The concept of protection of rights of the consumers is not new; rather it is a practice that has been present in the society and various countries in one form or the other historically. In India, the Consumer Protection Act was enacted in the year 1986 with an aim to provide more protection to consumers against the evil practices of the market. It effectively deals with the problems faced by an individual consumer and has no express provisions regarding “maintaining or increasing supplies of any essential commodity or for securing their equitable distribution, and availability at fair prices or dealing with persons indulging in hoarding and black-marketing of, and profiteering in, essential commodities and with the evil of vicious inflationary prices”.
The Act is seen as an attempt to remove the helplessness of consumers against the powerful and dominant players like the merchants and businessmen. The greatness of the Consumer Protection Act lies in its flexible legal framework, wider jurisdiction, and inexpensive justice. One can find in this legislation a mixture of principles of torts and contracts.
Who Is A Consumer?
As per sec. 2(d) of the Act, ‘consumer’ has been defined as any person who:
- buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or
- hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person.
In the case of Consumer Unity and Trust v. State of Rajasthan and others 1991 (CPR) State Commission Jaipur, it is stated that the following are the conditions required to claim as a consumer.
1) He should be served.
2) The service should be hired by him.
3) For the hire of the service, he should pay the return as per Section 2 (1) (d) (2) of the Act
In the case of M / s Cosmopolitan Hospital v. Basant Nayar 1992 (1) CPJ 302 National Commission, treatment was received by the complainant on consideration. The complainant comes under the category of consumer; the complaint presented by him against the hospital is prevalent.
In another case, the complainant was ill. The complainant received medical services in a private hospital by reward. The tenant had given ten thousand rupees to the hospital. The hospital suggested that specialist services should be obtained. The complainant paid the fee to the defendant for obtaining the services of a specialist. The fee in the hospital was given to the specialist concerned. In this situation the consumer situation of the complainant was to be considered. In the case of presenting a complaint against both the complainant hospital and the concerned specialist, it is considered to be the status of the consumer.
In the event of borrowing a vehicle, the borrower is considered to be a consumer Surendra Kumar Aggarwal became Telco Finance Limited 2006 CPJ 68 State Commission Chhattisgarh In this case it was argued that the complainant had purchased the vehicle in question for commercial purpose. Therefore, the status of the complainant was not a consumer under the Act. Determined by the State Commission that we find that the dispute is in relation to providing finance service in purchasing the vehicle in question. The position of the complainant was considered as a consumer. The decision by the National Commission in this regard expressed reliance on the National Insurance Company 2005 A CPJ 27 National Commission against Harsolia Motors. The objection of the complainant not being a consumer was invalid. The corporation is not a consumer The corporation had submitted a complaint in the case of Punjab Land Development v. Mahendra Jeet Singh 2004 (3) 156 CPJ Union Territory Commission Chandigarh. The corporation’s position was not considered consumer.
Jurisdiction of Consumer Forum
In India consumer court is categorized in hierarchal ways:-
- The top most is National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). A top consumer matter lawyers files a consumer claim before NCDRC if the value of the claim exceeds 1 crore. Our best delay possession lawyers also files cases before NCDRC against the fraud builders.
- The second one is the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission where the matter is filed by our best consumer lawyers if the value of the claim exceeds 20 lakhs but is within 1 crore.
- The third is the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum. Our team of best consumer lawyers represents the cases before various District Forum if the value of the claim is upto 20 lakhs.
Who can file a consumer complaint?
- A consumer to whom the goods are sole or are agreed to be sold or service has been rendered or agreed to be provided.
- A firm, irrespective of it being registered or unregistered.
- An individual.
- A Hindu undivided family.
- An association of persons or a cooperative society.
- State Government or Central Government.
- Legal heirs of the consumer if he/she is deceased.
Procedure for Filing a Complaint
A complaint can be filed by a complainant against the seller, manufacturer, or dealer of goods which are defective or against the provider of services if they are deficient in any manner whatsoever. An unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice can also invite complaint.
Having proof along with your complaint is an essential point and makes your case stronger since the beginning. Copies of documents like cash memo, receipts, agreements, copy of the bill of the goods bought, warranty and guarantee documents and also a copy of the written complaint and notice made to the trader requesting him to rectify the product, etc., are to be submitted along with the complaint. The complainant is required to file three copies of the complaint, together with enclosures, for official purpose plus copies for the number of Opposite Parties. In case the transaction took place on an online platform, the consumer must contain with him prints of the information exchanged via e-mails, the record exchanged via e-mails.
Also, certain fee has to be paid along with the complaint. This is a nominal amount prescribed by the redressal forum according to the amount of compensation claimed. It is to be paid via postal order or a demand draft.
Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 2019
The new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 effectively replaces the nearly three decade old Act and tried to mold itself to live up to the expectations of a digitalized-modern-consumer. The Digital Age has ushered in a new era of commerce and digital branding, as well as a new set of customer expectations. Digitization has provided easy access, a large variety of choice, convenient payment mechanisms, improved services and shopping as per convenience. However, along the growth path it also brought in challenges related to consumer protection.
Rights of Consumers
The new act has defined some rights of the consumers. They include six rights which are as follows:
- Right to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services which can be hazardous to life and property
- Right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products and services
- Right to be assured of access to goods, products and services at competitive prices.
- Right to be heard at appropriate forums
- Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices that are involved in exploitation of customers
- Right to consumer awareness
Set out below are some of the Key Highlights of the New Act:
- Enhancement of Pecuniary Jurisdiction:Revised pecuniary limits have been fixed under the New Act. Accordingly, the district forum can now entertain consumer complaints where the value of goods or services paid does not exceed Rs. 10,000,000/-. The State Commission can entertain disputes where such value exceeds Rs.10, 000,000/- but does not exceed Rs.100,000,000/-, and the National Commission can exercise jurisdiction where such value exceeds Rs. 100,000,000/-
- E-Filing of Complaints: The New Act provides flexibility to the consumer to file complaints with the jurisdictional consumer forum located at the place of residence or work of the consumer. This is unlike the current practice of filing it at the place of purchase or where the seller has its registered office address. The New Act also contains enabling provisions for consumers to file complaints electronically and for hearing and/or examining parties through video-conferencing. This is aimed to provide procedural ease and reduce inconvenience and harassment for the consumers.
- Establishment of Central Consumer Protection Authority: The New Act proposes the establishment of a regulatory authority known as the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), with wide powers of enforcement. The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into consumer law violations. The CCPA has been granted wide powers to take suo-moto actions, recall products, order reimbursement of the price of goods/services, cancel licenses and file class action suits, if a consumer complaint affects more than 1 (one) individual.
- Product Liability & Penal Consequences: The New Act has introduced the concept of product liability and brings within its scope, the product manufacturer, product service provider and product seller, for any claim for compensation. The term ‘product seller’ is defined to include a person who is involved in placing the product for a commercial purpose and as such would include e-commerce platforms as well. The defense that e-commerce platforms merely act as ‘platforms’ or ‘aggregators’ will not be accepted. There are increased liability risks for manufacturers as compared to product service providers and product sellers, considering that under the New Act, manufacturers will be liable in product liability action even where he proves that he was not negligent or fraudulent in making the express warranty of a product. Certain exceptions have been provided under the New Act from liability claims, such as, that the product seller will not be liable where the product has been misused, altered or modified.
- Covers E-Commerce Transactions: The New Act has widened the definition of ‘consumer’. The definition now includes any person who buys any goods, whether through offline or online transactions, electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling or multi-level marketing. The earlier Act did not specifically include e-commerce transactions.
- Unfair Trade Practices: The New Act introduces a specific broad definition of Unfair Trade Practices, which also includes sharing of personal information given by the consumer in confidence, unless such disclosure is made in accordance with the provisions of any other law.
- Penalties for Misleading Advertisement:The CCPA may impose a penalty of up to Rs.1, 000,000/- on a manufacturer or an endorser, for a false or misleading advertisement. The CCPA may also sentence them to imprisonment for up to 2 (two) years for the same. In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs. 5,000,000/- and imprisonment of up to 5 (five) years. The CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from endorsing that particular product or service for a period of up to 1 (one) year. For every subsequent offence, the period of prohibition may extend to 3 (three) years.
The New Act fixes liability on endorsers considering that there have been numerous instances in the recent past where consumers have fallen prey to unfair trade practices under the influence of celebrities acting as brand ambassadors. In such cases, it becomes important for the endorser to take the onus and exercise due diligence to verify the veracity of the claims made in the advertisement to refute liability claims.
- Provision for Alternate Dispute Resolution: The New Act provides for mediation as an Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanism, making the process of dispute adjudication simpler and quicker. This will help with the speedier resolution of disputes and reduce pressure on consumer courts, who already have numerous cases pending before them.
With the New Act all set to become the law, gone are the days, where the ‘consumer was asked to beware’. A consumer is now the one who assumes to be treated like a King. Hence, it is important for consumer driven businesses (such as, retail, e-commerce) to be mindful of the changes in the legal landscape and have robust policies dealing with consumer redressal in place. Consumer driven businesses must also strive to take extra precautions against unfair trade practices and unethical business practices.
Looking for a consumer lawyer, hire our best consumer matter lawyers. The lawyers at Legalmax Law Firm have wide experience to assist the consumer matters. Our best consumer lawyers use the strength of the consumer laws to safeguard the right of the consumer. Our law firm represents the consumer cases not only to recover the losses of the consumer but helps them to get the compensation they deserve.