How to file complaint in Consumer Court?
You can file a written complaint before the District Consumer Forum for pecuniary value of up to Rupees twenty lakh and to State Commission for value up to Rupees one crore and the National Commission for value above Rupees one crore in situations you feel the services or goods provider did not respect your consumer rights which may come in defective goods and deficient services.
It’s not that if you file consumer complaint in consumer court you waive your right to file civil suit. You can still look for the civil suit as that is the main remedy; consumer protection complaint is a quick remedy under the Consumer Protection Act wherein complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act does not ask for any court fees but only a nominal fee.
Moreover, as Consumer Forum proceedings are summary in nature, you can seek swift justice. You must check if any sub-rules have been passed in your state or union territory as the Act allows this freedom to respective governments i.e. State Forums and National Forums may have their own rules.
The Procedure for Filing Complaint before the District Forum
- This one is the most important, there is time limit to file the complaint to the consumer forum i.e. it must be filed within two years of the cause of action and if there are reasonable causes for delay in filing the complaint, you can always request the Consumer Forum to condone the delay.
- Though you can file a handwritten complaint, typed complaint will make things easy not just for the adjudicating officer but for you and the respondent. Ideally, it should be double spaced, with at least 1½ inches of margin space on the left, top and bottom like any standard document.
- Arrange the complaint in order and give page number all documents for convenience. For instance, if you are submitting application for condonation of delay in situation there is some delay, you should put it before all documents.
- You complain should have details of the grievance, put in the language that can be comprehended by the officer and the respondent. Preference should be to put in a narrative and chronological manner and must come with what the issue is and what relief you want from the complaint.
- Best part is, you can appear before the Consumer Forums in person and don’t need any lawyer to represent your case. Even your close relative can appear for you. However, if you wish to hire a lawyer to represent you, you must enclose a Vakalatnama, you may prefer this if you are busy and don’t want to do paperwork and attend the hearing.
- Place affidavit that the contents of the complaint are true and put the copies of all documents on which you rely upon in support of your Complaint. You also need to submit one original and two photocopies of the same. Also, you should submit as many more copies as there are parties.
- Being a complainant, you are also asked to send notice in writing to the supplier or service provider you are complaining against. Make sure the notice is simple, clearly pointing out your grievances, and requesting the supplier or service provider to rectify the faults, defects, etc. or replace the goods.
- You are also required to give ample time to the respondents to either address the issue you raised or come prepared in consumer forum. Make sure that the notice you sent reaches to the respondents/defendants and for that send it to the address where they are actually available.
What Happens Once You Have Fulfilled All Conditions
You are asked to be present on the said date at the Consumer Forum office. If you have asked a lawyer to represent you, he will do this for you. During the admission of the case, you or your lawyer records the presence, whereupon a date is assigned in future. The time is taken to allow the complaint copy to reach to the opposite party.
The next hearing takes place when both the parties are present and the adjudicating officer asks to submit affidavits, written arguments, etc. Verbal arguments are listened during this and subsequent hearings which generally take place in some 15 days apart.
What if You Missed the Hearing?
In situation you were unable to represent your case as you were engaged somewhere else you can call up the PRO and get the next hearing date by giving the complaint number and the date of the hearing you missed. However, make sure that if you are absent at two consecutive hearings, the Consumer Court reserves its right to struck out the case. Even then there is some hop in the form of a letter that you can write addressing the Forum within a month of closure.
What after Order/Ruling?
As consumer forum hearings are summary decisions, it does not take much time to decide and you can get your issues addressed within a couple of months. The adjudicating officer delivers the order after verbal arguments on or after 15 days. You must show your presence on the day of the passing of the order.
In situation you are not satisfied with the order passed by the Consumer Forum, you may appeal against it within one month of the date of the order, with the appellate authority. However, if there is no appeal, and not compliance, the court has right to issue an arrest warrant against the defaulter.