----------------------------------------------------------------------------- NATIONAL LAW SCHOOL OF INDIA UNIVERSITY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
* Table Of Cases....................................................................3 * Introduction........................................................................4 * Research Methodology.......................................................5
* Main Body :
1. Chapter1 : The Consumer Protection Act,1986...............7 2. Chapter 2 : Consumer Protection Councils....................18 3. Chapter 3 : Complaints And Procedure.........................26 4. Chapter 4 : Judgements Affecting Consumers...............33
* Conclusion.........................................................................41 * Bibliography......................................................................42
TABLE OF CASES
1. Merchant v. Shrinath Chaturvedi, AIR (SC) 2931 : 2002, SUPREME COURT 2. Thirumurugan Co-operative Agricultural Credit Society v. M. Lalitha, 2003 (10) Scale 635 3. State of Karnataka v. Vishwabarathi House Building Coop. Society, AIR (SC) 1043 : 2003, SUPREME COURT 4. M. Shaik Allauddin and another v. Turkey Constructions and others, 1995 (1) CLC 85 (NCDRC, New Delhi) 5. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam v. Vinod Karkare II (1991) C.P.J. 655 6. Harjot Ahluwalia v. Spring Meadows Hospital II (1997) C.P.J. 98 (N.C.) 7. The Chairman, APSE Board and others v. Koti Vijayalaxmi, 1995 (1) CLC 74 (SCDRC, A.P.) 8. Telephone Services Society v. Modi Telastra Pvt Ltd. (1998) 2 CPJ 455 9. Swastik Auto Stores v. Shyambabu, (1993) 3 CPR 168
10. Sri A.C. Modagi Vs. Cross Well Tailor & others 1991) II CPJ 586 11. Hotchand Pesumal Keshwani v National Insurance Co Ltd III, (1993) 3 CPJ 12. Upbhokta Sanrakshan Manch v Windsor Foods Ltd, (1993) 2 CPR 608 Raj 13. Dharmatma Prasad Mishra v. Sub-Divisional officer (Electricity) and Another (1993) 1 Comp. LJ 426 (NCDRC) 14. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. v. V. Venkatraman and Others, First Appeal No.82 of 1992 and First Appeal No. 85 of 1992 15. Stereocraft v. Monotype India Ltd. Vohra House, Civil Appeal No. 4482 (NM) of 1990 – Decided on 21.07.1999, Reported in II (1999)CPJ 1 (SC) 16. Senior Superintendent of Post Offices and others v. Consumer Rights Protection Council (1993) 2 Comp L J 370 (NCDRC) 17. Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority v. Union of India and Others
Consumers are the key subjects and key players to any economy. Economies might crumble or reach new heights just because of an entity called consumers. Hence, because of all this, safeguarding consumer interests is a very important process for the government. Owing to all these, consumer’s consideration and protection has been taken care of since ancient times. During recent times, or contemporary times in India, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is one of the most important things to have happened as it introduced a quasi-judicial consumer dispute redressal mechanism for the first time which consists of Central Consumer Councils, State Consumer Council and District Consumer Council. Now in this research paper the researchers are going to deal with these consumer councils and how they deal with furthering and safeguarding the consumer interests in India. For this reason, various cases which the Councils have discussed has been put into this research paper to put forth how the consumer interests are being taken care of. This research paper moves on after discussing about Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and the various councils set up under it. It also talks about consumer dispute redressal agencies set up under this act. Overall, there have been many other consumer protection laws, but they have all taken a backseat once the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 came upfront and this research paper mainly deals with the same. With all these new products stepping into the market with its new goods and services, consumer rights and interests have to be protected and when protection is needed, acts like Consumer Protection Act,1986 come up and also these acts are modified as was done with this act in 1991, 1993 and 2002. Hence, this research project discusses every important change that came up and the need for it to further protect the consumer interests in India.
Aims and Objectives:
The research project aims to examine the working of consumer councils which were formed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in furthering the consumer interests in India as opposes to consumer dispute redressal agencies. This research paper also analyses the decisions made by the consumer councils and discusses in detail how consumer councils have added to the already growing consumer interests in order to come up with the objective of examining the work of consumer councils in furthering the consumer interest in India. Scope and Limitations:
The scope of this research paper is limited to the discussion of consumer councils formed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and consumer dispute redressal agencies and also the research paper’s scope is limited to the Indian perspective. Research Questions:
1. What is Consumer Protection Act, 1986 – its limitations and scope. 2. How has the Consumer protection Act,1986 changed over the years? 3. Have all these changes made any positive impact on the status of consumers? 4. What are the different consumer councils in India?
