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Consumer Case against defective goods
Consumer cases or a consumer complaint can be filed against defective goods or services by a consumer. The law related to Consumer cases has been defined under the Consumer Protection Act.
The Consumer Protection Act has been amended in 2019 thereby incorporating several important aspects.
The Consumer Disputes Act is now more specific, powerful incorporating all the important aspects of consumer interest in a more comprehensive manner.
Any consumer case or consumer complaint can only be filed in accordance with the mandate provided therein.
Consumer Protection Act provides for the determination and adjudication of the consumer case or the consumer complaint at three lawyers depending upon the value of the goods or services under dispute.
The District Consumer Redressal Commission being at the first layer is created and constituted under Section 28 ( 1) of the Consumer Protection Act which reads as under:
Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission at District Level
28. (1) The State Government shall, by notification, establish a District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, to be known as the District Commission, in each district of the State:
Provided that the State Government may, if it deems fit, establish more than one District Commission in a district.
(2) Each District Commission shall consist of
(a) a President; and
(b) not less than two and not more than a such number of members as may be prescribed, in consultation with the Central Government.
Section 34 of the Consumer Protection Act defines the jurisdiction, power and authority of the District Consumer Commission which mainly determines the value of the goods and services for which the Consumer Complaint can be filed as one Crore.
The Consumer Protection Act further determines the jurisdiction of the consumer courts and other related aspects of the matter.
The process and provision of filing the consumer complaint are thus prescribed under this section. Section 34 can be read for ready reference as under:
34. (1) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, 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:
Provided that where the Central Government deems it necessary so to do, it may prescribe such other value, as it deems fit.
(2) A complaint shall be instituted in a District Commission within the local limits of whose jurisdiction,
(a) the opposite party or each of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, ordinarily resides or carries on business or has a branch office or personally works for gain; or
(b) any of the opposite parties, where there are more than one, at the time of the institution of the complaint, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business or has a branch office, or personally works for gain, provided that in such case the permission of the District Commission is given; or
(c) the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises; or
(d) the complainant resides or personally works for gain.
(3) The District Commission shall ordinarily function in the district headquarters and may perform its functions at such other places in the district, as the State Government may, in consultation with the State Commission, notify in the Official Gazette from time to time.
35. (1) A complaint, in relation to any goods sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or any service provided or agreed to be provided, may be filed with a District Commission by
(a) the consumer,
(i) to whom such goods are sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or such service is provided or agreed to be provided; or
(ii) who alleges unfair trade practice in respect of such goods or service;
(b) any recognized consumer association, whether the consumer to whom such goods are sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered or such service is provided or agreed to be provided, or who alleges unfair trade practice in respect of such goods or service, is a member of such association or not;
(c) one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest, with the permission of the District Commission, on behalf of, or for the benefit of, all consumers so interested; or
(d) the Central Government, the Central Authority or the State Government, as the case may be:
Provided that the complaint under this subsection may be filed electronically in such a manner as may be prescribed.
Explanation. For the purposes of this sub-section, “recognized consumer association” means any voluntary consumer association registered under any law for the time being in force.
(2) Every complaint filed under sub-section (1) shall be accompanied with such fee and payable in such manner, including electronic form, as may be prescribed.
36. (1) Every proceeding before the District Commission shall be conducted by the
President of that Commission and at least one member thereof, sitting together:
Provided that where a member, for any reason, is unable to conduct a proceeding till it is completed, the President and the other member shall continue the proceeding from the stage at which it was last heard by the previous member.
(2) On receipt of a complaint made under section 35, the District Commission may, by order, admit the complaint about being proceeded with or reject the same:
Provided that a complaint shall not be rejected under this section unless an opportunity of being heard has been given to the complainant:
Provided further that the admissibility of the complaint shall ordinarily be decided within twenty-one days from the date on which the complaint was filed.
(3) Where the District Commission does not decide the issue of admissibility of the complaint within the period so specified, it shall be deemed to have been admitted.
Provisions for settlement by way of mediation has also been made in the Consumer Protection Act if a consumer case or consumer complaint is filed by a consumer. This is intended to reduce the long drawn litigation on various issues. The entire mechanism for handing the consumer case or the consumer complaint before mediation has been described in Section 37 which reads as under:
37. (1) At the first hearing of the complaint after its admission, or at any later stage, if it appears to the District Commission that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, except in such cases as may be prescribed, it may direct the parties to give in writing, within five days, consent to have their dispute settled by mediation in accordance with the provisions of Chapter V.
(2) Where the parties agree for settlement by mediation and give their consent in writing, the District Commission shall, within five days of receipt of such consent, refer the matter for mediation, and in such case, the provisions of Chapter V, relating to mediation, shall apply.
