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.
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:
In the notice, you should not:
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:
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.
Where Do You file Consumer Complaints?
The Forum you have to approach is decided based on the value of the goods & services purchased and the compensation you are claiming. If the total amount is:
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.
FAQs on Consumer Complaints
Do I need a lawyer to file a Consumer Complaint?
It is good to hire a lawyer in cases where the value is high or where the complaint is of a very serious nature, such as medical negligence. Consumer lawyers are experienced in handling these cases and know how to file complaints in court, so they can help you put together a tight case against the offender.
How long does it take to resolve a Consumer Complaint?
It generally takes between 8 to 18 months to complete a Consumer Complaint case. In matters that are contentious, it could take a bit longer. Sometimes an out of court settlement is also possible, in which case issues can be resolved much faster.
Are there any standard metrics for claiming compensation?
There are no such metrics as defined by the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. However, a reasonable amount is always expected to be claimed as compensation, along with the justification as to why such an amount is being claimed.
What is the procedure for filing Consumer Complaints online?
Once the notice is sent to the vendor and there is no response within the time prescribed or if the vendor rejects the notice.
Can I directly file a Consumer Complaint without a legal notice?
The court expects you to try and resolve the dispute before approaching them. Hence, the legal notice serves as proof of this. The notice is given to the concerned party and then there is a waiting period of 15 days before filing a complaint with the Consumer Forum.
Who is not a consumer?
If a product or service is free or purchased for commercial purposes, then you cannot approach the Consumer Court, hence not considered as a consumer.
Is there any exemption from the payment of Fee?
The complainants who are Below the Poverty Line (BPL) shall be entitled to the exemption of payment of a fee for complaints up to ₹1 lakh on the production of an attested copy of the ‘Antyodaya Anna Yojana’ card.