5. Does the procedure followed by the consumer councils have any inherent defect in them? 6. Do all the legislative decisions made under the Consumer Protection Act,1986 have a fixed trend? 7. Do the different consumer councils actually further create an impact on the consumers in a positive way?
Chapter 1: Examines Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and changes brought by later legislations to the Act and identifies who actually is a consumer. Chapter 2: Identifies and examines the different consumer protection councils. Chapter 3: Evaluates the procedure followed in the consumer councils and the different kinds of matters specifically looked into by the councils. Chapter 4: Examines the judicial decisions delivered under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986
Mode of Writing
The researcher has adopted a descriptive and analytical style of writing.
Sources of Data
The researcher has relied on Secondary sources of data such as articles and working papers.
Mode of Citation
A uniform mode of citation has been used throughout the research paper.
THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986
“ A consumer is the most important visitor in our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider on our business. He is a part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.” -M.K. GANDHI
The cliché that the consumer is king, has turned into a reality by the enactment of a legislation for the protection and promotion of the rights and interests of the consumers in India. Though consumer is the purpose and most powerful motivating force of production, yet at the same time consumer is equally vulnerable segment of the whole marketing system. Following are the rights that the consumers have in equity as well as in law: 1. Right to Safety - A consumer is entitled to get protection from the marketing of goods which pose risk to life and property. Sometimes due to defective raw-materials, poor workmanship, defective design etc., the commodity might be hazardous and may cause serious health damage and even death in some cases. 2. Right to Choose – Consumers have right to choose the goods which they find fit for their use and have access to a variety of goods at competitive prices. 3. Right to be Informed – Consumers are entitled to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods to protect them against unfair trade practices. 4. Right to be Heard – If the consumer is defrauded or duped, he has a right to make a complaint and be heard before a competent authority to be assured that his interests will receive due consideration. This right includes the right to make protest. The consumer can exercise this right either himself or through Consumers’Associations or through letters to newspapers. 5. Right to Relief – Consumers are entitled for a relief from the competent authority where their complaint is heard and disposed. They have right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation. The consumer has a right to get his claims and complaints settled against the manufacturers and sellers. The various forums under the Act, act as redressal agencies for this purpose. 6. To obtain goods and services of good quality – The consumers are entitled to get goods and services of good quality for which they pay or promise to pay, or partly pay and partly promise to pay in future. 7. Truthfulness of the advertisement – Consumers have the right to be informed correctly about the products and services in the advertisements.
During the last few decades there has been an increasing awareness among the consumers about their rights regarding goods and services. Therefore, the need for Consumer Redressal Agencies was increasingly felt. In order to provide these natural rights to consumers in law, to safeguard their interests and to provide speedy redressal to their disputes, attempts had been made in sporadic ways till 1986, when the Indian Parliament enacted a social welfare legislation known as the Consumer Protection Act, proclaimed as the ‘Magna Carta’ of the Indian consumers.
ENACTMENT OF THE ACT :
The act was passed in Lok Sabha on 9th December,1986 and Rajya Sabha on 10th December, 1986 and assented by the President of India on 24th December, 1986 and was published in the Gazette of India on 26th December, 1986. On April15, 1987 the bill came into force but all the provisions came into operation by July, 1987. This act has been amended from time to time in 1991, 1993 and 2002.
THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT AT A GLANCE
Salient Features Of The Act :-
(i) The act provides for setting up of three-tier grievance redressal machinery with the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in every district, a Commission at the State level and the National Commission at the centre. These quasi judicial bodies provide speedy and simple redressal to consumer complaints. (ii) The provisions of the act apply to all the goods and services except which are exempted by notification by the Central Government. (iii) The provisions of the bill shall be in addition to and not in derogation of any other law for the time being in force. (iv) To make the act effective in safeguarding the consumer’s interests, punitive and penal provisions have been incorporated accordingly. (v) The act provides safeguards to consumers against any exploitation arising out of unfair trade practices, defective goods, deficient or unsatisfactory services, prices charged in excess of the prices fixed or displayed on the commodities. (vi) The act covers all suppliers of goods and services in private and public sector as well as in cooperative sector. (vii) The main feature of the act being the time frame for the disposal of the cases. (viii) To educate and spread awareness about the protection law among the consumers. The consumer must be made aware of his rights, different remedies available under different provisions of law to protect him against fraud, deceit and misleading advertising and other unfair trade practices.
