Making a Complaint to the Consumer Commission

A consumer, aggrieved by a consumer dispute, can file a complaint in consumer dispute redressal commission at the district level called District Commission or at the state level called State Commission or at the national level called National Commission, depending on the value of the money involved in the dispute.

The Consume Protection Act 2019 and the rules or regulations framed under it deal with it.

Pecuniary jurisdiction of each Commission

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.

The State Commission shall consider cases exceeding one crore but not more than ten crore rupees.

The National Commission can consider complaints involving more than ten crore rupees.

Procedure for complaint at every tier is similar

The procedure for making a complaint to District, State or National Commission is similar, and in accordance with the Sections 35 to 39 of the Consumer Protection act.

Manner of making a complaint

A consumer or a registered consumer association or the government, alleging an unfair trade practice in respect of the goods or services, can file a complaint in the specified manner regard to:

  1. any goods sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered, or
  2. any service provided or agreed to be provided

Every complaint shall be accompanied with the amount of fee in the prescribed manner.

On receipt of the complaint, the District Commission, presided over by the President, by its order allow the complaint or reject it, after giving the complainant an opportunity to be heard, ordinarily within 21 days of the receipt of the complaint.

If the admission or rejection of the complaint is not decided by the commission within 21 days it shall deemed to have been admitted.

Procedure on admission of a complaint

After admission of the complaint and first hearing of it or later, the District Commission, when it appears that there exist elements of a settlement, directs the parties to give in writing within 5 days consent to have their dispute settled by mediation.

If the parties agree and give their consent in writing, the Commission shall within five days refer the matter for mediation.

Settlement through mediation

When a consumer complaint is referred to mediation and the parties arrive at a settlement partially or fully, the Mediator shall prepare a Settlement Report of the settlement between parties, and forward it to the Commission along with the agreement signed by the parties, as well.

The Commission then shall record the settlement and dispose of the case within seven days of receipt of the Settlement Report.

If settlement fails and no agreement is arrived at between parties, the Mediator shall send the Commission a report of the settlement failure. Then the Commission shall continue to hear the complaint and dispose of as usual.

Mediation process is governed by the Consumer Protection (Mediation) Rules 2020.

What the Commission must do when mediation fails?

If mediation fails in arriving at a settlement and the complaint is relating to the goods, the District Commission shall refer a copy of the complaint to the opposite party within 21 days and directs him to give his version of the case within a period of 30 days or an extended period of not more than 15 days.

If the respondent, on receipt of the copy of the complaint, denies or disputes the allegations or omits or fails to take any action to represent the case, the District Commission shall proceed with the complaint.

In complaint relating to goods

If the complaint is about a defect in the goods which cannot be determined without proper analysis and the defect needs a proper analysis or test to find out the defect, the District Commission shall obtain a sample of the goods from the complainant, seal it and authenticate it and refer it to the appropriate laboratory with proper direction to detect the defects in the goods. The laboratory should analyse the goods normally within 45 days of the receipt of the reference or such extended period.

The District Commission shall ask the complainant to deposit the amount of fee before sending the sample to the laboratory to pay for the test.

On receipt of the test report the District Commission shall send a copy of it to the opposite party with necessary comments.

If there is dispute as to the findings of the laboratory, the District Commission will ask the party to submit it in writing.

Thereafter the District commission will give both parties an opportunity of being heard as to the correctness or otherwise of, or objection to the report. Then district Commission will issue an appropriate order.

Complaint relating to service

If the complaint admitted is on deficiency of service, the District Commission shall refer a copy of the complaint to the other party directing him to give his version within 30 days or an extended period of 15 days also.

If the other party on receipt of the complaint, denies the allegation or omits or fails to take any action, the District Commission shall proceed with the case on the basis of evidence bought before it by both parties.

If the complaint fails to appear before the District Commission will either dismiss the complaint for default or decide it on merit. If the opposite party does not appear the complaint shall be decided based on merit based on the evidence produced by the complainant.

Every complaint shall be heard ordinarily within three months from the date of receipt of notice by the opposite party if laboratory test is not needed, and within 5 months if laboratory test is needed.

The District Commission shall hear every complaint based on affidavit and documentary evidence.

Without sufficient cause it is not permissible to give adjournment. If it is granted the reasons have to be recorded. If adjournment is given the District Commission may impose cost as detailed in the regulation.

If the District Commission is issuing order after the stipulated period the reasons must be noted. The District Commission is empowered to issue interim orders whenever appropriate.

The District Commission has powers to:

  1. Summon and enforce attendance of any defendant or witness
  2. Discovery and production of any document or other materials
  3. Receive evidence on affidavit
  4. Requisition report or test results
  5. Issue any commission

A proceeding before the District Commission is a judicial proceeding for IPC 193 and 228. The District Commission is a civil court for the purpose of Section 195 CrPC. That means it can take further action on fabricated documents or evidence presented before it.

Product liability complaint

A consumer can make complaint for product liability. That means a complaint filed by a person can be for compensation for the harm caused to him on account of defective product manufactured, sold or served deficiently. This is called product liability action. The manufacturer, distributor and seller are liable under this.

The Chapter VI of the Consumer Protection Act deals with this issue.

False and misleading advertisements

Any manufacturer or service provider who causes false or misleading advertisement which is prejudicial to the interest of the consumer can be punished with two years’ imprisonment and with fine extending upt ten lakhs for the offence.

Manufacturing or selling adulterated products

A person manufacturing or distributing or selling adulterated product can be punished under Section 90 of the Consumer Protection Act.

The punishment shall range from six months imprisonment to seven years imprisonment as provided in the Section depending on the gravity of the case.

Order of the District Commission

The District Commission, after conducting the proceedings finds that there are defects in the service or deficiency in service, issue any of the following solution:

  1. Reverse the defect from the goods
  2. Replace the goods
  3. Return the price to the complainant
  4. Pay such amount as compensation
  5. Remove the defect in goods or defect in service
  6. Discontinue unfair trade practice
  7. Not to offer hazardous goods for sale
  8. Withdraw hazardous goods from sale
  9. Cease manufacturing hazardous goods
  10. To pay such sum toward loss or injury
  11. Issue corrective advertisement

Conduct of proceedings

Every proceeding shall be conducted by the President along with a member, at least.

Every order shall be signed by the President and the Member/s who conducted the proceeding.

When a proceeding is conducted by the President and a Member differ in regard to the decision, then the matter should be referred to the third member. In such a case the opinion of the majority shall be final as the order of the District Commission. Such an order shall be signed by the third member as well.

Review of the order by the District Commission

The District Commission shall have the power to review its own order if there is an error apparent on the face of the record either by its own motion or on an application by any of the parties, within 30 days of such an order.

Appeal against District, State or National commission

A person aggrieved by an order of the District Commission can prefer an appeal against such order to the State Commission on the grounds of fact or law, within 45 days. The State Commission can entertain an appeal filed after the period if it satisfied with the reason for delay.

No appeal shall be entertained if the appellant has deposited fifty per cent of the amount payable by the order.

Appeal against State Commissions can be filed before the National Commission within thirty days. Delayed appeals can be entertained if sufficient causes are shown.

An appeal against the order of the National Commission can be filed before the Supreme Court within thirty days. The Supreme Court can accept delayed appeals on genuine reasons.

Further reading

  1. The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020