This article explains how the various consumer courts of India function.
If you feel cheated after purchasing a defective product or deficient service and are planning to go to the consumer court, know that instead of approaching the consumer courts directly, it is more effective to file a complaint with our online consumer complaint system.
If you would like to approach the consumer courts directly, you can find all details of all consumer courts at the Consumerdaddy website. Based on the Indian law, the 'Consumer Protection Act 1986', consumer courts have been set up at three levels:
You can file a complaint with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum if the compensation you seek is less than 20 lakhs. Created by the State Government, it is headed by a person who is or has been or is eligible to be appointed as a District Judge, and has the District Collector, members of parliament (MP), members of legislative assembly (MLA) and officials of all Government departments having consumer interface of the concerned district as members (We bet you are already getting goosebumps regarding the condition of all those consumers who would have stepped in there to get their consumer complaints resolved!!). The court can hear cases for companies that either operate an office or a branch within the district's limits, or if the grievance occurred, either partially or fully, within the district. This is another reason why we advice you not to do business with a company that does not have any local representatives, or that makes you sign an agreement regarding the jurisdiction of dispute.
Once the District Consumer Forum decides in your favor, it can ask the company to take any of the following actions:
- Rectify any deficiencies in the product to what is claimed
- Repair any defect free of cost
- Provide a similar or superior product in place of the existing product
- Refund the amount paid in full
- Recompense for any damages / costs / inconveniences
- Stop the sale of the product in the market altogether
- Either discontinue or not repeat any unfair or restrictive trade practices
- Issue corrective advertisement in place of any earlier misrepresentation
For more details on how to go about filing a consumer complaint with a District Consumer Forum, please refer our article on how to file a consumer complaint in India.
If you are not satisfied with the verdict of the District Forum, then, within a period of 30 days, knock the doors of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. Presided over by a person who is or has been a High Court judge, the State Consumer Court also deals with complaints where the compensation sought is between 20 lakhs and 1 crore. Here again, the court can hear cases for companies that either operate an office or a branch within the state, or if the grievance occurred, either partially or fully, within the state. As per law, the State Consumer Court has to function in the state capital, but the government has the powers to shift it as required.
The State Consumer Forum usually hears cases of three types:
- Appeals from District Consumer Forums
- Cases against companies that operate an either an office or a branch within the state
- Cases where the actual reason for filing the complaint occurred within the state, either partially or fully.
For more details on how to go about filing a consumer complaint with a State Consumer Court, please refer our article on how to file a consumer complaint in India.
If you are still unhappy with the State Consumer Court's decision, then the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is the place you need to go to within a period of 30 days. The National Commission deals with complaints where the compensation sought from the company is more than 1 crore. The National Commission functions in New Delhi, and is lead by a person who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
The National Commission handles five types of cases:
- Complaints that have either been sought or that need to be shifted from one State Consumer Court to another in the interest of justice.
- Appeals made from State Consumer Courts
- Complaints that occurred anywhere in India except in the State of Jammu and Kashmir
- State Consumer Courts cases where there have been allegations or proof of material irregularities or any other illegal activities
- Cases where verdicts have been passed in the absence of either parties (ex-parte orders) have to be set aside.
For more details on how to go about filing a consumer complaint with a State Consumer Court, please refer our article on how to file a consumer complaint in India. If you are still not happy with the verdict, then u can appeal in the Supreme Court within a period of 30 days.
All said, a practical scenario will just be that you will end up being kicked as a ball from one judge, one court, one verdict to another for a long time before you get your verdict. Even if the verdict turns out to be in your favor (You should try your luck at the lottery too if this happens!!), what is the assurance that the company will follow the verdict? Sadly none! Most companies rarely follow the orders of a consumer court promptly and you will soon find yourself in the consumer court once again, filing a petition to enforce the verdict. Yeah and at times you'll end up wondering it would have been better not to file the complaint at all!
But wait, you are not totally helpless till the time you enforce your verdicts. There are reliable and highly reputed consumer-related websites such as Consumerdaddy, who would gladly broadcast your experience with unscrupulous companies to other consumers all over India. At Consumerdaddy, we also seek the expertise of various consumer NGOs who have the requisite experience to resolve your complaints. By filing a consumer complaint on our site, not only can you get your complaint heard by the company, you also stand a good chance of having your complaint resolved. What better way to have your consumer rights enforced!