Object and Purpose of the Act
In Merchant v. Shrinath Chaturvedi, the Supreme Court has laid down that the object of the Consumer Protection Act is to render simple, inexpensive and speedy remedy to consumers with complaints against defective goods and defective services. In Secretary, Thirumurugan Co-operative Agricultural Credit Society v. M. Lalitha, it was held by the Supreme Court that there is declaration in the preamble of the Act that it is to provide better protection of the interest of the consumers and for the very purpose there is provision for the establishment of the consumer councils and other authorities for settling consumer disputes. Section 3 of the Act clearly provides that the Act is not in derogation of any other law. The provisions of the Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being.
It is an Act “to provide for better 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”.
Scope and Object of Legislating the Act
In State of Karnataka v. Vishwabarathi House Building Cooperative Society,the Supreme Court held that rights of the consumers have been adequately safeguarded and the remedies provided are not in derogation of other laws. The act gives consumers the right to approach civil courts for necessary relief and filing of complaint in criminal courts in not debarred, as such the Act cannot be held to be unconstitutional.
WHO IS A CONSUMER?
`S.2(1)(d) defines the term consumer. Following persons are categorized into consumers:
(i) Buyer of a good for a consideration
(ii) Any person who hires or avails of services for a consideration` Thus the word ‘consumer’ defined in the act means any person who buys any goods for consideration, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale, or for any commercial purpose. Thus a person who purchases goods for any commercial purpose, does not fall within the definition of word ‘consumer’.
Who is a Consumer? – Illustrative Case
M. Shaik Allaudin and another v. Turkey Constructions and others * Facts of the Case : The complainants are husband and wife. A sum of Rs.50,000/- by way of Fixed Deposit was deposited on 02.08.1985 with the 1st Opposite Party Firm, of which Opposite Parties 2 to 4 are partners. The fixed deposit got renewed on 14.06.1988 and then again on 14.12.1988 and Rs. 89,637,50. Was the maturity value on 14.12.1988. Another fixed deposit for Rs. 50,000/- was made by the complainants on 04.11.1985 and it also got renewed and Rs. 89,637,50 was its maturity value. A third deposit of Rs 1,00,000/- was made on 03.06.1986. It was renewed and the maturity value was Rs. 1,66,750. Therefore, a total amount of Rs. 3,46,065 was to be payable to the complainants. The Opposite Parties refused to pay the amount. Hence they claimed this amount with subsequent interest at 15% by way of complaint to the State Consumer Forum, Madras.
* There was separate filation of replies from the Opposite Parties. The forum contended that the 1st Opposite Party was not a financial institution. There was no rendering of any service to the complainants and the receipt of the fixed deposits was not in the normal course of business. They also claimed the deposits made by the complainants.
* Held : Consideration for arrangement consists of the fact that company or firm is enabled to use the funds deposited with it for its business. Such a transaction is clearly one of providing service for consideration and depositors are clearly consumers. Who is not a Consumer – Illustrative Case
The Chairman, APSE Board and others v. Koti Vijayalaxmi
* Facts of the Case : The complainant’s husband died while crossing the field of Bulla Pyda Rao as he came into contact with a live electric wire. The opposite parties admitted that the wire became weak and got detached due to wear and tear and it was hanging downwards at one feet above the ground. Electricity Board pleaded that there was no negligence on their part. It was negligence on the complainant’s part too as he did not notice the hanging live wire. The Board contended that they can not be held liable for any deficiency in the service as complainant’s husband was not a consumer within the meaning of Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act.
* Held by District Forum : The District Forum said that as Andhra Pradesh State Electricity Board got taxpayers money in the shape of loans, subsidies and grants by Government, therefore, there was consideration for every taxpayer. The District Forum awarded Rs. 25,000/- as compensation to be paid within three months because of deficiency in service.
* Held by The Andhra Pradesh State Commission: The State Commission laid down in appeal that the complainant or her husband was not a consumer as there was no consideration paid by them for the services rendered by the Electricity Board and mere payment of taxes does not constitute consideration by a taxpayer for the renderation of any particular service. * The Andhra Pradesh Electricity Board was directed to pay Rs. 5,000/- as an ex gratia payment to the complainant and the complaint was disposed of.
