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Topic: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and How to use it effectively By: Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Research Scholar, JNU.

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Presentation on theme: "Topic: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and How to use it effectively By: Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Research Scholar, JNU."— Presentation transcript:

1 Topic: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and How to use it effectively By: Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Research Scholar, JNU Mob.: th May, to 6 pm Organised by: Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi.

2 2 Todays discussion is about: 1.History of Consumer Protection 2. A cursory discussion about some laws other than Consumer Protection Act, Who is a consumer under the Consumer Protection Act? 4. What are the things which can be complained against? 5. When and by whom a complaint can be made? 5. What reliefs are available to the consumers ? 7. Adjudicatory mechanisms under Consumer Protection Act 6. Question and Answer session

3 3 Consumer Protection Act, 1986 [ As amended by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002] Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was amended thrice:

4 4 Every person is the consumer in the literal sense of the term When we approach the market as a consumer, we expect value for money, i.e., right quality, right quantity, right prices, information about the mode of use, etc. But there may be instances where a consumer is harassed or cheated. The Government understood the need to protect consumers from unscrupulous suppliers, producers, traders, manufacturers and service providers etc. and several laws have been made for this purpose. Prior to the passing of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, these laws to some extent protect the consumer interests. However, these laws require the consumer to initiate action by way of a civil suit or criminal complaint by govt. officials involving lengthy legal process which is very expensive and time consuming.

5 5 Historical background of Consumer Protection Movement History of Consumer Protection can be traced back to this year Mail Fraud Law (to control false Advertisements) Sherman Anti-Trust Act ( to prevent Cartels and Monopolies) Book- The Jungle- by Upton Sinclair ( meat packaging Industry in Chicago) Pure Food and Drug Act, 1906 Federal Trade Commission Food and Drug Administration Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, th March, John F. Kennedy- US Congress- Consumer Protection Bill of Rights

6 6 Ralph Nader Advocate in America- Book Unsafe at Any Speed Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1972 Indian Situation: Many criminal laws were passed in India to protect the interest of the consumers - but these laws were product or goods specific legislations. In India- MRTP, Competition Act, th April, UN General Assembly passed Resolution no. 39/85 (having general guidelines to protect consumers interest) In India- Consumer Protection Act, 1986 United Nations Sustainable Consumption Mahatma Gandhi- the rich must live more simply so that the poor may simply live.

7 UN GUIDELINES FOR THE CONSUMER PROTECTION Protect from hazard to health & safety Promote & protect economic interests Provide adequate information for informed choice Consumer education Provide effective redressformal and informal procedures Freedom to form groups & present views in decision- making affecting consumers

8 What are the rights of a consumer? Protection from hazardous goods and services Information about the quality, quantity, purity, standard and price Access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices Assurance that his interest will be considered at appropriate fora The right to consumer education

9 9 Major Consumer Protection Laws in India 1. The Indian Penal Code, The Indian Contract Act, The Sale of Goods Act, The Agricultural Produce (Grading & Marking ) Act, The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, The Drug (Control) Act, The Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, The Essential Commodities Act, The Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, The Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Distribution and Supply) Act, The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, The Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, The Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 Note: There were around 28 laws dealing with various aspects of Consumer Protection in India prior to Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

10 10 The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act, 1969 The Act was intended to prevent concentration of economic power in a few hands, and to control monopolistic and restrictive trade practices. Consumer interest was sought to be protected through the promotion of competition and control of anti-competitive business practices. However, the working of the MRTP Act revealed that many trade practices, prevailing in the market, escaped the regulatory measures of the Act even though they were unfair or deceptive.

11 11 In pursuance of the recommendations of the High-Powered Expert Committee, headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar (Report, 1978), the MRTP Act was amended, with effect from August 1, The most important amendment brought about in the MRTP Act was the incorporation of provisions for the regulation of unfair trade practices (UTPs). The following five types of trade practices were considered to be UTPs when they caused any loss or injury to the consumer: 1.Making false or misleading claims about a product or service through an advertisement or otherwise; 2. Offering of bargain prices and making of bait advertisements; 3. Offering of pseudo gifts or prizes and conducting sales promotion contests, lottery, or games of chance or skill; 4. Supplying unsafe or hazardous products; and 5. Hoarding or destroying goods, or refusing to sell goods, resulting in a price increase.

12 12 Unfair Trade Practices (UTPs) were sought to be regulated by the MRTP Commission, which was empowered to conduct an inquiry into any alleged practice on receipt of: (i)a complaint from any consumer, any recognised consumer association, or any trade association (ii) a reference from the Central Government or any State Government (iii) an application from the Director-General of Investigation and Registration or (iv) on its own knowledge or information (suo motu) At the conclusion of the inquiry, the Commission was empowered to pass any appropriate order against the person indulging in such practices, including passing of a cease and desist order and awarding of suitable compensation for the loss or injury caused by such trade practice.

13 13 CONSUMERS RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN INQUIRY PROCEEDINGS In a landmark decision, delivered in 1989, in a UTP case against the manufacturers of certain brands of soft drinks, the MRTP Commission ruled that an individual consumer, registered consumers association, or a trade association which filed a complaint against a restrictive or unfair trade practice before the Commission was entitled to pursue the complaint, to participate fully in the inquiry proceedings, by way of producing evidence, cross examining the witness of the respondent, administering the interrogatories, and seeking discovery of documents. The decision paved the way for consumers to participate effectively in the inquiry proceedings and to pursue their case before the MRTP Commission. Before that decision, the consumers right was confined to making a complaint and thereafter the case was left to be pursued by the Director-General of Investigation and Registration (DGI&R). Many cases fell through, due to their improper prosecution in the absence of the complainants participation. Case: VOICE and others vs. Delhi Bottling Co. Private Ltd. (UTP Inquiry No. 151 of 1986, order dated ).

