The consumer protection act is an important act that underlines the different details present in the books of law. This helps in guarding the interest of the customers. Both homebuyers and even general customers will be able to benefit significantly with the help of this rule.
Here, we are going to talk about the different ways by which consumers can protect themselves by exercising these rights in an apt manner. However, before you make the most of this act, it is also very important to be sure that out are aware of the key details about it. So, let us dig into more details.
The Current Scenario Change For Consumer Protection Act
The consumer protection act had to be repealed in 2019 as the original act dated back to 1986. As the shopping trends and buying behaviour changed, the need was felt to have something more dynamic and in tune with the day-to-day scenarios and situations. This is why the three-decade-old law was repealed to make way for the new changes and buying habits and the likely disputes as well.
Some of the provisions from the old laws that seemed to be applicable even today have been retained. Of course, new provisions have been added as well to ensure that the end consumers get full protection under the law. Here is a highlight of the new clauses that were added.
- Establishment of the central consumer protection authority
- Unfair contract
- Inclusion of direct selling and e-commerce
- Stricter norms for product liability
- Alternate dispute resolution through mediation
- Stricter norms for misleading advertisement
- Improved ease of dispute resolution
- Addition in the clause for unfair trade practices
- Changes in the pecuniary jurisdiction
So, the law has surely accommodated the new buying behaviour beautifully in it. The underlying aim always is to ensure that the consumers can benefit from it.
Who Is A Consumer?
It is very important to, first of all, understand who all fall under the term consumer.
As per Section 2(7) of the 2019 Act, a consumer is a person who buys either food or services for consideration. This in turn should be paid or promised either partly or wholly or under a system of deferred payment that has been mutually agreed upon by both the parties involved. This also covers all online and offline transactions and even those carried out through electronic means or even direct selling. Tele-selling and multi-level marketing are also involved in such cases.
Some other people who are not categorized as consumers but are covered under the consumer protection act include the following too.
- People who obtain the goods free of charge
- Those who obtain goods for resale or other commercial uses
- Buyers who obtain services free of charge
- Buyers of service for commercial reasons
- The buyers of service under contract
The Consumer Protection Act: Consumer Rights
Under the consumer protection act, consumers have the following six consumer rights.
- The right to safety
- The right to be heard
- The right to consumer awareness
- The right to be informed
- The right to seek addressal
- The right to choose
What Do You Mean By Unfair Contract?
After the consumer act was repealed in 2019, a new concept was introduced and it was called the concept of an unfair contract. This has been defined under section 2(46).
An unfair contract is one wherein the terms are such that it brings about a massive change in the consumer rights of an individual.
Some of these terms are as follows.
- Imposing penalty for the breach of contract. In such cases, the penalty is not in proportion with the loss that was suffered owing to the breach.
- Allowing one of the parties to terminate the contract without any valid reason or even unilaterality
- Demanding excessive security deposit for the sake of facilitating the obligations under the contract
- Imposing unreasonable conditions or charges on the consumer puts him in a bad position
- Unwillingness to accept early debt repayment even with the penalty
- Entitling one of the parties to end the contract causes consumer detriment and that too sans consent
One has to make sure that if they feel any of the above conditions is something they have been subjected to, they have the right to charge it in a court of law. The books of law will guide them and offer the right help and guidance in such matters.
The Three-Tier Justification Hierarchy In Consumer Protection Act
As per the appealed 2019 consumer protection act, there is a three-tier system in place for the sake of filing complaints and disputes. Here are the three bodies.
- The district consumer disputes redressal commission
- The state consumer disputes redressal commission
- The national consumer disputes redressal commission
So, all cases need to maintain the right hierarchy and we will be sharing more details regarding which body you need to address when filing a complaint and the rules you need to abide by as well.
The Pecuniary And Territorial Jurisdiction Of Commissions
As per the repealed 2019 Act, the consumer disputes redressal commissions have been set up at the district, state, and national levels. Here, consumers have the option of seeking relief against any form of wrongdoing. These bodies are set up at the district, state, and even national levels. So, this has led to a three-tier system and therefore the law made it a point to have a pecuniary mechanism. This allowed them to divide the jurisdiction of the commissions.
- At the national level, a consumer is allowed to file complaints only if the value exceeds Rs. 10 crores
- If you come down to the state level, consumers can file complaints but the value needs to range anywhere between Rs 1 to 10 crores
- Now the last is the district-level commission and here consumers have the option to file all complaints where the value involved is less than Rs. 1 crore.
However, there is one exception to the rule. Complaints that are filed against the unfair contract rule can only be filed at the state and national levels. This is regardless of the value of the complaint.
Yet another amendment took place.
Earlier when filing a complaint, it was necessary to make sure that consumers had to file the complaint in the area where the opposite party resides or carries out his/her work. However, this is not so anymore. Consumers can choose to file a complaint from the place where he resides or even works. This has surely added an extra layer of flexibility and ease for the consumers and is a welcome move.
If suppose you are not happy with the judgment given at the district level commission, you can head to the state body. Appeals against the state jurisdiction will be heard by the national CDRC. If you are not satisfied with the judgment given by the national level CDRC, you can move to the Supreme Court this is going to be the utmost final appeal and the judgment shall be considered final and binding.
