How to File a Consumer Complaint
By Avani Pathak student of 6th semester BALLB (H)Amity Law School, Noida
Posted: April 7th, 2015
Every Person since their inception on this planet becomes a consumer in some or the other way. Every person is a consumer in every aspect of their loves. The Role of a consumer is one of the most crucial roles play by every person in their lives. There are numerous cases these days where consumers are cheated and harassed in many ways. At times they are provided with inferior quality of goods, at times with less quantity than actually demanded whereas at other times the consumer is charged with excess prices than otherwise fixed for the commodity. The traders considers consumers as persons who are morons having paying capacity and can try to deceive them in every possible way. Therefore there was a strong need felt to protect the consumers which led the inception of Consumer Protection. Consumer protection is a group of laws and organizations designed to ensure the rights of consumers as well as fair trade, competition and accurate information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors. They may also provide additional protection for those most vulnerable in society. Consumer protection laws are a form of government regulation, which aim to protect the rights of consumers. For example, a government may require businesses to disclose detailed information about products—particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is linked to the idea of consumer rights, and to the formation of consumer organizations, which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace and get help with consumer complaints.
Now the Question arises on how to file a consumer complaint?
Following the guidelines provided in the Consumer Protection Act the following steps are needed to be followed while filing a consumer complaint.
- Jurisdiction: If the relief claimed in the complaint is less than Rs. 20,00,000/-, then the complaint must be filed before the District Consumer Forum. If the relief claimed is between Rs. 20,00,000/- and Rs. 1,00,00,000/-, then the complaint must be filed before the State Commission. When the relief claim exceeds Rs. 1,00,00,000/- then the complaint must be filed before the National Commission at New Delhi. However, see point 6(j) for more details regarding jurisdiction of the Consumer Courts.
- A ‘prescribed fee’ is payable for filing a complaint before the District Forum, State Commission or National Commission as follows:
Upto 1 lakh – Rs.100/-
1 lakh to 5 lakhs – Rs.200/-
5 lakhs to 10 lakhs – Rs.400/-
10 lakhs to 20 lakhs – Rs.500/-
You can pay this by Demand Draft in favour of “President, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Chennai.”
3.The complainant can present his / her complaint in person or by his / her authorised representative to the District Forum / State Commission. There is no requirement for a lawyer or consumer group to represent the complainant.
4.The complaint can be sent by Registered Post to the District Forum/ State Commission. A minimum of 5 copies of the complaint have to be filed. This includes three copies for the Forum [in green (Court) paper] plus one for the Office of the Forum and one for the opposite party. Do remember to keep one copy for yourself. An additional copy for each additional opposite party has to be filed. Since the Forum / Commission have the power to pass ex parte orders or dismiss your complaint, please ensure that you carry out regular follow-up after filing the complaint. Every hearing date has to be attended to prevent any damage to the complaint.
5.The complaint should be signed by you, the complainant. If you are authorising someone to represent you, give him / her a signed authorisation letter. In the event of the death of a complainant, his/her legal heir or representative can continue as a complainant.
6.A complaint should contain the following information:
- A cause-title before the main heading. For example,
Before the Hon’ble Chennai District Consumer Redressal Forum
Mr. A …Complainant
XYZ Co. Pvt. Ltd. … Opposite Party
- A heading — e.g. ‘Complaint under Section 12(a) of the Consumer Protection Act’.
- The name, description and address of the complainant.
- The name, description and address of the opposite party or parties as the case may be, so far as they can be ascertained.
- The facts relating to the complaint and when and where it arose.
- How the opposite parties are liable to be proceeded against – why are they answerable or accountable to you in relation to the complaint
- Copies of documents in support of the allegation contained in the complaint, complainants are advised to keep copies of the complaint and all furnished documents for their records. A list of documents should also be furnished along with the complaint, duly signed by you.
- In case you want to claim consequential damages due to negligence please note that negligence or deficiency must be clearly alleged, defined and established to get compensation under Consumer Protection Act.
- Compensation may also be sought on account of consequential damages, irrespective of the fine print in many contracts that may suggest that the seller is not responsible. There is no ceiling on compensation claimed.
- The value of the relief includes (where applicable) refunds, damages, litigation costs and interest. Please remember that the Act provides for adequate litigation costs to the parties. If you are asking for compensation, quantify the amount and state the break-up i.e., how the amount is arrived at and under what heads. If the relief cannot be quantified, give a notional value. Remember the District Forum can entertain complaints of value up to Rs. 20,00,000/- and the State Commission, complaints of value from Rs. 20,00,000/- up to 1,00,00,000/-.
- State how the case falls within the jurisdiction of the tribunal – whether the opposite party resides or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works within the jurisdiction of the Forum or whether the cause of action (for defective, spurious, fake, substandard or dangerous goods OR deficient or delayed services or services not carried out OR for misleading advertisements OR for unfair trade practices) started within the Forum’s jurisdiction. The cause of action can be defined as the factor from which this dispute arose. For example, if you are buying shares for which you have not received the share certificates, then the cause for this action in the Consumer Courts arose when you bought the share certificates. Therefore the Forum situated in the place where you bought these shares will have jurisdiction to adjudicate your complaint.
- The relief which the complainant is seeking: here state whether you want removal of defects, replacement of goods, refund of excess price, refund of charges paid for deficient services, cessation of unfair trade practice, correction of misleading advertisements etc. apart from damages and costs of filing the complaint.
- With the coming into force of the 2002 Amendment (on 15.03.2003) the Consumer Forum and Commission can also pass interim orders and grant punitive damages. Specifically if your complaint is about the sale of hazardous goods, the Forum / Commission can direct the Opposite Party not to offer the hazardous goods for sale and to withdraw the hazardous goods from being offered for sale.
- You are also entitled to claim the costs of your complaint from the opposite party. Hence include that amount in your complaint.
- The limitation period for filing complaint is two years from the date of the cause of action. In case the limitation period expires, the Forum or Commission may still take your complaint on board, if they are convinced about the reasonableness of the cause for the delay. However, do avoid delays, since you will be required to provide explanations for every single day.
- Consumers facing the same problem can come together and file a single complaint. Enclosing a petition with the complaint stating that the facts and circumstances relating to the complaint and the relief claimed are the same for all the petitioners and that they may be allowed to join together and file a single complaint.
- Complainants who appear in person often are asked to present an affidavit of proof when there is no recorded evidence on a point of fact. This affidavit of proof must be in first person and should contain the details given in the format enclosed.