any remedy, the aggrieved party shall go ahead with filing a formal complaint.

The next step is to file a formal complaint under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. Here the aggrieved party does not need to hire a lawyer in order to file a complaint. He can file the complaint on his own. The aggrieved party just need to write down the following contents on a plain paper:

  • Name, description and the address of the complainant and of the opposite party or parties
  • Facts relating to the complaint and time and venue where it arose
  • All the possible documents in support of the allegations contained in the complaint
  • The relief or the remedy claimed by the complainant
  • The complaint should consist of signatures of the complainant or his authorized agent   

The next step after the drafting of the complaint is to choose the appropriate authority under whom the complaint is to be filed. The complainant shall choose the authority according to pecuniary jurisdiction of his complaint i.e. the total value of the goods or services and the compensation claimed by him. It is to be noted here that the complainant can also file an online complaint on www.consumerhelpline.gov.in

RIGHTS OF CONSUMERS

The Consumer Protection Act has recognised six rights of a consumer which are :

Right to Safety

This right refers to as the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property of the consumers. This right has a very wide scope of application, for instance, this right is available in the areas of electrical appliances, healthcare, automobile, pharmaceuticals, housing, travel etc. Nowadays, each and every field has an office for researchers who research and experiment and launch new products and appliances accordingly. Most of these products are not tested by the producers which prove to be harmful to the consumer. Therefore, after the implementation of this act, there is a mandate for each and every field to get all their products which are a danger to the life to be carefully tested and validated before launching it to the market.

Right to Information

It refers to the right of a consumer to be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of the goods and services being sold by the shopkeeper. This right is given to the consumer in order to protect them from the various unfair trade practices conducted by the seller in order to earn more profits. Therefore, it is an obligation on the seller to provide the consumer with all the relevant information of the product he wishes to purchase.

Right to Choose

It is defined in the act as the right to be assured, wherever possible, to have access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices. It is very common to find one product being sold at different possible prices by different sellers. This reflects the age of market competition which is found in almost all the countries. Therefore it is the right of all the consumers to purchase any product at any price which according to him is the best. A consumer cannot be forced to purchase a product of some particular brand or quality.

Right to be heard

It is referred to as the right to be heard and to be assured that consumers’ interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. This right was introduced for a consumer in order to ensure that all the complaints and issues of the consumers are heard duly under the appropriate authority. This is because of this right that almost all the big selling companies have a separate department known as the customer service to help the consumers in case of any dispute or any complaint regarding the quality or quantity of the product.

Right to seek Redressal

If any consumer has been exploited by the seller or faced any unfair trade practices he can seek redressal i.e. compensation or damages under this right. This right ensures that all the issues of the consumers are dealt with and justice is done to him. A proper redressal mechanism has been set up by the government of India such as the consumer courts and forums at district and national level which is discussed later in this article.

Right to Consumer Education

It is the right of each and every person who is a citizen of India to have knowledge about all the laws and policies relating to the consumer. Therefore it is made sure the material regarding the consumer-related laws is easily available all over India but there is still a major part of the population who is not aware of his laws and rights. This is the reason many awareness programmes have been organized by the government of India such as ‘jago grahak Jago’ and the camps organized by various lawyers in the remote areas of the country.        

DUTIES OF A CONSUMER

Every consumer right comes with the opposite duty. Right of one consumer is the duty of the others. Accordingly, there are various duties such as:-

  • On purchasing of goods or hiring of any services, it is the duty of the consumer to pay for the same.
  • While purchasing something it is his duty to check weights, balances, prices etc. and also to give a careful reading to the labels.
  • It is the duty of the consumer to update himself about the various consumer protection schemes.
  • Duty to be careful while purchasing and not to fall in the trap of misleading information and advertisements.
  • It is the duty of the consumer to not purchase anything from the black markets.
  • It is the duty of the consumer to be aware of his rights and duties and also spreading the awareness of the same among others.
  • It is the consumers’ duty to file a complaint if the goods which he purchased are defective.
  • Each and every consumer should secure the bills of the goods purchased or the services availed so that if in the future he finds the goods or services to be defective he can easily file a complaint against the same and can prove it.

CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION

The act has the provision of the establishment of the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) at the national, state and district levels.