Comprehensive provision for determination and adjudication of the consumer case has been given thereafter in Section 38 of the Consumer Protection Act.
The process is similar to other courts like the determination of any dispute, however, the Consumer case being a specific matter related to the dispute of quality of services or deficiency of services or defective goods, etc needs a specialized manner of dealing hence the same is prescribed in this section. Section 38 of the Consumer Protection Act reads as under:
38. (1) The District Commission shall, on the admission of a complaint, or in respect of cases referred for mediation on the failure of settlement by mediation, proceed with such complaint.
(2) Where the complaint relates to any goods, the District Commission shall,
(a) refer a copy of the admitted complaint, within twenty-one days from the date of its admission to the opposite party mentioned in the complaint directing him to give his version of the case within a period of thirty days or such extended period not exceeding fifteen days as may be granted by it;
(b) if the opposite party on receipt of a complaint referred to him under clause (a) denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the District Commission, proceed to settle the consumer dispute in the manner specified in clauses (c) to (g);
(c) if the complaint alleges a defect in the goods which cannot be determined without proper analysis or test of the goods, obtain a sample of the goods from the complainant, seal it and authenticate it in the manner as may be prescribed and refer the sample so sealed to the appropriate laboratory along with a direction that such laboratory to make an analysis or test, whichever may be necessary, with a view to finding out whether such goods suffer from any defect alleged in the complaint or from any other defect and to report its findings thereon to the District Commission within a period of forty-five days of the receipt of the reference or within such extended period as may be granted by it;
(d) before any sample of the goods is referred to any appropriate laboratory under clause (c), require the complainant to deposit to the credit of the Commission such fees as may be specified, for payment to the appropriate laboratory for carrying out the necessary analysis or test in relation to the goods in question;
(e) remit the amount deposited to its credit under clause (d) to the appropriate laboratory to enable it to carry out the analysis or test mentioned in clause (c) and on receipt of the report from the appropriate laboratory, it shall forward a copy of the report along with such remarks as it may feel appropriate to the opposite party;
(f) if any of the parties disputes the correctness of the findings of the appropriate laboratory, or disputes the correctness of the methods of analysis or test adopted by the appropriate laboratory, require the opposite party or the complainant to submit in writing his objections with regard to the report made by the appropriate laboratory;
(g) give a reasonable opportunity to the complainant as well as the opposite party of being heard as to the correctness or otherwise of the report made by the appropriate laboratory and also as to the objection made in relation thereto under clause (f) and issue an appropriate order under section 39.
(3) The District Commission shall, if the complaint admitted by it under sub-section (2) of section 36 relates to goods in respect of which the procedure specified in sub-section (2) cannot be followed, or if the complaint relates to any services,
(a) refer a copy of such complaint to the opposite party directing him to give his version of the case within a period of thirty days or such extended period not exceeding fifteen days as may be granted by the District Commission;
(b) if the opposite party, on receipt of a copy of the complaint, referred to him under clause (a) denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the District Commission, it shall proceed to settle the consumer dispute
(i) on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant and the opposite party, if the opposite party denies or disputes the allegations contained in the complaint, or
(ii) ex parte on the basis of evidence brought to its notice by the complainant, where the opposite party omits or fails to take any action to represent his case within the time given by the Commission;
(c) decide the complaint on merits if the complainant fails to appear on the date of hearing.
(4) For the purposes of sub-sections (2) and (3), the District Commission may, by order, require an electronic service provider to provide such information, documents or records, as may be specified in that order.
(5) No proceedings complying with the procedure laid down in sub-sections (1) and
(2) shall be called in question in any court on the ground that the principles of natural justice have not been complied with.
(6) Every complaint shall be heard by the District Commission on the basis of affidavit and documentary evidence placed on record:
Provided that where an application is made for hearing or for the examination of parties in person or through video conferencing, the District Commission may, on sufficient cause being shown, and after recording its reasons in writing, allow the same.
(7) Every complaint shall be disposed of as expeditiously as possible and endeavor shall be made to decide the complaint within a period of three months from the date of receipt of notice by an opposite party where the complaint does not require analysis or testing of commodities and within five months if it requires analysis or testing of commodities:
Provided that no adjournment shall ordinarily be granted by the District Commission unless sufficient cause is shown and the reasons for the grant of adjournment have been recorded in writing by the Commission:
Provided further that the District Commission shall make such orders as to the costs occasioned by the adjournment as may be specified by regulations:
Provided also that in the event of a complaint being disposed of after the period so specified, the District Commission shall record in writing, the reasons for the same at the time of disposing of the said complaint.