IMPORTANT SECTIONS OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986
Section 2 of the Consumer Protection Act defines certain terms used in the Act : 1. Consumer Dispute : Under Section 2(1)(e), ‘Consumer Dispute’ means a dispute where the person against whom a complaint has been made, denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint. 2. Deficiency : The word ‘Deficiency’ is defined under Section 2(g) of the Act meaning any fault, shortcoming, imperfection or inadequacy in the quality, manner and nature of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or under a contract or otherwise in relation to any service. 3. Goods : It means goods as defined in the Sale of Goods Act,1930. According to the Section 2(7) of this Act, ‘Goods’ means every kind of movable property including shares and stocks, crops and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed under the contract of sale. It excludes actionable claims and money. 4. Service: Service of any description, which is made available to users including the provision of facilities in connection with financing, transport, construction, banking, entertainment etc. But it excludes rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service.
5. Manufacturer : Section 2(1)(j) of the Act defines ‘Manufacturer’ as a person who produces, assembles or puts his trade name on the goods in question. 6. Unfair Trade Practice : The expression has been under Section 2(1)(r) of the Consumer Protection Act as a trade practice which, for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or unfair or deceptive practice.
IMPORTANT PROVISIONS OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION (AMENDEMENT)ACT, 2002
Vital changes have been made in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act,2002. It has come into force w.e.f 17th December, 2002 amending many existing provisions and inserting new provisions in the Act.
Following are the some of the important changes introduced by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002:- 1. Complaint, in case of death of a consumer [Section 2(b)(iv)]
Prior to this amendment there was no specific provision regarding complaint by the legal heir or representative in the event of the death of the consumer. But now if the consumer dies, complaint can be made by the legal heir/representative by inserting clause (IV) to Section 2(b) of the Act. 2. Complaint against a service provider for unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice [Section 2(c)(i)]
Earlier the complaint could be made only against a trader but after the amendment it can be made against any service provider as well.
3. Spurious Goods and Services
There was no specific provision in the Act before the amendment regarding spurious goods and services. Now it specifically mentions and defines it under Section 2(oo) 4. Sections 4,7, 8-A and 8-b amended to make mandatory the Establishment of Central, State and District Consumer Protection Councils. 5. Sections 10, 16 and 20 amended regarding qualifications and disqualifications of members of the forums at various levels. 6. Section 12 substituted: Manner of making complaint has been amended. One of the main features being the payment of court fee. No court fee had to be paid hitherto while filling a complaint but now every complaint shall be accompanied with such amount of fee and payable in such manner as may be prescribed. 7. Section 11, 17 and 21 amended to revise pecuniary jurisdiction of the forums at different levels. 8. Decision within 3 month : Sub-section 3-A to Section 13 states expeditious hearing and endeavor to decide the complaint within 3 months from the date of receipt of notice by the opposite party. 9. Sections 17-A and 22-B amended to enable transferring of cases from one District Court to another by the State Commission and from District Court of one State to the District Court of another State or from one State Commission to another State Commission by the National Commission. 10. New provision under Section 27 inserted i.e. Section 27-A, providing appeal against the order imposing penalty for non-compliance with the orders of the consumer courts.
CHANGE BROUGHT FORWARD BY THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT,1986 AS IN COMPARISION WITH ITS PAST COUNTERPARTS
CAVEAT EMPTOR To Be Replaced By CAVEAT VENDITOR
‘Caveat Emptor’(the buyer beware), this well established principle in the Indian Sale Of Goods Act 1930 has lost its relevance in the context of today’s modern market. Attempts are being made to replace it with the rule of ‘Caveat Venditor’(the seller beware) and ‘Caveat Manufacturer’(the manufacturer beware).
The Consumer Protection Act is just a step in this direction for providing speedy relief and protecting rights and interests of the consumers.
CHAPTER : 2
CONSUMER PROTECTION COUNCILS
Consumer Protection Councils
* The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is the first act to introduce the concept of ‘consumer’ and confer additional rights on him. For this very purpose of protecting the consumer’s right, Consumer Councils are created. * Consumer Councils work at three-tier level to assist and advice the consumers in seeking and enforcing their rights provided by the Act. * Consumer Councils are created at the central, state and district level to further consumer education and save them from exploitation. * They not only investigate and give publicity to the matters concerned with interests of consumers but also advice the Government in formulation of the policies concerning consumer interests.