The CDRCs will entertain complaints related to;

  • Overcharging or deceptive charging
  • Unfair or restrictive trade practices
  • Sale of hazardous goods and services which may be hazardous to life.
  • Sale of defective goods or services.

JURISDICTION UNDER THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

The act has defined the criteria of Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (CDRCs).

  • The National CDRC will hear complaints worth more than Rs. 10 crores.
  • The State CDRC will hear complaints when the value is more than Rs 1 crore but less than Rs 10 crore.
  • While the District CDRC will entertain complaints when the value of goods or service is up to Rs 1 crore.

REMEDIAL ACTION

It may be noted that a complaint to a redressal agency may be filed by:

  • Removal of Defects– if the consumer after conducting a proper test by using the product finds the product to be defective then the authority can pass an order of removing the defects in the product.
  • Replacement of goods
  • Refund of the price paid by the consumer while purchasing the product.
  • Award of Consumption– a consumer can demand compensation from the trader or service provider if because of his negligence the consumer has suffered some physical or any other loss.
  • Removal of Deficiency in Service– the authority can pass orders for removal of the deficiency  if there is any deficiency in delivery of the service, for instance, if the consumer has applied for a loan and has fulfilled all the formalities but the bank is making unnecessary delay in sanctioning the loan, then the court can pass orders to sanction the loan.
  • Discontinuance of Unfair/ Restrictive Trade Practice– if a complaint is filed by the consumer against any unfair trade practice in the market, the authority can order an immediate withdrawal of such practice and can also pass an order for banning such trade practice.
  • Stopping of sale of hazardous goods
  • Withdrawal of hazardous goods from the market.
  • Payment of the adequate cost

FEES FOR FILING COMPLAINTS

The complainant needs to pay the prescribed court fees according to the pecuniary value of his case. Following are the fee details of the court fees:

For District forums

  • Up to Rs 1 lakh: Rs 100
  • Between Rs 1-5 lakh:  Rs 200
  • Between Rs 5-10 lakh: Rs 400
  • Above Rs 10 lakh and up to Rs 20 lakh: Rs 500

For State Commissions

  • Above Rs 20 lakh but less than Rs 50 lakh: Rs 2,000
  • Above Rs 50 lakh and up to Rs 1 crore: Rs 4,000

For the National Commission

A standard amount of Rs 5,000

The Forum under which the complaint has been filed by the aggrieved party is under a mandate to provide the resolution to the parties within a period of 30 days. If it fails to adhere with the same the party can move to the next commission.

PENALTIES

The Consumer Commissions are authorized to impose penalties on trader or person against whom complaint is made if he fails to comply with the order of the redressal agency. The penalty or punishment may involve imprisonment for a period not more than 3 years or a fine of not more than 10 thousand rupees or both.

APPEAL
 
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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)

IMPORTANCE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

IMPORTANCE FROM CONSUMER’S POINT OF VIEW:

  • CONSUMER IGNORANCE – Consumer protection provides information to ignorant customers regarding rights and remedies available to them. It spreads awareness so that consumers can know about the various redressal agencies where they can approach to protect their interests.
  • UNORGANISED CONSUMERS: – In developing countries like India, consumers are not organized. They are very few consumers’ organization which is working to protect the interest of the consumer.
  • EXPLOITATION OF CONSUMERS: – Now a day’s consumer is the kingpin of the market but then also there is a lot of exploitation of consumer as businessmen use various unfair trade practices to cheat and exploit consumers.

IMPORTANCE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION FROM BUSINESSMEN’S POINT OF VIEW:

  • SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: –A businessman has a social obligation towards various groups and customer is one of the important groups. It is the responsibility of a businessman to provide quality goods at a reasonable price.
  • MORAL JUSTIFICATION: –Ethics was part of the profession only but today ethics is playing a very important role in business also. Moral value practised by the businessmen adds glory to businessmen.
  • GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION:-If businessmen want to avoid the intervention of govt. Then they should not involve in unfair trade practices. Govt intervention may spoil the image of business so businessmen should involve in the activities to protect the interest of the consumer.