(8) Where during the pendency of any proceeding before the District Commission, if it appears necessary, it may pass such interim order as is just and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.
(9) For the purposes of this section, the District Commission shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 while trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely:
(a) the summoning and enforcing the attendance of any defendant or witness and examining the witness on oath;
(b) requiring the discovery and production of any document or another material object as evidence;
(c) receiving of evidence on affidavits;
(d) the requisitioning of the report of the concerned analysis or test from the appropriate laboratory or from any other relevant source;
(e) issuing of commissions for the examination of any witness, or document; and
(f) any other matter which may be prescribed by the Central Government.
(10) Every proceeding before the District Commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code, and the District Commission shall be deemed to be a criminal court for the purposes of section 195 and Chapter XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
(11) Where the complainant is a consumer referred to in sub-clause (v) of clause (5) of section 2, the provisions of Order I Rule 8 of the First Schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure,
1908 shall apply subject to the modification that every reference therein to a suit or decree shall be construed as a reference to a complaint or the order of the District Commission thereon.
(12) In the event of death of a complainant who is a consumer or of the opposite party against whom the complaint has been filed, the provisions of Order XXII of the First Schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 shall apply subject to the modification that every reference therein to the plaintiff and the defendant shall be construed as reference to a complainant or the opposite party, as the case may be.
Further, the Consumer Commission has been specifically empowered to pass orders if the consumer case or the consumer complaint is decided in favor of the consumer and the allegations as made by him are found to be correct.
The outcome of the consumer case or the consumer complaint thus can be in the manner prescribed under the provisions contained in the Consumer Protection Act.
This is all contained in Section 39 of the Consumer Protection Act. Section 39 of the Consumer Disputes Act is given hereunder for ready reference as under:
39. (1) Where the District Commission is satisfied that the goods complained against suffering from any of the defects specified in the complaint or that any of the allegations contained in the complaint about the services or any unfair trade practices, or claims for compensation under product liability are proved, it shall issue an order to the opposite party directing him to do one or more of the following, namely:—
(a) to remove the defect pointed out by the appropriate laboratory from the goods in question;
(b) to replace the goods with new goods of similar description which shall be free from any defect;
(c) to return to the complainant the price, or, as the case may be, the charges paid by the complainant along with such interest on such price or charges as may be decided;
(d) to pay such amount as may be awarded by it as compensation to the consumer for any loss or injury suffered by the consumer due to the negligence of the opposite party:
Provided that the District Commission shall have the power to grant punitive damages in such circumstances as it deems fit;
(e) to pay such amount as may be awarded by it as compensation in a product liability action under Chapter VI;
(f) to remove the defects in goods or deficiencies in the services in question;
(g) to discontinue the unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice and not to repeat them;
(h) not to offer hazardous or unsafe goods for sale;
(i) to withdraw the hazardous goods from being offered for sale;
(j) to cease manufacture of hazardous goods and to desist from offering services which are hazardous in nature;
(k) to pay such sum as may be determined by it, if it is of the opinion that loss or injury has been suffered by a large number of consumers who are not identifiable conveniently:
Provided that the minimum amount of sum so payable shall not be less than twenty-five percent. of the value of such defective goods sold or service provided, as the case may be, to such consumers;
(l) to issue corrective advertisement to neutralize the effect of misleading advertisement at the cost of the opposite party responsible for issuing such misleading advertisement;
(m) to provide for adequate costs to parties; and
(n) to cease and desist from issuing any misleading advertisement.
(2) Any amount obtained under sub-section (1) shall be credited to such fund and utilized in such manner as may be prescribed.
(3) In any proceeding conducted by the President and a member and if they differ on any point or points, they shall state the point or points on which they differ and refer the same to another member for hearing on such point or points and the opinion of the majority shall be the order of the District Commission:
Provided that the other member shall give his opinion on such point or points referred to him within a period of one month from the date of such reference.
(4) Every order made by the District Commission under sub-section (1) shall be signed by the President and the member who conducted the proceeding:
Provided that where the order is made as per majority opinion under sub-section (3), such order shall also be signed by the other member.
40. The District Commission shall have the power to review any of the orders passed by it if there is an error apparent on the face of the record, either of its own motion or on an application made by any of the parties within thirty days of such order.
Looking at all the aspects of the Consumer case, we find that the interest of the consumer has been protected under this legislation and the entire process has been simplified and made easy so that any person can approach the consumer court and file a consumer case at his own level. The process has been simplified by the legislature for filing a consumer complaint in the interest of a consumer looking at the social aspect of the legislation.
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