What If You Aren’t Satisfied With The Consumer Court’s Order?
If you aren’t satisfied with the order of the commission, you can choose to appeal against its order to the higher commission. This has to be done within 30 days from the order date.
If a consumer isn’t happy with the decision of the apex consumer court, you can then choose to head to the Supreme Court and this has to be done within 45 days of the order given by the higher commission.
How To File A Complaint In The Consumer Court?
You can choose either the online or the offline mode.
- If you want to file your complaint online, make sure to visit the e-daakhil site
- Follow the on-screen instructions and submit your complaint
- Alternatively, you can present the complaint yourself in court or via your agent. The choice is completely yours to make.
- You can also choose to send the complaint to the court via a registered post along with the court fee. Mostly it has been seen that three copies of complaints have to be submitted.
What Is The Time Limit To Follow?
As per the books of law, a complaint needs to be filed within two years from the date when the cause of action took place. Suppose you were wronged on February 5th, 2020. In that case, you need to file a complaint by February 4th, 2022 at max. Post this date, your complaint will not be considered as you will have passed the limitation period for your complaints.
Do Consumers Need To Have An Advocate?
As per the current rules and regulations, consumers don’t need to involve a lawyer because the consumer commission bodies are hailed to be quasi-judicial. Their main aim is to ensure that quick and right solutions can be offered and the matter can be sorted at the earliest.
Consumers can file the companies and also represent themselves in their individuality. However, if one chooses to, they can hire the services of a lawyer as well. There is no restriction to not hiring one. It is however not mandatory or even obligatory.
The Complaint Details
When you are filing a complaint, there is a certain set of details that you need to provide. Let us see what they are. It is absolutely important that regardless of the nature of the complaint, you should ensure that these details are present in it.
- The name, description, and address
- The time, place, and related facts about the complaint
- The documents in support of the complaint
- The name, description, and address of the party against whom you are filing the complaint
The Fees To Be Paid
Whenever you are filing a complaint, you will have to pay the fee with it. The charges depend on the consideration involved. Here are the details of the fee you need to pay.
It is important to note that value differs depending on the level of commission you are filing a complaint. The fee is therefore divided into district, state and national levels. Let us see what they are.
|Commission/Value of the product and/or services||Fee|
|Up to Rs. 5 Lakh||Nil|
|From Rs. 5 Lakh to 10 Lakh||Rs. 200|
|From Rs. 10 Lakh to 20 Lakh||Rs. 400|
|From Rs. 20 Lakh to 50 Lakh||Rs. 1000|
|From Rs. 50 Lakh to 1 Crore||Rs. 2000|
|From Rs. 1 Crore to 2 Crore||Rs. 2500|
|From Rs. 2 Crore to 4 Crore||Rs. 3000|
|From Rs. 4 Crore to 6 Crore||Rs. 4000|
|From Rs. 6 Crore to 8 Crore||Rs. 5000|
|From Rs. 8 Crore to 10 Crore||Rs. 6000|
|Above Rs. 10 Crore||Rs. 7500|
So, whenever you decide to file a complaint, make it a point to check the net fee you need to pay. It is important that you pay this fee duly and ensure you are not flouting any rules whatsoever. The fee needs to be paid as a demand draft or through postal order.
The Case Of Misleading Advertisements
As per the central consumer protection authority, if someone has a misleading advertisement, they can be imposed a penalty of up to Rs. 10 lakhs and also imprisonment of up to 2 years. If the offence is greater, the imprisonment can be extended to five years and the penalty can shoot up to Rs. 10 lakhs.
The Case Of Consumer Courts And Home Buyers
Back in 2016, the real estate regulation and development act was established by the real estate regulatory authorities. This has given homebuyers a specific forum wherein they can approach if they seem to be having issues with developers. So, this is a specific body but if needed, homebuyers can also choose to approach the consumer court as well for seeking justice. In 2020 itself, the Supreme Court further established this point as they heard a case wherein several complaints were filed against Imperia Structures, a Delhi-based real estate firm.
If you are interested in becoming a real estate agent, learn the basic details.
The Supreme Court further added that Section 79 of the RERA Act doesn’t bar the consumer to head to the commission or forum for the sake of filing the complaint. It is upon the individual discretion of the allottee who to approach for the sake of filing the complaint.
So, you can explore the options and then choose the best ones to approach.
When was the consumer protection act repealed?
The consumer protection act was repealed in 2019 after it was noted that several changes had come up. It was important to modify the law because the new buying platforms and behaviour had seen a major change. However, the law was put into action on July 20, 2020
Are the real estate complaints filed against a separate head?
There is a separate body known as Real Estate Regulation and Authority. This body has been appointed for the sake of taking down the complaints against any real estate service-related issues. However, this doesn’t by any means infer that people cannot approach the consumer court for this sake. It is under the discretion of an individual to choose to who they want to complain.
Can you resolve a complaint through mediation?
Yes, you can choose to resolve the complaint with the help of mediation. Even after you have filed a complaint, you can still choose this method.