Definition of consumer:
Under section 2(7) of the Act, it is stated that consumer is anyone who:
(i) buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or
(ii) hires or avails of any service for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such service other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first-mentioned person, but does not include a person who avails of such service for any commercial purpose.
Definition of deficiency in service
If we talk about deficiency, then we should know that deficiency is related to Service Not Goods. Under this Act, deficiency is always of Service. Any problems in the Goods purchased are defined as defects and defects in Service is termed as deficiency. Deficiency is defined in the Act under section 2(11):
“deficiency” means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service and includes:
(i) any act of negligence or omission or commission by such person which causes loss or injury to the consumer; and
(ii) deliberate withholding of relevant information by such person to the consumer;
Consumer protection redressal agencies–This Act deals with 3 redressal mechanism to protect the rights of the consumers. They are as follows:
Under Section 28(1), the State Government establishes at least one District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission in every district of the State. The Government can establish more than one district commission if it thinks fit. Every district commission should have a minimum of one president and two members but can have more members after consulting with the Central Government. If the redressal value is Rs. 1 crore or less than that then anyone can approach the district commission.
Who can file a complaint at the district commission?
The following people can file a complaint at the commission under section 35(1) of the Act:
- The consumer
- Consumer Association
- One or more consumers appearing on behalf of all consumers with a common interest
These consumers would first need to get permission from the District Commission to proceed with the complaint in such a manner.
- The Central Government, The State Government or the Central Authority as the case might be.
Under Section 34(2), a complaint can be filed at the District Court under within whose local limits:
- The opposite party or each of the opposition parties, in case there are more than one, normally reside, or carry on business, or have a branch or personally work for gain.
- Any of the opposite parties ordinarily reside, or carry on business, or personally work for gain. Provided, the permission of the district commission is taken.
- Where the cause of action wholly or partly arises.
- Where the complainant resides or personally works for gain.
On filing the complaint, it is necessary for the Commission to admit or reject the complaint within 21 days of receiving the complaint. It is legally prohibited under Section 36 for the commission to reject a complaint without first hearing the complainant. It is also necessary for every proceeding to be presided by the President and one member at least. Where the member who has been sitting for a particular proceeding is absent, the proceeding can be resumed with another method.
Once the complaint is admitted, the commission must:
- Refer a copy of the complaint, within 21 days of the complaint being admitted, to the opposite party and direct it to give its version of the story within 30 days or the extended period granted by the commission.
- If the opposite party disputes the allegation or fails and omits to take any action regarding the complaint, then district commission must deal with it in the following ways.
- Must seal the allegedly defective goods, and send them to the appropriate laboratory after authenticating it in the manner required. It must direct the laboratory to find if there is any genuine fault with the goods and report its findings to the commission within 45 days or how much ever time granted by the commission.
- Before the goods go to the library, the complainant must be directed to deposit the sum of money required for testing in the credit of the commission.
- If any of the parties dispute the correctness of the finding of the laboratory, then the parties must be directed to submit their objections in writing to the commission.
- Give a reasonable opportunity to the opposite party or the initiating party to be heard regarding their objections.
If the above-mentioned procedure can’t be followed due to the lack of goods to take a sample from or if the defect alleged is in the service of the opposite party. Then the commission shall settle the dispute:
- On the basis of evidence provided by the complainant or the opposite party if the opposite party disputes the allegation.
- Take an ex parte decision if the opposite party omits to do anything regarding the allegations.
- Decide the case on its merits if the complainant fails to show up for the hearing.
If it’s inconvenient for the party to show up to the commission in person, you can submit an application for hearing or examination of parties through video conferencing and if the district commission agrees with the reasons then it may allow so after recording the reason.
The commission must deal with the case as expeditiously as possible and endeavour must be done to dispose of the case within three months if no analysis or testing is required and five months if analysis and testing are required.
If a party is aggrieved by the order of the district commission, then they may prefer an appeal to the State Commission within 45 days of receiving such order. Even though the State Commission may entertain the plea after 45 days if sufficient reason is given by the party.
The State Commission shall not hear the appeal of the party if the party has to pay a certain amount ordered to be paid by the District Commission. Minimum 50% of the amount must be paid before the State Commission will hear the appeal.
The State government establishes a State commission, under section 42(1) of the Act, in the state through the notification and can even establish regional branches if it seems fit. Each State Commission shall consist of one President and no less than four members and a maximum of as many members as is required.
According to section 47, the State Commission has the jurisdiction to entertain:
(i) complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration, exceeds rupees one crore but does not exceed rupees ten crores:
Provided that where the Central Government deems it necessary so to do, it may prescribe such other value, as it deems fit;
(ii) complaints against unfair contracts, where the value of goods or services paid as consideration does not exceed ten crore rupees;
(iii) appeals against the orders of any District Commission within the State;
Apart from that, it also has the jurisdiction to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which is pending before or has been decided by any District Commission within the State, where it appears to the State Commission that such District Commission has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested or has acted in exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity. A bench of the State Commission must consist of a President and one member or more if the president deems it fit.
The State Commission also has the power to shift proceedings from one district commission to another under section 48. The State Commission can do that on its own cognizance or through an application filed by the parties. But it must be to serve the purpose of justice.
State Commission disposes of the case in the exact same method as the District Commission and also holds the power to review its own cases.
If aggrieved by the decision, the aggrieved party may prefer an appeal to the National Commission within 30 days of receiving the order from the state commission. If sufficient reason is shown, then the national commission can also entertain the plea after the thirty days.
The national commission shall not listen to an appeal if the person who has to pay a particular amount from the order of the state commission, has not paid at least 50% of the amount ordered to be paid.The appeal must be dealt with expeditiously and endeavours must be made to dispose of the appeal within 90 days from its date of admission.
Under Section 53(1), the Central Government establishes a National commission through notification. The main National Commission operates on the national capital region but the Central government can establish regional branches through notification. The National Commission must have one president and at least 4 members with the maximum being whatever is prescribed by the national government.
The National Commission has jurisdiction, under section 58 of the Act:
(a) to entertain:
(i) complaints where the value of the goods or services paid as consideration exceeds rupees ten crores: Provided that where the Central Government deems it necessary so to do, it may prescribe such other value, as it deems fit;
(ii) complaints against unfair contracts, where the value of goods or services paid as consideration exceeds ten crore rupees;
(iii) appeals against the orders of any State Commission;
(iv) appeals against the orders of the Central Authority; and
(b) to call for the records and pass appropriate orders in any consumer dispute which is pending before or has been decided by any State Commission where it appears to the National Commission that such State Commission has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested, or has acted in the exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity.
A bench in the National Commission must at least consist of the President and one member but there can be more members if the President deems it fit.
The National Commission disposes of a case in the same manner as the district commission and also reserves the right to review its cases suo moto or based on an application filed by one of the parties.
This article provides basic knowledge on different topics of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. It talks on District Forum, State Commission and National Commission. These three authorities help in providing justice to the Consumers.