14 14 WITHDRAWAL OF PUBLIC SECTOR EXEMPTION Prior to Sept, 1991, the public sector undertakings were outside the purview of the MRTP Act. As provided under Section 3 of the MRTP Act, the provisions of the Act were not applicable to undertakings owned or controlled by the Central and State Governments, government companies, statutory corporations, trade unions, private industrial undertakings whose management had been temporarily taken over by the Central Government, financial institutions, and cooperative societies. Note: The Central Government was, however, empowered to extend the provisions of the MRTP Act,1969 to these undertakings. Through a gazette notification, issued on September 27, 1991, the Central Government sought to remove this glaring deficiency in the regulatory provisions by withdrawing the exemption enjoyed by public-sector undertakings, co-operative societies and financial institutions. Consequently, all the public-sector undertakings engaged in producing and marketing consumer goods and providing consumer services are now subject to regulatory measures intended to promote competition and to protect the consumer interest through the control of unfair, restrictive, and monopolistic trade practices.

15 15 Public-sector undertakings, in fact, occupy commanding heights in the national economy. In many areas of consumer goods and services, they are the major suppliers. This decision of the Central Government had brought to the MRTP Commissions fold several large public-sector organisations such as the railways, airlines, state road transport corporations, banks, state electricity boards, housing authorities, life and general insurance corporations, telephone companies and municipal corporations. The withdrawal of public-sector exemption has been hailed as an important step in the direction of consumer protection in India.

16 16 Locus standi – right to file complaint Earlier, consumers and their associations did not enjoy any locus standi under certain pieces of legislation intended to provide for their protection. The cognizance of any offence under these enactments could be taken only by a Government Inspector who was authorised to lodge a report of the violation of the statutory provision before the appropriate court/authority. These laws were amended, in December 1986, so as to confer on the individual consumers, and their recognized associations, the right to file a complaint against any violation of the relevant Act and seek redress of their grievances. These legislations included the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937; the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954; the Essential Commodities Act, 1955; the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 and the Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, In order to give further fillip to the consumer movement, the MRTP Act,1969 was also amended in December, 1986 (effective from ), conferring on individual consumers and recognized consumers associations the right to seek redress of grievances against any restrictive or unfair trade practice. Earlier, a complaint against any such trade practice could be entertained by the MRTP Commission only when it was made by at least 25 persons or by a consumers association with a membership of 25 persons or more.

17 17 The Consumer Protection Act, a detailed discussion The most significant milestone in the history of consumer protection in India was the passing of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) in December The Consumer Protection Act,1986 was hailed as the most progressive and comprehensive socio- economic legislation in the country. Its enactment was preceded by a prolonged public debate and a persistent demand from consumer activists and concerned citizens. Unlike the earlier laws, which were punitive and preventive in nature, the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 are compensatory in nature.

18 18 The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted to provide a simpler and quicker access to redressal of consumer grievances. The Act for the first time introduced the concept of consumer and conferred express additional rights on him. It is interesting to note that the Act doesnt seek to protect every consumer within the literal meaning of the term. The protection is meant for the person who fits in the definition of consumer given by the Act. The Act has provided a machinery whereby consumers can file their complaints which will be entertained by the Consumer Forums with special powers so that action can be taken against erring suppliers and the possible compensation may be awarded to consumer for the hardships he has undergone. Nominal fee is required to be paid to these forums and there is no need to engage a lawyer to present the case.

19 19 When the State governments dithered and showed lack of enthusiasm in the setting up of District Forums and State Commissions, as mandated by the Consumer Protection Act, the Supreme Court, in a significant judgment, delivered on September 19, 1989, directed the State governments to set up District Forums and State Commissions in each of the districts and states, within six weeks and to report compliance of the order within two weeks thereafter. Common Cause vs. Union of India, (1989) 2 Scale 541. This literally brought justice to the doorstep of the consumers.

20 20 More complaints relate to deficient services More than 75 per cent of the complaints pertain to services involving electricity boards, telephone corporations, housing boards, airlines, railways and road transport corporations, banks, finance companies and insurance companies. The rest of the cases have arisen out of the supply of defective goods.

21 CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, some salient features Enacted to provide for the better protection of the interest of consumer Act applies to whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir The Consumer Protection Act was amended latest in 2002 and the amendments came into force w.e.f. 15 th March It covers all sectors- private, public and Co- operative The Act applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Central Government 21

22 22 Salient features…….continued The provisions of this Act are compensatory in nature It provides adjudicatory authorities, which are simple, speedy and less expensive It also provides for Consumer Protection Councils at the National, State and District levels. The provisions of this Act are in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force (Section 3 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986) Note: In the International Conference on Consumer Protection held in Malaysia in 1997, the Indian Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was described as one which has set in motion a revolution in the field of consumer rights, the parallel of which has not been seen anywhere else in the world.

23 23 What to do if the product that you have bought is defective or the service we availed is deficient? 1. We should immediately bring it to the notice of the shopkeeper or service provider and ask him to replace it or make the service proper. 2. If he does not act, take up the issue with the manufacturer of that product or service provider. 3. If this step also does not yield desired result, you may approach the Consumer Forum. 4. There is at least a District Forum in each and every district of this country.

