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CONSUMER COMPLAINT BEFORE DISTRICT COMMISSION

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CONSUMER COMPLAINT BEFORE DISTRICT COMMISSION
By: Mr. M. GOVINDARAJAN
November 27, 2020
All Articles by: Mr. M. GOVINDARAJAN       View Profile
  • Contents

Complaint

The term ‘complaint’ is defined under section 2(6) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (‘Act’ for short) as any allegation in writing, made by a complainant for obtaining any relief provided by or under this Act, that-

  • an unfair contract or unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice has been adopted by any trader or service provider;
  • the goods bought by him or agreed to be bought by him suffer from one or more defects;
  • the services hired or availed of or agreed to be hired or availed of by him suffer from any deficiency;
  • a trader or a service provider, as the case may be, has charged for the goods or for the services mentioned in the complaint, a price in excess of the price-
  • fixed by or under any law for the time being in force; or
  • displayed on the goods or any package containing such goods; or
  • displayed on the price list exhibited by him by or under any law for the time being in force; or
  • agreed between the parties;
  • the goods, which are hazardous to life and safety when used, are being offered for sale to the public-
  • in contravention of standards relating to safety of such goods as required to be complied with, by or under any law for the time being in force;
  • where the trader knows that the goods so offered are unsafe to the public;
  • the services which are hazardous or likely to be hazardous to life and safety of the public when used, are being offered by a person who provides any service and who knows it to be injurious to life and safety;
  • a claim for product liability action lies against the product manufacturer, product seller or product service provider, as the case may be.

Jurisdiction

A complaint shall be instituted in a District Commission within the local limits of whose jurisdiction,-

  • the opposite party or each of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, ordinarily resides or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain; or
  • any of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business or has a branch office, or personally works for gain, provided that in such case the permission of the District Commission is given; or
  • the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises; or
  • the complainant resides or personally works for gain.

Pecuniary jurisdiction

The District Commission shall have jurisdiction to entertain complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed one crore rupees.

Who can file a complaint?

A complaint may be filed before the District Commission by-

  • the consumer,-
  • to whom such goods are sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or such service is provided or agreed to be provided; or
  • who alleges unfair trade practice in respect of such goods or service;
  • any recognized consumer association on behalf of a consumer  whether the consumer is a member of such association or not;
  • one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest, with the permission of the District Commission, on behalf of, or for the benefit of, all consumers so interested; or
  • the Central Government, the Central Authority or the State Government, as the case may be.

The complaint may be filed either in person or electronically.

Fees

The fees payable for filing complaint before the District Commission as detailed below-

  • Up  to ₹ 5 lakh – NIL;
  • Above ₹ 5 lakh and up to ₹ 10 lakhs – ₹ 200/-;
  • Above ₹ 10 lakhs and up to ₹ 20 lakhs – ₹ 400/-;
  • Above ₹ 20 lakhs and up to ₹ 50 lakhs – ₹ 1000/-;
  • Above ₹ 50 lakhs and up to ₹ 1 crore – ₹ 2000/-.

Stages in disposal of complaint

The following are the stages involved in disposal of a complaint by the District Commission-

  • Filing of a complaint;
  • Admission or rejection of complaint;
  • Reference to Mediation;

Filing of complaint

There is no prescribed form for filing a complaint before the Consumer Commission.  The complaint shall be in writing giving the details of complaint along with the required documents and fees and with prayer for redressal of the complaint.

Admission of the complaint

On receipt of a complaint made under section 35, the District Commission may, by order, admit the complaint for being proceeded with or reject the same.  The admissibility of the complaint shall ordinarily be decided within 21 days from the date on which the complaint was filed.  Where the District Commission does not decide the issue of admissibility of the complaint within the period so specified, it shall be deemed to have been admitted.

Rejection of the complaint

A complaint shall not be rejected under this section unless an opportunity of being heard has been given to the complainant. 

Reference to mediation

At the first hearing of the complaint after its admission, or at any later stage, if it appears to the District Commission that there exists elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, except in such cases as may be prescribed, it may direct the parties to give in writing, within 5 days, consent to have their dispute settled by mediation. If the parties to the complaint agree to refer the complaint to mediation the District Commission, within 5 days from the date of receipt of such consent, refer the complaint to mediation.

Procedure

The procedure for disposal of the complaint by the Commission is of two fold – one for the complaints relate to goods and the other is the complaint relates to services. 

