Grievances of consumers regarding deficient goods purchased or deficiency in services availed would be redressed by various agencies which can be categorized as below:
Consumers may approach any or all of the above agencies in their quest for redressal of their grievances, not always in the same order. As a general rule, consumers must approach the concerned manufacturer/service provider first before approaching any others. Let us now see how consumers may get redress from each.
I. Manufacturers/Service providers
Consumers may contact a help line or consumer service department to get the problem sorted out across the board. If that does not work, a notice may be sent by Registered Post with Acknowledgement Due to the competent / senior most executive of the company / agency giving a time limit of 15 days to rectify your problem and the desire of the consumer to proceed further if the problem has not been sorted out within the said period.
II. Enforcement Agencies / Regulatory bodies
Depending on the nature of infringement, wise spectrums of Government agencies are involved at the field level. A representation can be sent even at the initial stages to the concerned Government agency. (e.g.) if you find your bottle of pickle contaminated you will have to inform the Food Inspector having jurisdiction over your area. The representation can be preferably sent by registered post with acknowledgement or e-mail. Every field enforcement agency also has a State or National level Chief Executive to whom also a copy can be endorsed. You can also call up the agency over telephone and ask for immediate action. If enforcement agencies do not respond, the issue maybe brought to notice of concerned Ministry.
III. Reputed Voluntary Consumer Organisations
Voluntary Consumer Organisations have been actively assisting consumers in their quest for redress. The do the task of counseling and assistance in drafting petitions for consumers as well as in taking up issues directly with the manufacturer / service provider on behalf of the consumer. VCOs are also empowered under Section 12(b) of the Consumer Protection Act to file a complaint on behalf of the consumer. However, consumers are advised to check on the integrity and reputation of the VCO before seeking their assistance.
IV. District Consumer Protection Council (DCPC):
DCPC is a district body comprising of VCOs & Government enforcement agencies and service providers in Government under the chairpersonship of the District Collector as per Section 8(A) of the Consumer Protection Act. DCPC specifically duty bound to protect the rights of the customers enshrined in section 6(a) to 6(f) of the Consumer Protection Act. Petitioners can meet the District Collectors on any Monday between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm at the respective Collector’s offices. Consumers can also may send their specific complaints by e-mail / fax or RPAD to the District Collectors for redressal. Collectors, being District Magistrates, are also empowered under various sections of other laws to take up issues on behalf of consumers and protect their interests. The District Supply Officer and Consumer Protection Officer assist the District Collector as Member Secretary of DCPC in his day to day functions.
V. State Consumer Protection Council (SCPC):
SCPC is headed by the Honorable Minister for Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection and has the Secretary of the Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection Department as Member-Secretary under section 7 of the Consumer Protection Act. This council is also helping in taking up matters affecting consumers at the policy level in Government. SCPC is liable to uphold the rights of the consumer under sections 6(a) to 6(f) of the CP Act.
VII. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum:
It is headed by a President and assisted by his members. Consumer Fora are governed by Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Any petition before the forum has to be accompanied by an application fee as prescribed by notifications applicable from time to time. Consumers can file petitions on their own or through reputed Voluntary Consumer Organisations. They are permitted to argue their cases without engaging any lawyer. Procedures in consumer Fora are simple and uncomplicated compared to those in civil law. The District forum can be approached only when value of goods / services / compensation sought is less than Rs. 20 lakhs.
VIII. State and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions:
They are appellate forums over the levels below them. They also have original jurisdiction. When value of goods/services/compensation sought exceeds Rs.20 lakhs and below Rs.1 crore, the petition has to be placed before the State Commission situated at Chennai. In case of compensation over Rs.1 crore, the petition has to be filed before the National Commission at New Delhi.
IX. High Court and Supreme Court:
They are the Courts of last resort and can render justice if the appellant fails in Consumer Commissions / Fora under writ jurisdiction (original) as well as appellate jurisdiction.
Consumers are therefore advised to choose their own means of grievance redressal.
FEE PAYABLE FOR FILING A COMPLAINT IN CONSUMER DISPUTE REDRESSAL COMMISSION / FORA
How to register the complaints?
Complaint can be registered within 2 years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen.
Stamp paper is not required for declaration.
Complaint can be registered in person by the complainant or through his authorised agent or by post addressed to the Redressal Agency.
Lawyers are not necessary.
The complaint should contain the following particular:
Relief available under the Act:
To pay such amount of compensation for the loss or injury suffered by the consumer.
To remove the defects or deficiency in the services
To discontinue the unfair trade practice or not to repeat it
To withdraw the hazardous goods from being offered for sale
To provide the cost of expenditure incurred by the complainant