Consumer Protection Act of 1986 defines a consumer as one who avails or buys one or more items from a vendor/seller or avails of any service from a service provider at a cost. In the Amendment to the Act, in the year 2000, the ambit has been expanded to include business people who avail of a service from any service provider. This, however, excludes business-to-business models. The Act also provides for the inclusion of an individual who provides a service for a fee but does it to earn his livelihood; an apt example is that of a Trucker who owns his own truck and drives it himself to earn a living for his family. As he hires out his truck, which he himself drives without an employee working for him, his services remain within the purview of the act. However, if he invests in a second truck, employs a driver and pays him a salary, he is no longer a consumer under the Act, but is a businessman, and all his transactions will be covered under B2B. Simply speaking, when he bought spares for his truck as an individual operator, he was a consumer, when he buys spares for multiple trucks he owns, he is a businessman.
The Consumer Protection Act of 1986 gives a consumer a right to file a complaint in the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum with respect to service provided, under “deficiency in service provided” and “Unfair trade practice”. There are three levels of Redressal. The jurisdiction at the District Level is restricted to Complaints where the value of the goods and services and compensation is worth up to Rs 20 lakhs. Complaints, where the values of the goods and services and compensation is above Rs 20 lakhs and up to Rs 1 crore, the State Level Disputes Redressal Forum prevails. It is to be noted that jurisdiction at the National level prevails for all transactions over and above Rs 1 crore. The applicable fee for filing a complaint has been fixed at a minimum of Rs 200 and a maximum of Rs 5,000 according to the value of the goods and the value of services availed. Filing a complaint involves a set of procedures and protocols. A unique feature is that the Complainant can download the format of the Complaint, fill it out, file it in the designated Dispute Redressal Forum, and also be his/her own counsel in the litigation process.
There are a number of consumer organisations in India, such as Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, Consumer Voice in Delhi, and Cuts International in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The Consumer Guidance Society of India operates a Helpline in Mumbai.
In Mumbai, Consumer Guidance Society of India gets consumer complaints through walk-ins directly, emails on helpline and telephone calls to the toll-free helpline number. Most of the complaints are about Telecom service providers, for example in the month of June 2018, calls received were 11 numbers and 88 emails. In the same month, Insurance complaints had a total of 89 emails and 6 calls, in banking complaints were 62 of which 53 were emails received. Similarly, in the same month E-commerce accounted for 90 complaints out of which 71 were emails. Complaints about White goods, mainly domestic appliances accounted for 100 numbers, 33 being telephonic calls alone. Major long drawn complaints are received about Real Estate, about delayed possession, agreements not signed and registered by builders/developers or payment taken but project not having approvals in place, hence delayed start in building construction. Most of the complaints are resolved with CGSI’s intervention.
Nashik being a district, the picture is dissimilar, more of agricultural produce, fertiliser, agricultural Insurance issues are complained about. Builder/Developers are a common scenario both in urban areas and tier two cities. Ponzi schemes, MSEB related, Cooperative Housing Societies issues, Insurance fraud and Banking are the sectors were majority complaints have been received during Consumer camps organised by CGSI.
In order to arrange such workshops in your areas, you could contact CGSI on:
- Call Toll Free Helpline No. 1800 222262
- Send an e-mail to [email protected]
- Send an SMS to Cell No. 9773336400
Anindita Lahiri Kovoor
[The author of the article is the Committee Member of Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI).]
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of AFTERNOON VOICE and AFTERNOON VOICE does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)