As a consumer, you have several rights under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. If a seller has sold you a defective product or a service provider has provided inadequate service, you can seek relief under the law by filing a Consumer Complaint.
A Consumer Complaint is a formal complaint against a seller or service provider and is filed before the appropriate consumer forum (also called consumer court). The Complaint is filed when the seller or service provider fails to rectify the problem even after receiving a legal notice.
The Complaint contains details and documentary evidence about the defective product and/or service, along with the compensation and relief sought by you. Consumer Courts in India are separate from other courts and established exclusively to provide relief to consumers and therefore, are known to provide quick and effective legal relief.
What Are The Benefits or Remedies Available To Filing Consumer Complaints?
- A full refund of the amount you have paid.
- The defect in the goods or service deficiencies will be rectified.
- Replacement to the defective product.
- Reimbursement of all legal costs incurred in filing the complaint.
- Compensation for any loss or suffering (including mental agony).
- The seller may be ordered to discontinue his/her unfair trade practice.
- The complaint can be filed in the District/State, where the seller resides or conducts his/her business, or in the place where the purchase was made or the service was rendered.
- If the sale or purchase was made online, then the place mentioned in the terms of service for dealing with disputes, on the seller’s website, shall be chosen for filing the complaint.
Checklist For Who Can File A Consumer Complaint In India
According to the Consumer Protection Act, you can file a Consumer Complaint if you are:-
- A consumer – i.e. an individual who purchases goods or avails services for his/her personal use (but not for resale or commercial purposes).
- Any registered volunteer organization that acts on behalf of consumers (e.g. The Consumer Guidance Society of India).
- A group of consumers having a common interest.
- Legal heirs of a deceased consumer.
- Relatives of a consumer.
- he legal guardian of a consumer, in case the consumer is a minor.
What are your Rights as a Consumer?
As a consumer in India, the Consumer Protection Act guarantees you the following rights, among others:
Right to Safety – the right to be protected against any hazardous or potentially dangerous products or services.
Right to Information – The right to information about the products or services you are purchasing.
Right to Choose – As a consumer, you are entitled to have access to a variety of products and services at competitive price points from which you are able to choose as per your needs.
Right to Be Heard – If your consumer rights have been violated by a seller or service provider, you have the right to make your concerns heard and seek redressal through the various consumer courts in each district.
Right Against Unfair Trade Practices – You are also granted various rights against any kind of unfair trade practices, such as refusal to issue a bill, “No Refund”/ “No Bargaining”/ “No Exchange” policies, etc.
How to File a Consumer Complaint?
STEP 1: SEND A WRITTEN NOTICE
The first step is to send a written notice to the Seller or Manufacturer explaining the problem and the reason why you are unhappy with the product or service.
What your notice should contain:
- All the facts with relevant details like dates, times and amounts –
- Any complaint or reference numbers.
- Names of the representatives of the Seller that you have been interacting with.
- Maintain courtesy and politeness at all times.
- State the amount of your claim clearly.
- Provide at least 15 days for the other party to reply to your notice.
- State that you will approach the Consumer Forum if the issue is not resolved.
- Address the Notice to the correct party/parties.
- Send the notice through registered post and record the acknowledgement of receipt.
In the notice, you should not:
- Use foul language.
- State anything which is factually incorrect.
- Use threatening language.
- Be vague about the amount you want to claim.
- Forget to mention the reference/ invoice/ complaint numbers.
- Demand excessive compensation – it is important to be realistic and get a speedy resolution.
For claims over Rs. 10,000, it is highly recommended that you consult a lawyer and send the notice through the lawyer, on an official letterhead. This will indicate to the seller that you are serious about taking legal action.
STEP 2: WAIT FOR THE SELLER TO RESPOND
Once you send the legal notice, it is likely that the company will respond to your issue. Some might offer you fair compensation. At this stage, you must know what reasonable compensation is acceptable to you. Demanding a very high amount as compensation will get you nowhere as courts will not entertain. If there is no response within the stipulated time, which is usually 15 days, you have the right to approach the consumer forum.
STEP 3: CHOOSE THE CORRECT FORUM
Based on the value of goods or services you have purchased or the compensation you claim,, you can approach the appropriate consumer forum/commission, i.e., the District Forum, State Commission or the National Commission. You have the option of filing the complaint yourself or appointing an advocate to represent you before the forum/commission. The time taken for the proceedings can range between 6 to 18 months.
STEP 4: FILE A WRITTEN COMPLAINT
Each forum has a prescribed format you must adhere to while filing the written complaint. You must attach all the relevant documents supporting your complaint, like invoices, receipts, delivery challans, communication in writing (emails and SMS also), etc. It is important to submit the legal notice that you went to the seller or service provider so that the court is convinced that you tried to resolve this dispute out-of-court.
STEP 5: COURT FEE FOR CONSUMER COMPLAINT
To file a consumer complaint, you must pay a court fee:
- District Forum – Rs.500
- State Commission – Rs.2000
- National Commission – Rs.5000
If the case is decided in your favour, the Court will direct the seller to compensate you including all your legal costs, such as court fees and lawyer fees.