24 CONSUMERS NEED PROTECTION AGAINST Unfair trade practices Restrictive trade practices Defects Deficiencies

25 UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES Adopting unfair methods or deception to promote sale, use or supply of goods or services Misleading public about price (e.g. bargain price when it is not so) Misleading public about price (e.g. bargain price when it is not so) Charging above MRP printed Charging above MRP printed Misleading public about anothers goods or services Misleading public about anothers goods or services Falsely claiming a sponsorship, approval or affiliation Falsely claiming a sponsorship, approval or affiliation Offering misleading warranty or guarantee Offering misleading warranty or guarantee CONSUMERS NEED PROTECTION AGAINST

26 RESTRICTIVE TRADE PRACTICE Price fixing or output restraint eg. delivery/flow of supplies to impose unjustified costs/restrictions on consumers Collusive tendering; market fixing territorially among competing suppliers, depriving consumers of free choice, fair competition Supplying only to particular distributors or on condition of sale only within a territory Delaying in supplying goods/services leading to rise in price Requiring a consumer to buy/hire any goods or services as a pre-condition for buying/hiring other goods or services

27 CONSUMERS NEED PROTECTION AGAINST DEFECTS Any fault, imperfection or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, potency, purity or standard which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or under any contract express or implied or as is claimed by the trader in any manner whatsoever in relation to any goods. DEFICIENCY 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.

28 WHAT IS A DEFECT ? Fault Imperfection Shortcoming In the Quality Quantity Potency Purity Or Standards 28 Which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force

29 WHAT IS A DEFICIENCY ? Fault Imperfection Shortcoming Or Inadequacy In the Quality Standard and Manner of performance 29 Which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force

30 WHAT IS A SERVICE? Service means service of any description, which is made available to potential users and includes, but not limited to the provisions of the facilities in connection with : 1) banking 2) financing 3) insurance 4) transport 5) processing 6) supply of electrical or other energy 7) boarding or lodging or both 8) house construction 9) entertainment 10) amusement or 11) the purveying or news or other information Note: The list is illustrative and not exhaustive But does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service 30

31 31 Who is a consumer ? A person may be a consumer of goods or services Note: Foreigners are also consumers

32 WHO IS A CONSUMER ? Two kinds of consumer under the Act Consumer of goods buys or agrees to buy goods any user of such goods Consumer of services hires or avails any services any beneficiary of such service

33 33 Section 2(1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 says that consumer means any person 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 services 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 services 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 services for any commercial ; Explanation.For the purposes of the sub-clause commercial purpose does not include use by a consumer of goods bought and used by him and services availed by him exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood, by means of self-employment.

34 34 Consumer of goods: A person claiming himself as a consumer of goods should satisfy that: 1.The goods are bought for consideration paid or payable 2. Any person who uses the goods with the approval of the buyer is a consumer ( example: family members, relatives and friends) The words....with the approval of the buyer in the definition denotes that the user of the goods should be a rightful user. Case: [Dinesh Bhagat v. Bajaj Auto Ltd. (1992) III CPJ 272] decided by Delhi State Commission Note : This is an exception to the general rule of law that a stranger to a contract cannot sue. 3. Any person who obtains the goods for Resale or for Commercial purpose is not a consumer i) [Smt. Pushpa Meena v. Shah Enterprises (Rajasthan) Ltd. (1991) 1 CPR 229]. A jeep bought to be used as taxi- its a commercial purpose. ii) Computer purschased for a company

35 35 4. A person buying goods for self-employment is a consumer When goods are bought for commercial purposes and such purchase satisfy the following criteria : - the goods are used by the buyer himself ; - exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood ; -by means of self-employment, then such use would not be termed as use for commercial purposes under the Act, and the user is recognised as a consumer. Examples : 1. A buys a truck for plying it as a public carrier by himself, A is a consumer. 2. A buys a truck and hires a driver to ply it, A is not a consumer. 3. A has one cloth shop. He starts another business of a photocopier and buys a photocopy machine therefor. He hasnt bought this machine exclusively for the purpose of earning livelihood. He is not a consumer under the Act. Note : This is an exception to the rule that a buyer of commercial goods is not a consumer under the Act.

36 36 However, if such a buyer takes assistance of two or more persons to help him in operating the vehicle or machine, etc., he does not cease to be a consumer. Examples : 1.A buys a truck, ply it himself and hires a cleaner who accompany him all the time and at times drives also when A is busy otherwise, A is a consumer. 2. P, an eye surgeon, purchased a machine from R for the hospital run by him. The machine was found to be a defective one. R contended that P was not a consumer under the Act as the machine was bought for commercial purposes. The National Commission rejected this contention and held that P is a medical practitioner, a professional working by way of self employment by using his knowledge and skill to earn his livelihood. It was not proved by any evidence that P is running a huge hospital. Thus the purchase of machinery is in the nature of self employment. [Rampion Pharmaceuticals v. Dr. Preetam Shah (1997) I CPJ 23 (NCDRC)].

37 37 Intention of the legislature in doing so ! The intention of the legislature is to exclude big business houses carrying on business with profit motive from the purview of the Act. At the same time it is pertinent to save the interests of small consumers who buy goods for self employment to earn their livelihood, like a rickshaw puller buying rickshaw for self employment, or a farmer purchasing fertilizer for his crops, or a taxi driver buying a car to run it as a taxi, etc.

38 38 Consumer of services: A person is a consumer of services if he satisfy the following criteria : 1. Services are hired or availed of : The term hired has not been defined under the Act. Its Dictionary meaning is - to procure the use of services at a price. Examples : a) A goes to a doctor to get himself treated for a fracture. Here A is hiring the services of the doctor. Thus he is a consumer. b) A passenger getting railway reservation after payment is hiring service for consideration. c) A landlord neglected and refused to provide the agreed amenities to his tenant. The tenant filed a complaint against the landlord under the Consumer Protection Act. The National Commission dismissed the complaint saying that it was a case of lease of immovable property and not of hiring services of the landlord. [Smt. Laxmiben Laxmichand Shah v. Smt. Sakerben Kanji Chandan [1992] 1 Comp. LJ 177 (NCDRC)].

