Consumer rights in India

Rights of consumers:-

(i) be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property;

(ii) be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services;

(iii) be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices; and

(iv) seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices.
 

Central Consumer Protection Authority:

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)is set up to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.  It will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements.  The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into such violations.

CCPA’s functions :-

(i) inquiring into violations of consumer rights, investigating and launching prosecution at the appropriate forum

(ii) passing orders to recall goods or withdraw services that are hazardous, reimbursement of the price paid, and discontinuation of the unfair trade practices, as defined in the Bill;

(iii) issuing directions to the concerned trader/ manufacturer/ endorser/ advertiser/publisher to either discontinue a false or misleading advertisement, or modify it; (iv) imposing penalties, and;

(v) issuing safety notices to consumers against unsafe goods and services.

Penalties for misleading advertisement:

The CCPA may impose a penalty on a manufacturer or an endorser of up to Rs 10 lakh and imprisonment for up to two years for a false or misleading advertisement.  In case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of up to five years.
CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from endorsing that particular product or service for a period of up to one year. For every subsequent offence, the period of prohibition may extend to three years.  

Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: 

Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (CDRCs) will be set up at the district, state, and national levels.  A consumer can file a complaint with CDRCs in relation to: (i) unfair or restrictive trade practices; (ii) defective goods or services; (iii) overcharging or deceptive charging; and (iv) the offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety. Complaints against an unfair contract can be filed with only the State and National   Appeals from a District CDRC will be heard by the State CDRC.  Appeals from the State CDRC will be heard by the National CDRC.  Final appeal will lie before the Supreme Court.

Jurisdiction of CDRCs: 

The District CDRC will entertain complaints where value of goods and services does not exceed Rs one crore.  The State CDRC will entertain complaints when the value is more than Rs one crore but does not exceed Rs 10 crore.  Complaints with value of goods and services over Rs 10 crore will be entertained by the National CDRC.

Product liability:

Product liability means the liability of a product manufacturer, service provider or seller to compensate a consumer for any harm or injury caused by a defective good or deficient service. To claim compensation, a consumer has to prove any one of the conditions for defect or deficiency, as given in the Bill.

Certification Marks issued for different products in India

Government of India has created some standards for almost every product to protect the economic interests of all citizens.

BIS Hallmark: Issued by Bureau of Indian Standards; Gold and Silver jewellery;
Applicable since: It is applicable for gold since April, 2000 and for silver since 2005.
To judge the purity of the gold ornaments, these numbers are written on the jewellery;
I. For 23 carat gold, you can find 958 number stamped on jewellery.
II. For 22 carats 916  
III. For 21 carats 875
IV. For 18 carats 750 
V.  For 17 carats 708
VI. For 14 carats 585
VII. For 9 carats  375

There is no point given to 24 carat gold because 24 carat is called liquid gold.

AGMARK: Issued by Directorate of Marketing and Inspection of the Government of India; Agricultural Products:
Applicable Since: 1937 (amended in 1986)

The AGMARK standards cover quality guidelines for 213 different commodities spanning a variety of Pulses, Cereals, Essential Oils, Vegetable Oils, Fruits &Vegetables, and semi-processed products like Vermicelli

ISI Mark: Issued by Bureau of Indian Stan products: Industrial products
Applicable since: 1955

The mark certifies that a product confirms to the Indian Standards, mentioned as IS:XXXX on the top of the mark. So if you want to purchase an electronic item/industrial items from the market then make sure that it has ISI mark on it.
This mark is also a certification mark mandatory for all the "processed fruit products" in India. This mark is applicable on food such as packaged fruit beverages, fruit-jams crushes and squashes, pickles, dehydrated fruits, products and fruits extracts, following the food safety and standard act of 2006.

FPO Mark: Issued by Ministry of Food processing ; processed fruit products

Applicable since: 1955


This mark is a certification mark mandatory for all the "processed fruit products" in India. This mark is applicable on food such as packaged fruit beverages, fruit-jams crushes and squashes, pickles, dehydrated fruits, products and fruits extracts, following the food safety and standard act of 2006.

FSSAI: Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is a statutory body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which is a consolidating statue related to food safety and regulation in India.


Non Polluting Vehicle Mark
It is a mandatory certification mark required on all new motor vehicles sold in India. The mark certifies that the motor vehicle conforms to the relevant version of Bharat Stage Emission Standards. The validity of this certificate is limited for one year only.

 

India Organic: Organically farmed food products
Applicable since:
 2000

Other facts: This certificate is required for farmed products produced in India. The certificate mark certifies that an organic food product conforms to the national standard for organic products established in2000. 