The Central Consumer Protection Council
The Central Government shall by notification establish with effect from such date as it may specify in such notification, a Council to be known as the Central Consumer Protection Council. It is the apex body in consumer affairs as envisaged under the Act.
The Council shall consist of the following members, namely – (a) The Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs in the Central Government, who shall be its Chairman, and (b) Such number of other official or non-official members representing such interests as may be prescribed.
In Section 4(1) the words ‘the central government may’ have been substituted by ‘the central government shall’ by the Amendment Act, 2002. Therefore duty of constituting the council by government has been made compulsory.
This amendment is significant as this council has a major role in the formation of economic policies of the government and in spreading awareness among the consumers.
Meeting of the Central Council:
The Council shall hold at least one meeting every year but it can also meet as and when necessary. The time and place of the meeting is according to as the Chairman may think fit and the rules pertaining to the meeting are governed by the Consumer Protection Rules 1987.
Objectives of the Central Consumer Protection Council:
Following are the objects of the Central Council to promote and protect the rights of the consumer - (i) the right of protection against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property : It is duty of the government to check dangerous goods from making their way into markets. Thus, if a consumer or his property gets injured by the purchase of such hazardous good available in the market, he has a right to effective and speedy remedy under the Consumer Protection Act.
Like adulterated food is dangerous to life. Further, in the words of Winfield:
“The principle has been extended from articles of food and drink and includes, inter alia, kiosks, hair dye, tombstones, industrial chemicals, toys, motor cars, lifts and scented erasers and poisonous pencils.” (ii) the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services : It is to save consumers from false descriptions about the quality and quantity of the goods, exaggerated and misleading information about the goods’ power. (iii) the right of accession to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices : This right is based upon the belief that the consumers should be given wider choice through free competition and it is the best way to improve the quality and value for money. If a shopkeeper leaves no choice for the consumer but to buy a particular good only, the helpless consumer can bring the matter in front the council. (iv) the right to due attention at appropriate forums : Prior to the Consumer Protection Act, consumers had to approach the civil court for the settlement of the grievance which would take years. It frustrates the objective of right to speedy and simple remedy. Thus it is duty of the council to see that the consumer is heard and receives due consideration. (v) the right to seek redressal against exploitation, and restrictive and unfair trade practices : The consumer has the right to seek redressal against unscrupulous exploitation, and restrictive or unfair trade practices. Booking of a marriage lawn on non-refundable deposit has been held to be an unfair trade practice. (vi) the right to consumer education : For the proper functioning of the law, it is necessary that the people are aware of their legal rights. The Council has been charged with the responsibility of rendering consumers conscious of their rights and power under the act.
The enforcement of these objectives is on various authorities under the Act. Independently of the administrative proceedings, “individual consumers would have a right of action for damages, specific performance, a declaration, injunction and an order for the replacement or reparation of the goods”.
Composition of the Central Consumer council :
Section 3 of the Central Consumer Protection Rules talks about the membership of the Council. According to the Act, the Central Government has to make choice of the members from various field of consumer interests. The Council is to be composed of 150 members – (i) The Minister-in-charge of the Department of Civil Supplies shall be the Chairman of the Council (ii) The Minister of State or Deputy Minister in the Department of Civil Supplies shall be the Vice-Chairman
(iii) The Secretary in the Department of Civil Supplies shall be the member-secretary (iv) Eight members of Parliament – five from Lok Sabha and three from the Rajya Sabha (v) Scheduled Castes and Tribes’ Commissioner
(vi) The Ministers of Food and Civil Supplies
(vii) Consumer Organizations’ representatives – not less than thirty five (viii) Women representatives – not less than ten
(ix) Representatives of the Central Government Departments and autonomous organizations concerned with consumer interests – not more than twenty (x) Representatives of farmers, trade and industries – not exceeding twenty (xi) Persons capable of representing consumer interests other than mentioned above – not more than fifteen.
TERM OF THE COUNCIL
* The Council has a term of three years.
* For resigning, a written resignation should be submitted to the Chairman of the Council by the concerned member. The vacancy thus caused would be filled from the category to which the former member belonged and the new member would hold office for the remaining term as the resigning member would have.
THE STATE CONSUMER PROTECTION COUNCIL
The State Government shall by notification, establish with effect from such date as it may specify, a Council to be known as the Consumer Protection Council for…..
