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The Consumer Protection Act

The Consumer Protection Act

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Published by: rajesh-prabhakaran-rao-1966 on Jul 09, 2010
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The Consumer Protection Act, 1986
Author, Javed Razack, Advocate
 To fulfill the objects of the Act the Central Government has established the Central Consumer Protection Council, and the State governments have established the District forums and the StateConsumer protection Council in their respective states. A complaint may be made by either theconsumer, the government, a recognised consumer society or by one or more consumers having acommon interest, within two years of the grievance arising.A few instances when such a complaint may be made include losses caused to a consumer as aresult of unfair trade practice, defect in goods, deficiency in services, charging in excess of pricedisplayed etc. Once the complaint has been received the other party will be asked to give their version of the case. If the matter pertains to defective goods, the same may be sent to alaboratory for testing. If it relates to a service matter then both parties shall be asked to produceevidence in support of their claims. If the authority is convinced that the complaint is valid thenit may order the producer to remove the defect, replace the goods, return the price paid by theconsumer, or pay an amount to the consumer as compensation for any loss or injury suffered. Anappeal may be made against such orders to the next highest authority If a trader or any personagainst whom an order has been made, fails to comply with the order then they may be fined or imprisoned. On the other hand if a complaint is found to be frivolous or malicious then thecomplainant may be fined.One of the major developments in the Consumer protection Act has been with respect to whether services provided by the medical profession, especially when it is a free service as in the case of government hospitals can fall under the act. It had been argued that technically such professionsdo not provide any contracts µfor services¶. The courts however keeping in mind the fact that theAct was intended to protect consumers have held that all professional services whether free or  paid for would render a person a consumer under the Act.The procedures under the Act and under the Commissions are relatively simpler and moreinformal than under normal litigation. In fact any consumer can appear before the commissionand need not even hire a lawyer to argue one¶s case. Despite the simple procedures there havenot been too many consumer cases in India unlike the United States where the courts are filledwith consumer grievances. One of the reasons for this fact has been the lack of adequateconsumer awareness of their rights in India and the seemingly intimidating structure of courtsand the legal profession. However to its credit, it must be said the Consumer Protection Actremains one of those rare laws which allows for a speedy and simple protection of the rights of ordinary people, and judicious use of the same would foster a greater consumer movement inIndia in this age where the market is flooded with more products but not necessarily moreinformation.
Q. How is my right as a consumer protected under the Consumer Protection Act?
A. The rights of the consumers are invoked in the Indian Legal System through the mechanism provided in the Consumer Protect Act (CPA). The CPA provides for establishment of Consumer 
Protection Councils ± Advisory and recommendation bodies The Consumer Protection Councilsexist at the National, State and District Level. They are basically advisory bodies who meet atleast 3 times a year to discuss and review consumer protection measures and issues. Two thirdsof the members of these councils are non-official including representatives of women andconsumer organisations. Redressal Forums ± Courts The CPA provides for a three-tier quasi judiciary machinery at the national, state and district levels. The District Forum has jurisdictionto entertain complaints where the value of goods / services complained against and thecompensation claimed is less than Rs. 5 lakhs, the State Commission for claims exceeding Rs. 5lakhs but not exceeding Rs. 20 lakhs and the National Commission for claims exceeding Rs. 20lakhs.
Q. Where should one complain?
 A. If the value of the services and compensation asked for is a. < Rs 5 lakhs then one cancomplain to the District Forum at the District Headquarter, b. > 5 lakhs and within Rs. 20 lakhthe complaint can be filed before the concerned State Commission at the State Capital. c. >20lakhs the complaint can be filed before the National Commission. If the consumer is not satisfiedwith the Judgment of the District Forum, he/she can file and appeal to the State Commission.Similarly, appeal against an order of a State Commission lies before the National Commission.Appeal against an order of the National Commission has to be filed before the Supreme Court of India.
Q. What is method of filing a complaint?
A. A complaint shall be instituted in the District Forum within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the opposite party (or any one of the opposite parties where there are more than one)or the defendant actually and voluntarily resides or carries on business, or has a branch office or  personally works for gain at the time of institution of the complaint provided that the other opposite party/parties acquiescence in such institution or the permission of the Forum is obtainedin respect of such opposite parties; or the cause of action arises, wholly or in part.
Who is a consumer?
All of us are consumers of goods and services.A consumer under the act is:
³One who buys any goods, hires any service or services for consideration which has beenpaid or promised or partly paid and partly promised or under any system of deferredpayment.
: A person is not a consumer if he purchases goods for commercial purpose or resale purpose. However, a person is consumer if he purchases goods for the purpose of earning hislivelihood by means of self-employment.
any acts enacted earlier are in force, whether enforced or not. Under any of these acts, one canseek redressal through the courts of law. But, µConsumer Protection Act¶ (Act 68 of 1986) provides for redressal through specially-constituted agencies at different levels
A glimpse of the provisions is presented herein below
 1. It provides for the notification of Central and State Consumer Protection Councils by therespective governments with a view to protect the rights of consumers such as,
the right to be protected (against hazardous goods)
the right to be informed (about quality, quantity, against unfair trade practices, etc)
the right to be heard (of complaints),
the right to seek redressal (through appropriate agencies), and
the right to consumer education2. To promote and protect the rights of the consumers with regard to defective goods,deficient services, overcharging or any unfair trade practices (as defined under 
RTP ACT1969). It includes false statement on quantity or grade of goods/services, false claims tosponsorship, making false and misleading promises on the articles, false projection of the needsfor or usefulness of goods/services, giving warranty on products not based on adequate or proper test, and the like, whether made orally or in writing or by visible representation.
Who can a file a complaint?
A consumer (As above)
Any registered voluntary consumer organisation
The Central Government
The State Government
When can a complaint be filed?
Under the Act, a complaint can be made in writing in the following circumstances:
If you have suffered loss or damage as a result of any unfair trade practices adopted bythe trader.
If the services hired/availed of suffer from deficiencies in any respect.
If you have been charged a price in excess of the price displayed or fixed by or under anylaw for the time being in force.
If, the goods hazardous to life and safety, when used.
How can you file?
 The complaint is to be filed within two years from the date on which cause of action has arisenThere is no fee for filing a complaint. Even an affidavit does not need stamp papers. A complaintcan be sent by post or presented in person by complaint or his authorised agent.

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