39 39 d) A presented before the Sub-Registrar a document claiming it to be a will for registration who sent it to the Collector of Stamps for action. The matter remain pending for about six years. In the meantime A filed a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act alleging harassment by the Sub-Registrar and Collector and prayed for compensation. The National Commission held the view that A was not a consumer under the CPA. Because there was no hiring of services by the complainant for consideration and because a Government official doing his duty as functionary of the State under law could not be said to be rendering a service to the complainant. [S.P. Goel v. Collector of Stamps (1995) III CPR 684 (SC)]. 2. Consideration must be paid or payable Consideration is regarded necessary for hiring or availing of services. However, its payment need not necessarily be immediate. It can be in installments. For the services provided without charging anything in return, the person availing the services is not a consumer under the Act. Examples : a) A goes to a doctor to get himself treated for a fracture. The doctor being his friend charged him nothing for the treatment. A is not a consumer under the Act.

40 40 Note: The Direct and Indirect taxes paid to the State by a citizen is not payment for the services rendered. Example : T was paying property tax for his house to the local corporation. This corporation was responsible for proper water supply to the premises under its work area. T raised a consumer dispute over the inadequacy of water supply by the corporation. The National Commission held that it was not a consumer dispute as water supply was made by the corporation out of its statutory duty and not by virtue of payment of taxes by T. [Mayor, Calcutta Municipal Corporation v. Tarapada Chatterjee (1994) 1 CPR 87 (NCDRC)]. 3. Beneficiary of services is also a consumer When a person hires services, he may hire it for himself or for any other person. In such cases the beneficiary (or user) of these services is also a consumer. Example : A takes his son B to a doctor for his treatment. Here A is hirer of services of the doctor and B is beneficiary of these services. For the purpose of the Act, both A and B are consumers. Note : This is an exception to the Rule of Privity to the Contract.

41 41 What is a Complaint ? An aggrieved consumer seeks redressal under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 through the instrumentality of complaint. It does not mean that the consumer can complain against his each and every problem. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has provided certain grounds on which complaint can be made. Similarly, relief against these complaints can be granted within the set pattern. What constitutes a complaint ? [Section 2(1)(c)] Complaint is a statement made in writing to the National Commission, the State Commission or the District Forum by a person competent to file it, containing the allegations in detail, and with a view to obtain relief provided under the Act.

42 What is a Complaint? An allegation in writing by a complainant that: An unfair or restrictive trade practice is practiced by trader or service provider Goods bought or to be bought or services hired or to be hired suffered from any deficiency Trader or service provider has charged excess price Goods and services are hazardous or are likely to be hazardous to life and safety

43 43 What a complaint must contain [Section 2(1)(c)] A complaint must contain any of the following allegations : (a) An unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice has been adopted by any trader; Example : A sold a six months old car to B representing it to be a new one. Here B can make a complaint against A for following an unfair trade practice. (b) The goods bought by him or agreed to be bought by him suffer from one or more defects; Example : A bought a computer from B. It was not working properly since day one. A can make a complaint against B for supplying him a defective computer.

44 44 (c) The services hired or availed of or agreed to be hired or availed of by him suffer from deficiency in any respect. Example : A hired services of an advocate to defend himself against his landlord. The advocate did not appear every time the case was scheduled. A can make a complaint against the advocate. (d) A trader has charged for the goods 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. Example : A bought a sack of cement from B who charged him Rs. 100 over and above the reserve price of the cement declared by the Government. Here A can make a complaint against B.

45 45 (e) Goods which will be hazardous to life and safety when used, are being offered for sale to the public in contravention of the provisions of any law for the time being in force requiring traders to display information in regard to the contents, manner and effect of use of such goods. Example : A bought a tin of disinfectant powder. It had lid which was to be opened in a specific manner. Trader did not inform A about this. While opening the lid in ordinary way, some powder flew in the eyes of A which affected his vision. Here A can make a complaint against the trader.

46 Who can file a complaint [Sections 2(b) & 12] A consumer Any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act or any other law for the time being in force Central or State Government, if it makes a complaint One or more consumers having same interest

47 47 In addition to the above following are also considered as a consumer and hence they may file a complaint : a) Beneficiary of the goods/services : The definition of consumer itself includes beneficiary of goods and services. [K.B. Jayalaxmi v. Government of Tamil Nadu 1994(1) CPR 114]. Where a young child is taken to the hospital by his parents and the child is treated by the doctor, the parents of such a minor child can file a complaint under the Act. [Spring Meadows Hospital v. Harjot Ahluwalia JT 1998(2) SC 620]. b) Legal representative of the deceased consumer - Section 2(b) of CPA, 1986: By the operation of law, the legal representatives get clothed with the rights, status and personality of the deceased. Thus the expression consumer would include legal representative of the deceased consumer and he can exercise his right for the purpose of enforcing the cause of action which has devolved on him. [Cosmopolitan Hospital v. Smt. Vasantha P. Nair (1) 1992 CPJ NC 302].

48 48 c) Legal heirs of the deceased consumer : A legal heir of the deceased consumer can file a complaint under the Act. [ Joseph Alias Animon v. Dr. Elizabeth Zachariah (1) 1997 CPJ 96]. d) Husband of the consumer : In the Indian conditions, women may be illiterate, educated women may be unaware of their legal rights, thus a husband can file and prosecute complaint under the Consumer Protection Act on behalf of his spouse. [Punjab National Bank, Bombay v. K.B. Shetty 1991 (2) CPR 633]. e) A relative of consumer : When a consumer signs the original complaint, it can be initiated by his/her relative. [Motibai Dalvi Hospital v. M.I. Govilkar 1992 (1) CPR 408]. f) Insurance company : Where Insurance company pays and settles the claim of the insured and the insured person transfers his rights in the insured goods to the company, it can file a complaint for the loss caused to the insured goods by negligence of goods/service providers. For example, when loss is caused to such goods because of negligence of transport company, the insurance company can file a claim against the transport company. [New India Assurance Company Ltd. v. Green Transport Co. II 1991 CPJ (1) Delhi].