IMPORTANCE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION:

  • TO ORGANIZE CONSUMERS: Indian consumers are scattered over a wide geographical area. They are not well organized. They have low power and businessmen exploit consumers. Here we need consumer protection.
  • PROVIDE MARKET INFORMATION: The majority of the consumers have no information about quality, type, price, and other marketing facilities. Many customers buy without product knowledge and this makes them suffer losses.

  • IMPORTANCE OF PHYSICAL SAFETY: Indian markets are over flooded with products. The products may be adulterated and maybe health hazardous. This may endanger their life and due to this a consumer needs to be protected.

  • AVOIDING MONOPOLY: Consumer Protection is very important in terms of avoiding monopoly. A monopoly is the crown of the modern market. Most of the organizations, irrespective of various restrictions follow monopoly practice. Due to this consumers get affected and need to be protected.

  • PREVENTION FROM MALPRACTICES: Business malpractices are rapidly growing in the modern market. Businessmen follow unfair trade practices, restrictive trade practices and monopolistic trade practices and consumer protection plays a vital role.

  • MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS: Many organizations deliberately cheat consumers through wrong or misleading advertisements. This will protect consumers from getting exploited.

  • INFORMING CONSUMERS ABOUT THEIR BASIC RIGHTS: The majority of the consumers are ignorant. They do not know about consumer rights. Consumer movements inform consumers about their rights and protect their interests and rights.

OBJECTIVES OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

BETTER PROTECTION OF CONSUMER

The act aims at the Establishment of the CCPA which will protect, promote and enforce the rights of consumers. The CCPA will regulate cases related to unfair trade practices, misleading advertisements, and violation of consumer rights. 

The CCPA will have the right to impose a penalty on the violators and passing orders to recall goods or withdraw services, discontinuation of the unfair trade practices and reimbursement of the price paid by the consumers. The Central Consumer Protection Authority will have an investigation wing to enquire and investigate such violations. The CCPA will be headed by the Director-General.

PROTECTION OF CONSUMER RIGHTS

The Act aims at creating awareness among the consumers about their rights and to safeguard them The rights available to consumers are as follows:

Right to Safety

This right refers to as the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property of the consumers. This right has a very wide scope of application, for instance, this right is available in the areas of electrical appliances, healthcare, automobile, pharmaceuticals, housing, travel etc. Nowadays, each and every field has an office for researchers who research and experiment and launch new products and appliances accordingly. Most of these products are not tested by the producers which prove to be harmful to the consumer. Therefore, after the implementation of this act, there is a mandate for each and every field to get all their products which are a danger to the life to be carefully tested and validated before launching it to the market.

Right to Information

It refers to the right of a consumer to be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of the goods and services being sold by the shopkeeper. This right is given to the consumer in order to protect them from the various unfair trade practices conducted by the seller in order to earn more profits. Therefore, it is an obligation on the seller to provide the consumer with all the relevant information of the product he wishes to purchase.

Right to Choose

It is defined in the act as the right to be assured, wherever possible, to have access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices. It is very common to find one product being sold at different possible prices by different sellers. This reflects the age of market competition which is found in almost all the countries. Therefore it is the right of all the consumers to purchase any product at any price which according to him is the best. A consumer cannot be forced to purchase a product of some particular brand or quality.

Right to be heard

It is referred to as the right to be heard and to be assured that consumers’ interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. This right was introduced for a consumer in order to ensure that all the complaints and issues of the consumers are heard duly under the appropriate authority. This is because of this right that almost all the big selling companies have a separate department known as the customer service to help the consumers in case of any dispute or any complaint regarding the quality or quantity of the product.

Right to seek Redressal

If any consumer has been exploited by the seller or faced any unfair trade practices he can seek redressal i.e. compensation or damages under this right. This right ensures that all the issues of the consumers are dealt with and justice is done to him. A proper redressal mechanism has been set up by the government of India such as the consumer courts and forums at district and national level which is discussed later in this article.

Right to Consumer Education

It is the right of each and every person who is a citizen of India to have knowledge about all the laws and policies relating to the consumer. Therefore it is made sure the material regarding the consumer-related laws is easily available all over India but there is still a major part of the population who is not aware of his laws and rights. This is the reason many awareness programmes have been organized by the government of India such as ‘jago grahak Jago’ and the camps organized by various lawyers in the remote areas of the country.        