Membership of the State Council :
The Council consists of the following members, namely – (a) The Minister-in-charge of consumer affairs in the State who shall be its Chairman (b) Such number of other officials or non-official members representing such interests as may be prescribed by the State Government (c) Such number of other official or non-official members, not exceeding ten, as may be nominated by the Central Government
Procedure of Meeting of the State Council :
* The State Council shall have atleast two meetings every year but it can also meet as and when necessary. * The time and place of the meeting are to be decided by the Chairman.
Objectives of the State Council :
It is to be the objective of every State Council to promote and protect the rights of the consumers within the State as laid down in clauses (a) to (f) of Section 6 of the Consumer Protection Act.
THE DISTRICT CONSUMER PROTECTION COUNCIL
Under Section 8-A of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986: The State Government shall establish for every district, by notification, a council to be known as the District Consumer Protection Council with effect from such date as it may specify.
Members of the District Consumer Protection Council
* The District Council shall consist of the following members, namely –
(a) The Collector of the district who shall be its chairman (b) Such number of other official and non-official members representing such interests as may be prescribed by the State Government.
Meeting of the District Council :
(i) There shall be atleast two meetings of the District Council every year but it can also meet as and when necessary. (ii) The District Council shall meet at such time and place within the district as the Chairman may think fit and shall observe such procedure in regard to the transaction of its business as may be prescribed by the State Government.
Objectives of the District Council :
The District Council shall promote and protect the rights and interests of the consumers as laid down in clauses (a) to (f) of Section 6 under the Consumer Protection Act
A Standing Working Group, comprising of the members of the Central Consumer Council may be appointed by the Central Government to monitor and implement the recommendations of the Central Consumer Council under Rule3 of the Consumer Protection Act, 198654. Its Chairman shall be the member secretary of the Central Consumer Council. The membership of the working group should not exceed thirty in number and the group shall meet as and when deemed necessary by the Central Government.
CHAPTER : 3
COMPLAINTS AND PROCEDURE
MEANING OF A COMPLAINT
“Complaint” as defined in Section 2(1)(c) means any written allegation made by a complainant that- (i) An unfair or restrictive trade practice has been adopted by any trader, resulting in loss or damage to the complainant (ii) The goods bought by him suffer from one or more defects (iii) Deficiency in the services hired of or availed of (iv) The service provider or the trader charges price in excess of the price displayed on the goods or fixed by the law time being in force (v) Hazardous goods and services being offered for sale
WHO CAN FILE A COMPLAINT?
The following categories of persons – known as complainants - may file a complaint: (i) A consumer; or
(ii) Any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act,1956 (1 of 1956), or under any other law for the time being in force; or (iii) The Central Government or any State Government, who or which makes a complaint; or one or more consumers having the same interest; (iv) In case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative
LIMITATION PERIOD FOR FILLING A COMPLAINT:
Section 24 A prescribes provisions regarding period of limitation within which a complaint is to be filed with the Consumer Courts (i) The District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within a period of two years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen. (ii) But, if the Consumer Courts are satisfied that the complainant had sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within such period, the complaint may be entertained even after the expiry period. However, complaints shall not be entertained after the said period of two years, unless the Consumer Courts record reasons for condoning the delay.
GROUNDS OF DISMISSAL OF COMPLAINT
(i) The complainant does not fall under the terminology of a consumer under the Act. (ii) The reliefs prayed for do not fall within the purview of Section.14 of the Act.
As in the case of Telephone Services Society v. Modi Telastra Pvt Ltd., the petitioner filed a complaint seeking restraint order against the opposite party from selling cellular phones under the allegation that they were hazardous to life. But the petitioner could not cite any provision of law which was abridged.
FALSE AND VEXATIOUS COMPLAINTS:
Where a complaint filed is found to be vexatious or frivolous, the Consumer Courts can dismiss the complaint under the Section.26 of the Act, by recording the reason for it in the writing.
The Court may impose punishment and order the complainant to pay the opposite party such cost, not exceeding Rs 10,000.
POINTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE FILING A COMPLAINT :
* It must be ensured by the complainant that the complaint is not false or vexatious. * There should be arguable points in the complaint.
* Arguments should be presented in a cogent manner.
* Consumer Associations also need to be careful while filing a complaint. They have no immunity from the punishment even if the complaint is filed in good faith on behalf of a consumer.
