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Consumer Rights

Consumer Complaints Redressal

Department of Consumer Affairs has been receiving a very large number of complaints from the consumers regarding shortfall in the supplies/expectations of the consumers. The complaints cover a wide range of subjects like supply of defective refrigerators, T.V. Sets, use of poor material by the builders in the construction of flats, non-refund of fixed deposit amounts by companies on maturity and complaint against unfair trade practice against service providers, etc. 

Consumer Grievance Redressal Cell (CGRC) and Consumer Coordination Council (CCC)

The department had set up a Consumer Grievance Redressal Cell (CGRC) in February 2002, for providing services for redressal of complaints of the consumers belonging to the following categories:
  • Sale of defective goods or deficient services and charging of higher prices, etc.
  • General grievances including those received from the Cabinet Secretary and the PMO related to consumer matters.
  • Attending to the consumer complaints appearing in the columns of the newspapers to the extent possible.
Also, complaints regarding delay in disposal of pending cases with the various districts/States/National Commission were received and processed and necessary follow up action were taken up as pro-active measures in order to redress their grievances to their satisfaction. The Redressal Cell had received 2272 complaints upto 31st March 2007. These complaints were forwarded to the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) for redressal regarding replacement of goods, re-installation of telephone/electricity, rectification of wrong bills, possession of allotted flats, payment of amounts due to the investors on maturity, etc.

The Consumer Grievance Redressal Cell and Consumer Coordination Council do not have any statutory powers to take action on the complaints of consumers. Hence, they forward the complaints to the concerned authorities to get the redressal.

Redressal Mechanism As per the Consumer Protection Act

  • Who Can File A Complaint

  • A complainant in relation to any goods or services may be filled by-

    • A consumer or
    • Any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 (1of 1956)or under any other law for the time being in force or
    • The Central Government or any State Government; or
    • One or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest or
    • In case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative

    A power of attorney holder cannot file a complaint under the Act.

  • What Constitutes a Complaint

  • A complaint means any allegation in writing made by a complainant that-

    • An unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice has been adopted by any trader or service provider
    • The goods bought by him or agreed to be bought by him; suffer from one or more defects
    • The services hired or availed of or agreed to be hired or availed of by him suffer from deficiency in any respect
    • A trader or service provider, as the case may be,  has charged for the goods or for the service mentioned in the complaint a price in excess of the price fixed by or under any law for the time being in force or displayed on the goods or any package containing such goods or displayed on the price list exhibited by him by or under any law for the time being in force or agreed between the parties
    • Goods which will be hazardous to life and safety when used or being offered for sale to the public
    • Services which are hazardous or likely to be hazardous to life and safety of the public when used, are being offered by the service provider which such person could have known with due diligence to be injurious to life and safety.

  • How to File a Complaint

    • A complaint can be filed on a plain paper. It should contain-

      • The name description and address of the complaints and the opposite party
      • The Facts relating to complaint and when and where it arose.
      • Documents in support of allegations in the complaint
      • The relief which the complainants is seeking
      • The complaint should be signed by the complainants or his authorized agent.

    • No lawyer required for filing the complaint
    • Nominal court fee

  • Where to File a Complaint (depends upon the cost of the goods or services or the compensation asked)

    • District Forum: if it is less than Rs. 20 lakhs
    • State Commission: if more than Rs. 20 lakhs but less then Rs. 1 crore
    • National Commission: if more than Rs. 1 crore

  • Integrated Three Stage Consumer Complaint Redressal Mechanism

  • This mechanism includes Consumer Online Research and Empowerment (CORE) Centre, National Consumer Helpline (NCH) and Consumer Voice at Level 1 and FICCI Alliance For Consumer Care at Level 2. While, at Level 3 is the Non Litigation Mechanism or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

    • Consumer Online Research and Empowerment (CORE) Centre

    • A CORE Centre has been set up in collaboration with Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) through signing of an MoU. It is intended to provide the most scientific and effective system of collection and dissemination of consumer related information to generate consumer awareness and empowerment of all sections of the society. It is the only authorized agency of the Department of Consumer Affairs to handle 'Online Consumer Complaints' for redressal through mediation. By accessing the online Complaint Redressal System in the CORE, the consumers can register themselves and lodge their grievance online.