TO SET UP CONSUMER GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL MECHANISM

The consumer protection act aims at set up of the grievance redressal forums to deal with the complaints of the consumers. In India, there are three tier mechanism adopted for the same:

District Forum:

It is established in each district by the state government. Only those complaints can be filed at this level where the value of goods/services and the compensation claimed is less than Rs. 5 lacs.

Such complaints may be lodged either by the consumer so deceived or through any recognized consumer association. Sample of goods is sent for testing to an approved laboratory. The opposite party is duly informed and is given chance to file its representation.

An appeal can be filed against such order to the State Commission within 30 days.

State Commission:

Only those complaints can be filed with a State Commission where the value of goods or services and compensation claimed is between Rs. 5,00,000 and Rs. 20,00,000. As mentioned above, appeals against the orders of any District Forum can be filed before such Commission.

The State Commission after being satisfied that the goods were defective can issue an order directing the opposite party to either remove the defect; or replace the goods; or return the price paid; or pay compensation to the consumer for loss or injury.

The aggrieved party can appeal against such order to the National Commission within 30 days.

National Commission:

This Commission is set up by the Central Government under the president ship of a Judge of the Supreme Court. All complaints pertaining to those goods or services and compensation whose value is more than Rs. 20 lacs can be filed.

Also, appeals against the order of State Commission can be filed before the National Commission.

TO PROVIDE MECHANISM FOR FILING COMPLAINT

The consumer protection Act, 1986 provides aims at providing the mechanism for filing complaint for speedy and easy redressal of complaints:

Who can file a complaint?

According to SECTION 2(1)(b) a complainant can be a person who is:

  • A consumer, or
  • Any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act of 1986 or under any other law for the time being in force, or
  • The Central Government or any State Government, who or which makes a complaint, or
  • One or more consumers, where there is more than one consumer they shall have the same interest for filing a collective complaint, or
  • In the case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative who or which makes a complaint.

How to file a complaint?

The very first step before filing a complaint the aggrieved party should do is to send a notice to the service provider from whom the goods were purchased or the service was availed informing him about the defects in the goods or the deficiency in the service or unfair practice. This notice is sent to the trader or the aggrieved party in order to see if that company or trader is willing to give the compensation or offer any other remedy. If in case the trader or service provider is not willing to provide with any remedy, the aggrieved party shall go ahead with filing a formal complaint.

The next step is to file a formal complaint under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. Here the aggrieved party does not need to hire a lawyer in order to file a complaint. He can file the complaint on his own. The aggrieved party just need to write down the following contents on a plain paper:

  • Name, description and the address of the complainant and of the opposite party or parties
  • Facts relating to the complaint and time and venue where it arose
  • All the possible documents in support of the allegations contained in the complaint
  • The relief or the remedy claimed by the complainant
  • The complaint should consist of signatures of the complainant or his authorized agent   

The next step after the drafting of the complaint is to choose the appropriate authority under which the complaint is to be filed. The complainant shall choose the authority according to pecuniary jurisdiction of his complaint i.e. the total value of the goods or services and the compensation claimed by him. It is to be noted here that the complainant can also file an online complaint on www.consumerhelpline.gov.in

TO DESCRIBE REMEDIAL ACTION AND PENALITIES

The objective of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is to provide the remedial actions for the aggrieved consumer and also laid down the penalties for sellers engaging in unfair trade practices.

It may be noted that a complaint to a redressal agency may be filed by:

  • Removal of Defects– if the consumer after conducting a proper test by using the product finds the product to be defective then the authority can pass an order of removing the defects in the product.
  • Replacement of goods.
  • Refund of the price paid by the consumer while purchasing the product.
  • Award of Consumption– a consumer can demand compensation from the trader or service provider if because of his negligence the consumer has suffered some physical or any other loss.
  • Removal of Deficiency in Service– the authority can pass orders for removal of the deficiency  if there is any deficiency in delivery of the service, for instance, if the consumer has applied for a loan and has fulfilled all the formalities but the bank is making unnecessary delay in sanctioning the loan, then the court can pass orders to sanction the loan.
  • Discontinuance of Unfair/ Restrictive Trade Practice– if a complaint is filed by the consumer against any unfair trade practice in the market, the authority can order an immediate withdrawal of such practice and can also pass an order for banning such trade practice.
  • Stopping of sale of hazardous goods.
  • Withdrawal of hazardous goods from the market.
  • Payment of the adequate cost

Penalties

The Consumer Commissions are authorized to impose penalties on trader or person against whom complaint is made if he fails to comply with the order of the redressal agency. The penalty or punishment may involve imprisonment for a period not more than 3 years or a fine of not more than 10 thousand rupees or both.

GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL MECHANISM

The Consumer Protection Act proposes three-tier redressal mechanism: quasi-judicial machinery at the National, state and district level. The jurisdiction of each consumer redressal forum has been described under this act.

District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum

Each and every district has a District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. According to Sec-11 of this act, this forum has the jurisdiction to entertain complaints and disputes only where the value of the goods or services and the value of the compensation claimed does not exceed Rs 20 Lakhs. The District Forum shall have the same powers as that of a civil  court in the following matters:

  • In the summoning and enforcing of attendance of any defendant or witness
  • In examining the witness on an oath
  • In receiving the evidence on affidavit
  • In any other matter which may be prescribed
  • Demanding of the report of concerned analysis or test from the appropriate laboratory or from any other authorized relevant source.
  • In discovering and producing any document or other material objects which are producible as evidence in the forum.   

The District forum shall consist of a President i.e. the head of the commission who is or has been or is qualified to be a district judge and two other members possessing a bachelors degree from a recognized university and one of them shall be a woman.

The members of a commission shall be the persons of ability, integrity and standing and have adequate knowledge and experience regarding the field of a consumer. Each and every member of the district forum shall either hold the office for a term of 5 years or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

Each and every State has a State Commission. According to Sec-17 of the act, the pecuniary jurisdiction of a State Commission for entertaining complaints or issues where the value of goods or services and the value of the compensation claimed exceeds Rs. 20 Lakhs but is less than Rs. 1 crore.

The State Commission shall consist of a President and the other two members. The President shall be a person who is or has been qualified to be a Judge of High Court and the other two members shall be possessing a bachelors degree from a recognized university. Out of two members, one shall be a woman.

The members of a commission shall be the persons of ability, integrity and standing and have adequate knowledge and experience regarding the field of a consumer. Each and every member of the district forum shall either hold the office for a term of 5 years or up to the age of 67 years, whichever is earlier.

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

The National Commission was instituted in 1988. It is headed by a sitting or retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India. According to Sec-21 of the act, the pecuniary jurisdiction of a National Commission for entertaining complaints or issues where the value of goods or services and the value of the compensation claimed is more than Rs. 1 crore.

The National Commission has been constituted with various powers such as:

  • It has the powers of administrative control over all the State Commissions. It can call all the State Commissions or any one of them for periodical returns regarding the institution, disposal and pendency of cases.
  • It can adopt a uniform procedure in the hearing of the matters.
  • It can provide a speedy grant of copies of documents to the parties.
  • It also has a general power of overseeing the functioning of the State Commissions and the District Forums.
  • It has the power of providing prior service of the copies of the documents produced by one party to the opposite parties.

In addition to the President of the commission, it shall consist of 4 other members, out of which at least one shall be a woman. All of these members shall fulfil the following conditions to be able to qualify as a member in the National Commission:

  1. Their age should not be less than 35 years of age.
  2. They shall be possessing a bachelors degree from a recognized university.
  3. They shall be a person of ability, integrity and standing and have adequate knowledge and experience regarding the field of a consumer.

Every member of the commission shall hold office for a term of 5 years or up to the age of 70 years whichever is earlier.

PROCEDURE FOLLOWED ON ADMISSION OF COMPLAINT

(1) The District Forum shall, on receipt of a complaint, if it relates to any goods, –

(a) refer a copy of the complaint to the opposite party mentioned in the complaint directing him to give his version of the case within a period of thirty days or such extended period not exceeding fifteen days as may be granted by the District Forum;

(b) where the opposite party on receipt of a complaint referred to him under clause (a) denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the District Forum, the District Forum shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute in the manner specified in clauses (c) to (g);