49 ESSENTIAL INFORMATION IN THE APPLICATION Name and full address of complainant Name and full address of opposite party Description of goods and services Quality and quantity Price Date & proof of purchase Nature of deception Type of redressal prayed for

50 Machinery under the Act Central Consumer Protection Council to be established by Central Government State Consumer Protection Council to be established by State Government District Consumer Protection Council to be established by State Government for every district

51 Consumer Dispute Redressal Machinery under CPA, 1986 There are Consumer Fora at the District, State and National level District Forum – At the District level State Commission – At the State level National Commission – At the National level

52 FORUMS AND THEIR JURISDICTION Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums (District Forum) Claims less than or equal Rs. 20 lacs. Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions ( State Commission) Claim more than Rs. 20 lacs & less than Rs. 1 crore & appeals. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (National Commission) Claim equal to Rs. 1 crore and more & appeals

53 Pecuniary Jurisdiction Forum where complaints can be entertained Depends on value of goods and service and compensation claimed Limits are : District Forum not exceeding Rs.20 lakhs State Commission exceeds Rs.20 lakhs but does not exceed Rs.1 Crore National Commission exceeds Rs.1 Crore.

54 Territorial Jurisdiction Territorial Jurisdiction lies in the Consumer Forum (Court) of the place : Where the opposite party resides or carries on business or personally works for gain Where the cause of action wholly or partly arose.

55 FEE FOR FILING OF COMPLAINTS The fee for filing the complaint in the District Forum is as under Sr. No. Value of Goods / Service and Compensation Amount of Fees 1)Upto Rs. 1 lakh rupeesRs )Rs. 1 Lakh and above but less than Rs.5 lakhsRs )Rs. 5 Lakhs and above but less than Rs. 10 lakhs Rs )Rs. 10 lakhs and above but less than Rs. 20 lakhs Rs The fees shall be paid by Cross demand Draft drawn on a nationalized bank or through crossed Indian postal order drawn in favour of the Registrar of the Sate Commission and payable at the place of the State Commission (w.e.f )

56 POWER OF CIVIL COURT TO DISTRICT FORUM The District Forum shall have the powers of Civil Court while trying a suit in respect of the following matters ; a) The summoning and enforcing attendance of any defendant or witness and examining the witness on oath. b) The discovery and production of any document or other material object producible as evidence. c) The reception of evidence on affidavit d) The requisition of the report of the concerned analysis or test from the appropriate laboratory or from any other relevant source. e) Any other matter which may be prescribed. 56

57 57 Relief available against complaint [Sections 14 and 22] A complainant can seek any one or more of the following relief under the Consumer Protection Act,1986: (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; (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;

58 58 (e) to remove the defects or deficiencies in the services in question; (f) to discontinue the unfair trade practice or the restrictive trade practice or not to repeat it; (g) not to offer the hazardous goods for sale; (h) to withdraw the hazardous goods from being offered for sale; (i) to provide from adequate costs to complainant.

59 59 What is the appeal provision? If one is not satisfied with the orders issued by the District Forum, one can file appeal petition before State Commission. Similarly, appeal against the orders issued by the State Commission goes to the National Commission and from the National Commission to the Supreme Court. The time limit within which the appeal should be filed is 30 days from the date of the decision in all cases.

60 60 Time frame within which a complaint can be filed - Section 24A Section 24A of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides that a consumer dispute can be filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action arises. Since this provision was inserted in the Act in 1993, before that the Consumer Forums were following the Limitation Act, 1963, which says that a suit can be filed within three years after the cause of action arises. The point of time when cause of action arises is an important factor in determining the time period available to file a complaint. There are no set rules to decide such time. It depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Example: A house was allotted on Defects appeared in the house on Here the cause of action will arise on

61 61 Note: It may be noted that these time frames are not absolute limitations. If the Consumer Forum is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing the complaint within the prescribed period, it can entertain a complaint beyond limitation time. However the Forum must record the reasons in writing for condonation of such delay. Example : A deposited some jewellery with a bank. Bank lost it. Bank kept giving her false sense of hope to retrieve the jewellery, and thus A was put in a state of inaction. Later on when A filed a suit on the Bank, it claimed that the suit was not maintainable as the limitation time after the cause of action arose has lapsed. The Commission reprimanded the bank and admitted the case. [Agnes DMello v. Canara Bank [1992] I CPJ 335 (NCDRC)]. Note: The delay for every single day has to be explained.

62 PENALTIES Where a trader or a person against whom a complaint is made (or the complainant) fails or omits to comply with any order made by the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission, such trader or person (or complainant) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one month but which may extend to three years or with fine which shall not be less than two thousand rupees but which may extend to ten thousand rupees, or with both. 62

63 DISMISSAL OF FRIVOLOUS OR VEXATIOUS COMPLAINTS Where a complaint instituted before the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission, is found to be frivolous or vexatious, it shall, for reasons to be recorded in writing, dismiss the complaint and make an order that the complainant shall pay to the opposite party such Cost, not exceeding ten thousand rupees, as may specified in the order. 63

64 64 Medical Service covered under Consumer Protection Act, 1986 Medical professionals, argued that the service rendered by a doctor was a service under a contract of personal service, and was, therefore, excluded from the scope of the term service, as defined in section 2(o) of the CPA. In two cases, decided in April 1992, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission rejected the contention of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and certain others that the medical service is a personal service exempt under the CPA. In a judgment that sets the future course of medical service in the country, the National Commission upheld the consumers right to seek redress before a consumer court for any negligence or deficiency in the service rendered by any medical professional or hospital for a fee. 1.Cosmopolitan Hospitals vs. Vasantha P. Nair, 2.Cosmopolitan Hospitals vs. V. P. Santha, [Both decided on ; Company Law Digest, Vol. 21, No. 4 (June 1992), p. 65; II (1992) CPJ 302 (NC)].