Eco mark or Eco mark: Issued by Bureau of Indian Standards : Eco friendly products
Effective since: 1991

This mark is issued by the BIS to products conforming to a set of standards aimed at the least impact on the eco system. 

Responsibilities of the Customer:-

·      Ensure the company has provided you the contact details of the consumer grievance handling system that is easily accessible normally a toll free number or customer cell. Or else avoid purchasing it.

·      Carefully study the terms and conditions related to the return or replacement of defective goods, refund and warranty policies.

·      While purchasing the goods, make sure the standard quality marks such as ISI, Hallmark, Agmark, FSSAi etc are mentioned in the label.

·      Do not carried away by advertisements of the seller. Make sure you review the products before purchase.

 

How can a consumer get justice when his rights are denied?

A consumer can get justice when his rights are denied by appealing in the consumer court. The judicial system has been set up under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 which consists at the national level, state level and the district level.

 
Is lawyer required for consumer court?

Appearing in consumer court actually does not require a lawyer. But efficiently if the documents must be drafted and represented its always best to hire a good lawyer.  

 

How can I fight case in consumer court?

A dissatisfied consumer can file a complaint directly with the national commission or appeal against decisions of the state commission within a month from the date of the order. The court fee is Rs 5,000 and the demand draft should be in the name of The Registrar, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

 

How much time does consumer court take?

The Consumer Protection Act,1986, mandates that all cases be settled in 90-150 days.

What is the limitation period for filing a complaint?

(1) The District Commission, the State Commission or the National Commission shall not admit a complaint unless it is filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action has arisen.

 

The Process of Filing a Consumer Complaint

Legal Notice- If the defendant does not respond to the legal notice in under 30 days, or plainly disregards or refuses to take action on the conditions imposed in the notice by the aggrieved, the aggrieved has the absolute right to redressal through an appropriate consumer commission or court.

Finding the Jurisdiction of Court - When the accused fails to respond to the legal notice, the consumer must first determine the authority of the Forum where the complaint must be submitted. The complainant shall take into account both the tribunal's pecuniary and territorial jurisdiction. The pecuniary jurisdiction of District, State, and National Commission is up to Rs. 10 million, Rs. 10million to Rs. 100 million and more than Rs. 100 million, respectively.

The territorial jurisdiction must be found out on the local limits of the District, State or National Commission in whose jurisdiction the accused has a residence or owns a business or a subsidiary office.

Consumer Court Fee- Afterward, the complainant has to make payment along with the complaint about a standard fee to the District, State, or National Commission, wherever applicable.  

Contents of Complaint and Supporting Documents- The complainant must meticulously draw up the consumer complaint, including all relevant factual evidence, with his attestation and signature. The complaint must include the name, address, and description of the complainant and accused against whom relief is sought in court. Furthermore, if the complainant delegated authority to another person to register the complaint, the complaint must be supplemented by a valid letter of authorization from the complainant.

The complaint must encompass all supporting and relevant documents, including a copy of the invoice for the goods or services acquired from the accused, documents concerning a warranty or/and guarantee of goods/services, a copy of the letter of complaint, and the legal notice served to accused asking that he redress the goods he sold or make compensation. Lastly, the complainant must provide an affidavit with the complaint describing that the facts asserted and evidence presented in the complaint are wholly accurate and factual in his opinion. Aside from that, the complaint must be submitted in the forum with a minimum of 5 copies and supplemental copies for each accused party.

Compensation Sought- The complainant must explicitly state what kind of relief or compensation he/she seeks from the accused party, in the consumer complaint. The cost of compensation or damages that occurred to the complainant shall be explicitly mentioned in the consumer complaint. 

In addition, consumers have the right to demand a reimbursement of the goods/services, the cost of product injury, litigation expenses, as well as some additional interest. The complainant needs to provide a detailed description of the amount requested in compensation under various separate headings.

Limitation Period and Delay- The complainant has only two years from the date the cause of action appeared to file a lawsuit. Furthermore, an appeal to the State Commission must be filed within 45 days of the order of the District Commission. An appeal that is made to the National Commission must be filed within 30 days of the order received from the lower court.   When a delay in filing the complaint happens, it is exclusively the complainant's obligation to provide a clarification to satisfy the Tribunal for such delay. The delay can only be excused if the Tribunal is content that the cause of the delay was reasonable and not malicious.

Final Filing- A consumer complaint can be addressed in person by the complainant, by her/his representative who has an authorization letter, or by her/his lawyer.

The complainant has the option of sending the complaint via registered mail, receipts of which should be stored for future reference. However, the complaint can also be filed online through the official website on “https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/”,which is more convenient for the consumer as it is time-saving. The fee for the complaint must be submitted through the online payment portal available. 

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