PROCEDURE FOR FILLING A COMPLAINT
A complaint should contain the following information :
(i) The name, description and address of the complainant (ii) The name, description and address of the opposite party or parties (iii) The facts relating to the complaint and where and how it occured (iv) Supporting documents for the allegation in the complaint (v) Relief that the complainant seeks
The complaint can be made in person or by any authorized agent or by post. There is no fee to be paid.
As in for the Complaint by Consumer we saw the case of Swastik Auto Stores v Shyambabu, on behalf of the car owner, a person purchased the bulbs for the car. The bulbs turned out to be defective. It was held that the complaint can be made only by the consumer and not the actual buyer.
Likewise as in for the complaint by Attorney Holder, in the case of Hotchand Pesumal Keshwani v. National Insurance Co Ltdonly the legal heir and not the holder of power of attorney can file a complaint after the demise of the person who gave the power. The cause of action should be such that it survives after the death of the aggrieved consumer.
For the complaint by Consumer Association as in the case of Upbhokta Sanrakshan Manch v. Windsor Foods Ltd, a consumer association filed a complaint demanding compensation by a food company to the public of Rajasthan as biscuit packets sold by it were less in weight. The complaint was not entertained as relief is beyond the provisions of Section.14(1). Relief cannot be granted to an unidentified number of consumers, only an individual purchaser can get back the money.
WHERE TO FILE THE COMPLAINT:
* District Forum : If the cost of the goods or services and compensation asked for is less than one lakh * State Commission : If the cost of the goods or services and compensation asked for is more than one lakh but less than ten lakhs * National Commission : If the cost of the goods or services and compensation demanded is more than ten lakhs.
RELIEF AVAILABLE TO THE CONSUMER:
The Council may give orders for replacement of the goods, removal of defects from goods, refund of the price, award of compensation for the injury.
TIME LIMIT FOR DECIDING THE CASE :
The councils are required to decide complaints within a period of three months from the date of notice received by the opposite party where complaint does not require testing of the commodities.
CHAPTER : 4
JUDICIAL DECISIONS AFFECTING CONSUMERS
The judicial decisions reported hereinafter are delivered under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 .
The cases are concerned with private as well as public utility services, government departments and public sector undertakings.
DHARMATMA PRASAD MISHRA v. SUB-DIVISIONAL OFFICER (Electricity) And ANOTHER
Facts of the Case :
The consumer filed a complaint against the Electricity Department that the department illegally disconnected the electricity connection at his residence.
He asked for the restoration of the connection and compensation be awarded for the damage and inconvenience caused to him.
The District Council directed Electricity Department for the restoration of electricity and awarded Rs. 500 as compensation to the complainant.
The Electricity Department appealed against the decision in the State Council.
The State Council confirmed the decision of District Council for restoration of the connection but disallowed the compensation.
Therefore, the aggrieved consumer petitioned to the Central Council.
The Central Council set aside the order of the State Council of disallowment of the compensation.
Thus the order passed by the District Council was restored.
INDIAN OIL CORPORATION Ltd. v.
V. VENKATRAMAN And OTHERS
Facts of the Case:
On May 16,1991 at about 11 AM, Shanthi, the deceased daughter of the complainanats was boiling some water on gas, when she noticed that the gas in the cylinder she was using got exhausted, and henceforth, she put out the present cylinder and started to connect the second cylinder, now which burst due to some inherent defect which caused leakage of gas and which which burnt Shanthi on and which caused her to have severe burns, and henceforth she was admitted to the hospital where she succumbed to her injuries. The complainants said that the accident was caused due to the defective nature of the cylinder supplied to the first complainants and hence the respondents that is, the gas agency and Indian Oil Corporation should be held liable for compensation to the complainants. The respondents claimed in suit in the state commission that the cylinders supplied to the dealers were thoroughly checked and immense care was taken to ensure to it that they were free from any kind of defect.
The distributors in response contended that the cylinders were thoroughly checked by the delivery boys in the presence of the customers. But later, however it was found out that on the specific request of the complainant the delivery boys delivered it without the compulsory checks. The State commission held that the fire was caused due to the gas coming in contact with the hot surface of the stove and it would not have happened ever only if the delivery boys and the manufacturers would not have been negligent and in lieu, a sum of Rs. 100000 was paid as damages for the death of the deceased and Rs. 50000 was paid to the husband as in the form of damages. The respondents appealed to this decision but still it was upheld in the other councils.