65 65 The Indian Medical Association, acting on behalf of the medical profession in the country, challenged the order of the National Commission before the Supreme Court. In its landmark judgment, delivered on November 13, 1995, the Supreme Court classified all medical service organisations (hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries, and medical practitioners), whether government or non-government, into three categories: 1. Those providing service free of cost to all patients (rich or poor), the payment of a token amount as registration fee being ignored. 2. Those providing service on payment of charges. 3. Those providing service free to some and on payment of charges to others. The Supreme Court ruled that while services provided in the first category would be outside the purview of CPA, those provided in the categories (2) and (3) would be covered by the CPA. Moreover, the recipient of the services would be considered a consumer, entitled to claim compensation in case of any deficiency in the service. The Supreme Court rejected the contention of the medical practitioners that the consumer courts are incapable of handling cases of medical negligence because they are not composed of experts in the field of medicine. Indian Medical Association vs. V. P. Santha and others, (1995) 6 SCC 651.

66 PROBLEM - 1 A had purchased seeds from a party. The seeds did not germinate. The party which supplied seeds took the plea that A was not a consumer. Is purchase of seeds for the purpose of agriculture, a purchase for commercial purpose?

67 PROBLEM - 2 A had applied for electricity connection. However, power supply was not provided to A. Can A seek redressal of his grievance in Consumer Court?

68 PROBLEM - 3 A registered letter sent to A was not delivered. What is the liability of an employee of the Post Office in this matter?

69 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT. PECUNIARY JURISDICTION In Krishan Dass Chaurasia V. State Bank of India (1995) the total claim in a complaint did not exceed Rs. 1,00,000/-. It was held that the matter was not within the jurisdiction of the State Commission and such a claim was rejected by the State Commission. The Complainant could seek the remedy from the District Forum. Therefore, jurisdiction, which is vested in a district Forum cannot be created for State Commission by merely exaggeration of a claim. In B. Raghunath Vs Trans India Tourism (1996) the complainant had suffered a loss of Rs. 5,000/-, according to his own statement. He claimed compensation of Rs. 5,00,000. It was evident that he had purposely boosted his claim to bring the matter within the pecuniary jurisdiction of the State Commission. The complaint was returned by the State Commission for presentation in proper District Forum with necessary correction. 69

70 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT. NO ACTION WHERE NO TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION In J. K. Synthethetics Vs. Smt. Anita Bhargava (1993) the registered office of the Opposite Party was situated at Kanpur. Payment was made through Bank in Delhi. The complaint filed in Calcutta was held to be outside the territorial jurisdiction of the District Forum. The Order passed by the Calcutta District Forum was set aside in Appeal 70

71 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT. EVIDENCE THROUGH AFFIDAVITS IS LEGAL & SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. Union of India Vs. Ramswaroop Chandil (1998) Respondent had a circular ticket in his possession during journey which was locked in his box. He was not allowed to break open the lock and produce the ticket and was forced to pay excess charge for four persons. The District Forum awarded compensation in his favour for refund of fare and excess charge and for inconvenience, humiliation and Advocates fee, etc. In appeal by the Railway Authorities it was pleaded that the complainant had not produced any witness to support his claim. Dismissing the appeal it was held that he had narrated his case in the affidavit and the same was not rebutted by the Opposite party. It was held that the evidence by affidavit was legal and sufficient to support the complainants case. 71

72 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT AFFIDAVITS PERMITTED TO DETERMINE DEFICIENCY IN SERVICE AS WELL AS DAMAGES. The Consumer Protection Act contemplates speedy disposal of complaints, which are required to be disposed off within 90 days of service of notice to Opposite Party. The Consumer Protection Act, therefore, does not contemplate regular trial as is usually done in civil suits. In Prem Prakash Mehra Vs. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., (1995) it has been held that the parties can be called upon to lead evidence on affidavits not only on question of deficiency in service but also on subject of determination of damages. This in consonance with the objective of the Consumer Protection Act, for speedy disposal of cases. 72

73 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT NON-SPEAKING ORDER CAN BE SET ASIDE In S.D.O. Telephone Vs. Rama Shankar Pandey (1997) the District Forum, Hardoi, allowed the complaint and directed that the telephone bills of the complainant be revised on the basis of average consumption and awarded Rs. 200/- compensation to the complainant. No reasons were given for such order. The State Commission held that the order of the District Forum should be a speaking one. It should give, however briefly, the essential facts and material, considered by it as well as the reasons for the conclusion. Else the order becomes arbitrary in the eyes of law. The order of the District Forum was set aside and the case was sent back to the District forum for re-consideration in accordance with law after notice to the parties. 73

74 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT. REMAND WHEN ORDER SIGNED BY PRESIDENT ONLY In S. Ravisankar Vs. Aslo Steel Ltd., the order of the District forum was signed only by the President of the Forum. No other member had signed it. Section 14 requires that every order shall be conducted/signed by the President and at least one member. The present order was held to be invalid, and the matter was remanded to the District Forum. 74

75 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT. PRESIDENT SITTING SINGLY It has been held by the National Commission that the orders passed by the President of the State Commission sitting singly without the junction of any other member is contrary to Section 14(2) of the Consumer Protection Act, Such an order is invalid (Raj kumar Mangla Vs. R.S. Singh (1995) 75