  1. In relation to goods
  • The District Commission shall refer a copy of the admitted complaint, within 21 days from the date of its admission to the opposite party mentioned in the complaint directing him to give his version of the case within a period of 30 days or such extended period not exceeding fifteen days as may be granted by it.
  • If the opposite party on receipt of a complaint referred to him 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 Commission, the District Commission shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute in the manner specified below-
  • If the complaint alleges a defect in the goods which cannot be determined without proper analysis or test of the goods, obtain a sample of the goods from the complainant, seal it and authenticate it and refer the sample so sealed to the appropriate laboratory along with a direction that such laboratory to 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 Commission within a period of 45 days of the receipt of the reference or within such extended period as may be granted by it.
  • For this purpose the complainant the complainant is to deposit to the credit of the Commission 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.
  • On receipt of the report from the appropriate laboratory, it shall forward a copy of the report along with such remarks as it may feel appropriate to the opposite party.
  • 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, require the opposite party or the complainant to submit in writing his objections with regard to the report made by the appropriate laboratory.
  • The District Commission shall 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 and issue an appropriate order.
  1. In relation to services
  • If the complaint relates to any services,-
  • The District Commission shall refer a copy of such complaint to the opposite party directing him to give his version of the case within a period of 30 days or such extended period not exceeding 15 days as may be granted by the District Commission.
  • If the opposite party, on receipt of a copy of the complaint referred to him 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 Commission, it shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute-
  • on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant and the opposite party, if the opposite party denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or
  • ex parte on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant, where the opposite party omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the Commission or decide the complaint on merits if the complainant fails to appear on the date of hearing.
  1. The District Commission may, by order, require an electronic service provider to provide such information, documents or records, as may be specified in that order.  The District Commission shall have power to require any person, -
  • to produce before it such book, account, document or commodity which is in the custody or under the control of such person, if it is required for the purposes of any proceedings before it, and allow the same to be examined and kept by such officer of the Commission as it may specify in this behalf;
  • to furnish to the officer such information as may be required for the purposes of any proceedings before it;
  • where the District Commission has any ground to believe that any book, paper, commodity or document which may be required to be produced in such proceedings, are being or may be, destroyed, mutilated, altered, falsified or secreted, it may, by written order, authorize any officer to exercise the power of entry and search of any premises, and seizure of any book, paper, document or commodity as may be required for the purposes of such proceeding;
  • such seizure shall be communicated to the the District Commission, as the case may be, as soon as it is made or within a period not exceeding 72 hours of making such seizure after specifying the reasons in writing for making such seizure.
  1. Every complaint shall be heard by the District Commission on the basis of affidavit and documentary evidence placed on record.
  2. Every complaint shall be disposed of as expeditiously as possible and endeavor shall be made to decide the complaint-
  • within a period of 3 months from the date of receipt of notice by opposite party where the complaint does not require analysis or testing of commodities; and
  • within 5 months if it requires analysis or testing of commodities.

In the event of a complaint being disposed of after the period so specified, the District Commission shall record in writing, the reasons for the same at the time of disposing of the said complaint.

  1. Where during the pendency of any proceeding before the District Commission, if it appears necessary, it may pass such interim order as is just and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.
  2. No adjournment shall ordinarily be granted by the District Commission unless sufficient cause is shown and the reasons for grant of adjournment have been recorded in writing by the Commission.  The District Commission shall make such orders as to the costs occasioned by the adjournment.

Order by District Commission

Where the District Commission is satisfied that the goods complained against suffer from any of the defects specified in the complaint or that any of the allegations contained in the complaint about the services or any unfair trade practices, or claims for  compensation under product liability are proved, it shall issue an order to the opposite party directing him to do one or more of the following-

  • to remove the defect pointed out by the appropriate laboratory from the goods in question;
  • to replace the goods with new goods of similar description which shall be free from any defect;
  • to return to the complainant the price, or, as the case may be, the charges paid by the complainant along with such interest on such price or charges as may be decided;
  • to pay such amount as may be awarded by it as compensation to the consumer for any loss or injury suffered by the consumer due to the negligence of the opposite party;
  • to pay such amount as may be awarded by it as compensation in a product liability action;
  • to remove the defects in goods or deficiencies in the services in question;
  • to discontinue the unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice and not to  repeat them;
  • not to offer the hazardous or unsafe goods for sale;
  • to withdraw the hazardous goods from being offered for sale;
  • to cease manufacture of hazardous goods and to desist from offering services which are hazardous in nature;
  • to pay such sum as may be determined by it, if it is of the opinion that loss or injury has been suffered by a large number of consumers who are not identifiable conveniently; the minimum amount of sum so payable shall not be less than 25% of the value of such defective goods sold or service provided, as the case may be, to such consumers.

Review by District Commission

The District Commission shall have the power to review any of the order passed by it if there is an error apparent on the face of the record, either of its own motion or on an application made by any of the parties within thirty days of such order.

Appeal

Any person aggrieved by an order made by the District Commission may prefer an appeal against such order to the State Commission on the grounds of facts or law within a period of forty-five days from the date of the order, in such form and manner, as may be prescribed.

 

By: Mr. M. GOVINDARAJAN - November 27, 2020

 

 

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