STEREOCRAFT v. MONOTYPE INDIA LTD. VOHRA HOUSE, NEW DELHI
Facts of the Case :
Stereocraft, the appellant, opened a letter of credit in favour of the manufacturer M/s. H. Berthold A.G. Berlin to import phototype-setting machine from West Germany. The distributor and agent of the German manufacturing company in India is M/s. Monotype India Ltd., the respondent. On 17.08.1984, machine was installed at the complainant’s business premises. The machine turned out to be defective soon after, which was brought to the notice of the respondent who took care of the complainants from 17.08.1984 to 23.03.1987. Still, the machine remained defective and did not work for the supposed time run of 12500 hours, but only for 152 hours. A claim petition was filed before the National Council by the appellant for a sum of Rs. 11,22,000/-. The appellant wanted compensation for the loss suffered due to defective machine supplied by the respondent and its failure to provide proper service and maintainance for the defective machine. The appellant’s claim was dismissed by the National Council on the ground that the appellant purchased the machinery for a commercial purpose, running a printing press. Therefore, the appellant cannot be termed as a consumer.
Supreme Court’s Decision : The court did not find infinity in the judgement of the National Council and the appeal was dismissed consequently.
SENIOR SUPERINTENDENT OF POST OFFICES And OTHERS v. CONSUMER RIGHTS PROTECTION COUNCIL
Facts of the Case :
A consignment was sent at Calcutta, to R by Mr Pitcharaman through a Transporter under a lorry receipt. The original lorry receipt was sent to the Syndicate Bank, Calcutta by registered post with acknowledgement due through the post office by Mr Pitcharaman. But the acknowledgement was never received by him. He found out that the bank did not receive the registered letter and someone took the consignment’s delivery from the Transporter on the basis of the lorry receipt. The Consumer Rights Protection Council filed a petition with the District Council on behalf of Mr Pitcharaman. The Petition alleged that because of the postal authorities negligence, misconduct and carelessness; the registered letter having the original lorry receipt got into the hands of someone else who took the delivery of the consignment. The claim was resisted by the Postal Department but it was upheld by the District Council.
Thereafter, a petition was filed to the State Council of Tamil Nadu by the Postal Authorities. The petition got dismissed. The Postal Department then approached the National Council for a revision petition. The National Council accepted the revision petition setting aside the orders of the District Council and State Council. The National Council agreed with the petitioner’s argument that the provisions under Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act are in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law that is in force for the time being. The Consumer Protection Act is to provide remedy to the consumer but if any other act (in this case, Post Office Act) barrs that remedy, then the councils constituted under the act cannot grant the remedy. There was no remedy under Section.6 of the Indian Post Office Act, as there was no allegation that the delay, misdelivery and the loss therefore, occurred due to the willful act of any particular employee of the post office.
CALCUTTA METROPOLITAN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY v. UNION Of INDIA And OTHERS
Facts of the Case :
A complaint was filed against the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) by a member of the public. The complainant alleged that the construction and naming of the pay and use toilets in the public park by CMDA after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was disrespecting to Netaji’s memory and could hurt religious sentiments of persons who visit the nearby religious institution. A restraining order was passed by the District Council to stop any further construction by the CMDA. Thereafter, a writ petition was filed before the Supreme Court by the CMDA. The Supreme Court held that neither the complaint made to the District Council falls under the purview of a complaint within the meaning of Section.2(c) nor does the complainant, being a member of the general public can be termed as a consumer under the Section 2(d) of the Consumer Protection Act,1986. Hence, the District Council had no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint.
Consumer councils formed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 do play a very important part in the solving consumer disputes. As the research paper talks about furthering consumer interests by the consumer councils it was clearly seen that it does further consumer interests and takes it to a different level. The National, State and District commissions formed under this act reach to all the consumers according to their suitability. It reaches each and every consumer to its hilt and apart from it; it does a very good work of compensating the consumers according to the extent of their damage and compensate them with suitable damages. But again, it does have its own share of problems which creates and makes up problems from time to time. Like, as is given and could be seen in all the major articles, books etcetera seen by the researchers in many of small districts and villages these district councils were set up very late and also in the other Commissions work is done at leisure and not done swiftly as it is supposed to and its got it’s share of other administrative problems under different jurisdictions. But again even after all these problems, as written in the start it has done a lot of major work in relation to solving consumer disputes in India, which is still going on with a regular pace to turn India into a real heaven for solving consumer disputes, holding consumers over anyone else.
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