76 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT PREGNANCY NO GROUND FOR CONDONATION OF DELAY In Registrar, University of Pune Vs. Mrs. Puja Pravin Wagh (1999) the complainant filed a complaint 3 1/2 months after the expiry of the limitation period of 2 years against the University of Pune for the wrong declaration of result. The reason for delay in filing the complaint given by the complainant was her pregnancy. The District Forum condoned the delay and awarded compensation of Rs. 2,5000/- to the complainant. On appeal it was held that the fact of pregnancy was no justification for the delay. The complaint being time barred the order of the District Forum was set aside. 76

77 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT. DAMAGES In Charan Singh Vs. Healing Touch Hospital (2000) it has been held by the Supreme Court that while quantifying damages, Consumer Forums are required to make an attempt to serve the ends of justice so that compensation is awarded, in an established case, which not only serves the purpose of recompensing the individual, but which also at the same time, aims to bring about a qualitative change in the attitude of the service provider. Indeed, calculation of damages depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. No hard and fast rule can be laid down for universal application. While awarding compensation, a Consumer Forum has to take into account all relevant factors and assess compensation on the basis of accepted legal principles, on moderation. 77

78 CASE LAWS ON THE ACT. DAMAGES In Patel Roadways Ltd. Vs. Birla Yahama Ltd. AIR 2000 the Supreme Court has held that Consumer Forums have jurisdiction to entertain complaints against carriers regarding loss of or damage to goods entrusted to carrier for transportation. In Provident Fund Commissioner Vs. Shiv Kumar Joshi (2000) the Supreme Court has held that an employee, who is a member of the Employees Provident Fund Scheme, is a consumer and duties performed by the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner under such scheme is service and thus, in case of delay in release of provident fund, complaint for deficiency in service, is maintainable. 78

79 79 Some decisions 1. British Airways told to pay Rs 90,000 for losing luggage The South West District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Delhi The airline had opposed the claim for compensation saying their liability is governed by the Hague Protocol and Warsaw Convention on Air carriages and deficiency in service is not covered under these international laws. The forum, however, rejected the airline's contention saying under the Consumer Protection Act there is no provision which limits or restricts their liability for deficiency in service.Warsaw Convention 2. NCDRC asks Emirate Airlines to pay Rs 2 lakh for baggage loss The apex consumer commission today directed Emirate Airlines to pay Rs two lakh to a doctor as compensation for losing one of his bags when he had travelled to Greece in 1998 and damaging another on the return journey. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) held the airline negligent and deficient in service for failing to keep the luggage in safe custody and deliver it to the passenger, while upholding a Delhi State Consumer Commission order on the compensation. It noted that when the doctor travelled by Emirate Airlines to Athens for a conference one of his bags was misplaced, which has not been found till date, and on the return journey his second bag was damaged.

80 3. Errant builder told to pay over Rs 50 lakh to flat applicant A builder who failed to start a Greater Noida residential project on time has landed in trouble as a consumer court here has directed him to pay compensation of Rs 3 lakh and refund the over Rs 49 lakh cost of a flat to a complainant. Delhi Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission member Salma Noor and Member (Judicial) VK Gupta held RS Builtwell and its director guilty of deficiency in service and gave them time till April 30 to refund the entire cost of the 1, sq.ft. flat, with interest, and compensation to complainant Arun Patwal, a resident of Janakpuri in west Delhi. 4. SBI to pay Mumbai couple Rs 7L over cheque goof The State Bank of India has been ordered to pay an Andheri-based doctor coupleRs 7 lakh in compensation after the couple lost out on acquiring some blue- chip shares because the bank failed to inform them that their chequefor about half that amount had beendishonoured due to mismatched signatures. The couple also proved to the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, which delivered the order on Saturday, that the signatures, in fact, were not mismatched. "Because of the deficiency in service or negligence by the bank, the appellants could not get shares and thereby legal injury is caused to the complainants and they need to be compensated,"

81 81 Some Important Consumer Concerns Misleading Advertisements Misleading ads are one of the greatest banes of modern society, which depends heavily on media for information as well as entertainment. It is a matter of grave concern that there is no regulatory authority in India to deal with Misleading advertisements and they continue duping consumers in India without any check. Advertising in USA is regulated by Federal Trade Commission, a United States administrative agency since In the year 2011, they imposed fine of $ 25 million (US Dollars) on Rebook for their shoe brand claiming Better legs and a better butt with every step. We also need a strong Regulatory Body in India to protect our 121 crore consumers from misleading ads! We have to take up the campaign for a strong independent regulatory body. Dont be fooled by misleading ads promising magical cure of chronic ailments.

82 82 Colour of skin is determined by genetic factors. Purchase decisions made on the basis of ads only lighten the purse, not the colour of skin. Dont hesitate to raise your voice against misleading ads. Whenever you come across an ad which appears to be misleading, write to Secretary General, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), 219 Bombay Market, 78 Tardeo Road, Mumbai , with a cutting of the advertisement. If this does not help, you can go to Consumer Forum, set up in your district under Consumer Protection Act.

83 83 Dont be a victim of unethical medical practices In the path-breaking case of Indian Medical Association vs. V.P. Shantha, (AIR 1996 SC 550), the Supreme Court has held that a doctor can be held liable under Consumer Protection Act 1986 for deficiency of service. There have also been some landmark cases like that of US-based doctor Kunal Saha, whose wife had died in 1998 due to negligence of some doctors in Kolkata. West Bengal Medical Council had given a clean chit to the doctors. However, after fighting for 12 long years, the National Commission ordered compensation of Rs 1.73 crores during In another case of Prashant S Dhananka, who was paralyzed waist down after a surgeon damaged his spinal chord during an operation to remove a tumour in the chest, damages worth Rs 1 crore were awarded by the Supreme Court in May Such cases, however, are far and few. Overall, the system is not able to deliver justice to consumers and unethical practices continue to thrive.