(c) where the complaint alleges a defect in the goods which cannot be determined without proper analysis or test of the goods, the District Forum shall obtain a sample of the goods from the complainant, seal it and authenticate it in the manner prescribed and refer the sample so sealed to the appropriate laboratory along with a direction that such laboratory make an analysis or test whichever may be necessary, with a view to finding out whether such goods suffer from any defect alleged in the complaint or from any other defect and to report its findings thereon to the District Forum within a period of forty-five days of the receipt of the reference or within such extended period as may be granted by the District Forum;

(d) before any sample of the goods is referred to any appropriate laboratory under clause (c), the District Forum may require the complainant to deposit to the credit of the Forum such fees as may be specified, for payment to the appropriate laboratory for carrying out the necessary analysis or test in relation to the goods in question;

(e) the District Forum shall remit the amount deposited to its credit under clause (d) to the appropriate laboratory to enable it to carry out the analysis or test mentioned in clause (c) and on receipt of the report from the appropriate laboratory, the District Forum shall forward a copy of the report along with such remarks as the District Forum may feel appropriate to the opposite party;

(f) if any of the parties disputes the correctness of the findings of the appropriate laboratory, or disputes the correctness of the methods of analysis or test adopted by the appropriate laboratory, the District Forum shall require the opposite party or the complainant to submit in writing his objections in regard to the report made by the appropriate laboratory;

(g) the District Forum shall thereafter give a reasonable opportunity to the complainant as well as the opposite party of being heard as to the correctness or otherwise of the report made by the appropriate laboratory and also as to the objection made in relation thereto under clause (f) and issue an appropriate order under section 14.

(2) The District Forum shall, if the complaint received by it under section 12 relates to goods in respect of which the procedure specified in sub-section (1) cannot be followed, or if the complaint relates to any services, –

(a) refer a copy of such complaint to the opposite party directing him to give his version of the case within a period of thirty days or such extended period not exceeding fifteen days as may be granted by the District Forum;

(b) where the opposite party, on receipt of a copy of the complaint, referred to him under clause (a) denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the District Forum, the District Forum shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute, –

(i) on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant and the opposite party, where the opposite party denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or

(ii) on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant where the opposite party omits or falls to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the Forum.

(3) No proceedings complying with the procedure laid down in sub-sections (1) and (2) shall be called in question in any court on the ground that the principles of natural justice have not been complied with.

(4) For purposes of this section, the District Forum shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), while trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely : 

(i) the summoning and enforcing attendance of any defendant or witness and examining the witness on oath;

(ii) the discovery and production of any document or other material object producible as evidence;

(iii) the reception of evidence on affidavits;

(iv) the requisitioning of the report of the concerned analysis or test from the appropriate laboratory or from any other relevant source;

(v) issuing of any commission for the examination of any witness; and

(vi) any other matter which may be prescribed.

(5) Every proceeding before the District Forum shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning.

LIMITATION PERIOD FOR FILING COMPLAINT

  • Filing of a complaint the complainant can file a case against the trader or the service provider only within two years from the date on which the cause of action arose. The forum may entertain the case in case of delay only if the complainant gives sufficient cause.
  • Appeal to the State Commission– According to sec-15 of the act an appeal can be filed to the State Commission by any person who is aggrieved by an order passed by the District Forum within a period of thirty days from the date of an order, in a form and manner prescribed under the act. If an appeal is filed after the expiry of the period of limitation the State Commission has the discretion to entertain that appeal if the complainant shows sufficient cause for not filing an appeal within the limitation period.   
  • Appeal to the National Commission– According to sec-19 of the act an appeal can be filed to the National Commission by a person aggrieved by the order passed by the State Commission within 30 days from the date of receipt of order. The appeal to be accompanied by a copy of an affidavit.
  • Appeal to the Supreme Court of India– According to sec-23 of the act an appeal may be referred to the Supreme Court of India by the party aggrieved by the order passed by the National Commission within a period of  30 days from the date of order passed.
  • Revision Petition to the National Commission– Sec-21(b) of the act vests the power in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which is either pending or has been decided by the State Commission. The National Commission can exercise its revisional jurisdiction only if it appears to the commission that the State Commission has acted illegally or with irregularity or outside its jurisdiction. Such a Revision Petition can be filed within a period of 90 days from the date of the order passed by the aggrieved party.   

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