      If the grievance/complaint is still not redressed, complainant is advised that it is up to him to decide, whether he/she would like to take the matter to the Consumer Court. For this, necessary support by way of indication of the procedure and the contact address of the nearest member organisation of CCC, who can provide assistance in this regard, is also provided to the complainant.

    • National Consumer Helpline (NCH)

    • A National Consumer Helpline project was launched by the Department of Consumer Affairs in coordination with Delhi University, Department of Commerce , at an approved cost of Rs. 3.12 crores. Under the helpline, consumers from all over the country can dial toll-free number 1800-11-4000 and seek telephonic for problems that they face as consumers. The helpline intends to deal with problems related to telecom, courier, banking, insurance, financial services, etc.

    • Consumer Voice -Voluntary Organization in Interest of Consumer Education

    • It is a voluntary action group, consisting of academicians, professionals and volunteers, channelising their energies towards creating informed consumers. It raises awareness in consumers not only about malpractices perpetuated in the marketplace, but also about her/his rights. Mission of Voice is to promote right choices in a volatile and dynamic market place by providing consumer education for all through integrating experiential good practices and scientific knowledge for the safety and health of consumers and the environment. It provides legal to its subscribers for seeking grievance redressal under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

    • FICCI Alliance For Consumer Care (FACC)

    • FICCI, with the support of the Department of Consumer Affairs has taken the initiative of setting up a dedicated Centre called "FICCI Alliance for Consumer Care". FACC provides an interface between business and the consumer and facilitates prompt redressal of consumer grievances. It also facilitates a dialogue between the business and consumers for promotion of responsible business practices and consumer satisfaction. It has been set up with a goal of devicing a mechanism and providing a platform that facilitates prompt redressal of consumer complaints through voluntary self-regulation and consumer education.

    • FACC Dispute Resolution

    • A neutral body, which will have panel of professionally trained mediators, will be responsible for dealing with complaint redressal. The Centre will only facilitate communication between the company and the complainant to help both sides resolve the complaint. In many cases, mediation and conciliation may be available to help resolve the dispute.

      FACC's value to the business community is based on its neutrality. The system is not to act as an advocate for business or consumers, but to act as a mutually trusted intermediary, to resolve disputes, to facilitate communication and to provide information on ethical business practices.

      When FACC Board receives a complaint, it refers it to the business concerned for dealing with it and most companies would be happy at the opportunity given to resolve the problem, since their patronage by the customer is preserved. At the same time FACC has no legal powers and it cannot force a company to respond, nor can they enforce any sanctions.

    • Non Litigation Mechanism or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

    • Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) consists of a variety of approaches to dispute resolution, many of which include the use of a neutral individual such as a mediator who can assist disputing parties in resolving their disagreements. ADR increases the parties' opportunities to resolve disputes prior to or during the use of formal administrative procedures and litigation (which can be very costly and time-consuming).

      ADR is generally classified into at least three subtypes: negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. The salient features of each type are as follows:

      • In negotiation, participation is voluntary and there is no third party who facilitates the resolution process or imposes a resolution.
      • In mediation, there is a third party, a mediator, who facilitates the resolution process (and may even suggest a resolution, typically known as a "mediator's proposal"), but does not impose a resolution on the parties.
      • In arbitration, participation is typically voluntary, and there is a third party who, as a private judge, imposes a resolution. Arbitrations often occur because parties to contracts agree that any future dispute concerning the agreement will be resolved by arbitration. In recent years, the enforceability of arbitration clauses, particularly in the context of consumer agreements (e.g., credit card agreements), has drawn scrutiny from courts. Although parties may appeal arbitration outcomes to courts, such appeals face an exacting standard of review.

  • Computerization and Computer Networking of Consumer Forums in the Country (Confonet)
  • This scheme has been launched through National Informatics Centre (NIC) as a turnkey project to be implemented from 2004-05. The objective of the scheme is to provide I.T solutions in order to achieve e-governance, transparency, efficiency of consumer fora and facilitate disposal of cases in a time bound manner. It will help in systematizing processing of various types of cases, data and generation of reports and also facilitate better administrative control for subsequent maintenance. It will enable consumers to file their complaints online and to see the status of their cases on the website. Under it, all consumer related websites (those of National Commission, State Commissions, District Fora, Department of Consumer Affairs, CORE Centre, National Consumer Helpline, etc) will be linked so that consumers can access any consumer related information from any of these websites.

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