Why & How to go to Consumer Court

Last Updated at: September 30, 2019
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As Indians, we often let things slide when someone or something more powerful treats us unfairly. From a nation known for its ‘chalta hai’ attitude, this is to be expected, even more so when a large corporation is on the other side.

The reasons for this are usually as follows:
a. The company said no refund or compensation. I can’t do anything about it.
b. I can take them to Consumer Court, but I’ll get nothing out of it, even if I win.
c. I don’t want to put in the time and effort needed for court.
d. The courts will always side with the big guys.

HDFC Bank “has got no love and respect for India”
None of these is fair — to all of us consumers, to corporates and definitely not to the Consumer Court.
Would you believe that just last week, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) said that HDFC Bank “has got no love and respect for India”?

The case related to Chandigarh residents Mohinderjit Singh Sethi and his wife Rajmohini Sethi, who were holidaying in Thailand & Singapore way back in 2008. A few days prior, they had opened a joint account with HDFC Bank and deposited Rs. 1.5 lakh. With the account came a debit card that they were promised would work abroad.
However, it did not. On contacting branch manager Rajinder Patheja, they were told the card was not yet activated due to a mistake in Rajmohini’s date of birth. This went on for 10 days, a delay that “exposed the sloth and callousness on the part of the bank manager”. Needless to say, the Sethis did not have a good holiday.
They immediately approached the District Consumer Court, which eventually gave them a paltry Rs. 50,000 as compensation. A ridiculously low sum, to say the least, for the agony caused.

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So the Sethis appealed the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, which refused to raise the amount. So they appealed the NCDRC, the apex consumer court, which just last week increased the compensation to Rs. 5 lakh, up to Rs. 50,000 of which could be deducted directly from Mr. Patheja’s salary.

While enhancing the compensation, NCDRC said that “we are of (the) considered view that the amount of Rs 50,000 awarded by the district forum, is just peanuts. A wearer knows where the shoe pinches.”

So, as consumers, what lessons can we learn from this case?
a. The company can’t always have the final word.
b. If you’re not happy with the compensation, you can always appeal.
c. If we keep fighting back, things will soon improve.
d. The courts are completely on your side.

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Consumer Protection Act, 1986

When You Can File a Case:
According to the Consumer Protection Act, a person who buys a product or purchases a service, for use and not for commercial purposes, qualifies as a consumer. This means you can file a case in consumer court if you aren’t satisfied with the quality of a service or the standard of a product you’ve purchased or have agreed to purchase within two years of the grievance. Furthermore, as a consumer you can also seek compensation for any inconvenience or damage caused by a faulty product or service.

Where to file a case?
There are three levels at which a consumer can files a case. Each has its own jurisdiction and powers.

District Forum: There is a District Forum for every district and it settles disputes in its jurisdiction involving claims of up to Rs. 20 lakh.

State Commission: The State Commission hears cases where the value of the claim is between Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 1 crore and those cases within the state which have been appealed against the District Forum’s decision.

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): The NCDRC hears cases which have been appealed against the decision of the State Commission and those in which the claimed sum exceeds Rs. 1 crore.
How to file a case?

Send a notice: Before filing a case, It is advisable to send a legal notice, stating all the facts of the case, to the registered office of the company.

File the complaint: Once done, the complaint can be filed on a plain paper. It should contain the name, description and address of the complainant and the opposite party, the facts related to complaint, documents in support of allegations made in the complaint, the compensation sought, and the signature of the complainant.

Pay court fees: The court fee is to be paid in the form of a demand draft and is nominal.

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