84 84 Follow these tips and avoid the trap of unethical medical practices 1. Always go to a registered medical practitioner. Medical Council registration is vital to check 2. Always ask for a prescription 3. Always take full course of medicine 4. Always insist for a new disposable syringe and needle each time you go for a blood test or blood donation or injection 5. Always go to a recognised/accredited laboratory for investigations, if required 6. Always check the label on medicines for dates of manufacturing and expiry. 7. Always ask for a receipt. 8. Never buy unpacked medicine. 9. Never pay more than printed MRP. It includes all taxes. 10. Never be misled by tall claims made in advertisements. Look for scientific evidence. If you are a victim of unethical medical practice, you should immediately write to the State Medical council with full facts of the case. You can also go to Consumer Forum.

85 85 Sl. No. Name of Agency Cases filed since inception Cases disposed of since inception Cases Pending % of total Disposal Remarks 1 National Commission % 2State Commissions % 3District Forums % TOTAL % Total Number of Consumer Complaints Filed / Disposed since inception Under Consumer Protection Law (Update on )



88 88 Earlier measures, contained in numerous enactments, brought little relief to consumers, in the absence of a unified and effective enforcement agency. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, has provided an effective organisational structure. The law of consumer protection has substantially developed as a result of successive reforms and a number of decisions handed down by consumer tribunals and the Supreme Court. Much depends on how the consumers organize themselves and assert their rights and how effectively the consumer courts function for achieving the avowed objective of delivering speedy and in-expensive justice to consumers. Consumer information and education programmes need to be further strengthened, particularly in the rural areas, which account for about 75 per cent of the total population.

89 NOTE ON CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986 A person may be consumer of goods, or services. When I purchase a fan, a gas stove or a refrigerator, I could be the consumer of goods. When I open a bank account, take an insurance policy, get my car repaired, I could be the consumer of services. The consumer protection Act, 1986 tries to help a consumer when for example, the goods purchased are defective or the services rendered to him are subject to so deficiency. Prior to the consumer Protection Act, 1986 for any consumer complaint one had to go to an ordinary Civil Court. He had to engage a lawyer, pay the necessary fee, and be harassed for years or decades before any outcome, positive or negative, was there in that litigation. Under the Consumer Protection Act, no Court fee has to be paid and the decision on the complaint is much quicker, as the Court can evolve a summary procedure in disposing off the complaint. 89

90 90 Dont suffer in silence…... Raise your voice…..Always!

91 91 Highlights of the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002 as notified on 15th March In case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative – a new sub-clause (1) under Section 2 of the Principal Act. - Exclusion of a person who avails of such service for any commercial purpose from the category of the consumer. However, the Commercial purpose does not include use by a person of goods bought and used by him and services availed by him exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood by means of self-employment. - Spurious goods and services in the form of new clause (oo) after clause (o) under Section 2 of the Principal Act. - With a view to promote and protect within the district the rights of the consumer laid down under the Principal Act establishment of the District Consumer Protection Council under the Chairmanship of the District Collector, insertion of new Sections 8A and 8B; is proposed.

92 92 - Qualifications including academic and also disqualifications for members. -Re-appointment of a member for another term of five years or up to the age of sixty-five years, which ever is earlier. - Substitution of new Section for Section 12 dealing with the manner in which complaint shall be made. -Provisions dealing with adjournment – no adjournment shall be ordinarily granted. Proviso to the new sub-clause (3A) under Section 13 of the Principal Act. -Power to make interim order new sub-clause (3B) of Section Power to grant punitive damages new proviso to clause (d) of Sub-Section (1) of Section Power to issue corrective advertisement to neutralize the effect of misleading advertisement at the cost of the opposite party, new clause (nc) under Sub-Section (1) of Section 14.

93 93 - Benches of the State Commission may be constituted by the President of the State Commission with one or more members. -Insertion of new Section 17A authorising the State Commission, on the application of the complainant or of its own motion, to transfer any complaint pending before the District Forum to another District Forum within the State in the interest of justice. -Creation of benches of the National Commission. - Power of the National Commission to review its own order, when there is an error apparent on the face of record. - Provision in regard to the execution of orders of the District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission. -All offences under the Consumer Protection Act may be tried summarily, notwithstanding anything contained in the code of Criminal Procedure, The District Forum, the State Commission or the National Commission shall have the power of a Judicial Magistrate of the first class for the trial of offences. - New Section 28-A dealing with the procedure for service of notice.

94 94 National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission The Registry of the National Commission is at the Ground Floor, Upbhokta Nyay Bhawan, 'F' Block, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi which remains open on all working days. For any enquiry with the Registry of the National Commission, one can contact on Telephone Nos , , , and Fax No The filing timings are from a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Every matter filed with the Registry is listed on the 7th day of its filing for admission before the National Commission.

95 95 Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission A Block, First Floor, Vikas Bhawan, I.P. Estate, NEW DELHI – Telephone nos , , & Website for other State Commissions addresses: Website for District Forums addresses( whole country):

96 96 Consumer Helpline Numbers JAGO GRAHAK JAGO! Seek Guidance and Information on complaint redressal Toll-free number (between 9.30 to 5.30 Mon-Sat) Normal Call Charges Applicable for other Users /56/57/58 Call National Consumer Helpline (NCH )

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99 Topic: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and How to use it effectively By: Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, Research Scholar, JNU Mob.: th May, to 6 pm Organised by: Institute of Objective Studies, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi.

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