Consumer Redressal Agencies

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Consumer Redressal Agencies

Consumer Redressal Agencies: District Forum, State Commission and National Commission

District Forum

The Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, better known as District Forum is the first stage of courts at the bottom of the hierarchy of the consumer redressal courts. The sections 10 to 15 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 deal with this forum.

Section 10(1) of the Act deals with the composition of the District Forum. The important aspects of this Act involve:

  • There is a President with the qualification of a District judge.
  • Apart from the President, there are two other members, one being a woman.
  • These members are to be chosen based on three grounds.They must be at least 35 years of age, they must have a degree from a recognized university and they must have at least 10 years of experience in law, economics, commerce and so on.

The above appointments have certain disqualifications:

  • A convict sentenced to imprisonment which breaches moral conduct according to the State Government
  • An insolvent
  • A person of an unsound mind according to a competent court
  • One removed from a government job or a government controlled corporate job
  • A person with such financial interest that will create a prejudice in his functions as a member.

Section 10 1(A) of the Act prescribes that every appointment mentioned above will be made by a committee with is composed of:

  • The President of the State Commission as the Chairman
  • The Secretary of the Law Department of the State as a Member
  • The Secretary dealing in consumer affairs in the State as a Member.

In the absence of the President, the Chief Justice of the High Court may nominate a sitting judge of the High Court in his place.

Every member of the District Forum need to have the following qualifications:

  • The term is five years or 65 years, whichever is earlier
  • Reappointment is possible through the Selection Committee’s recommendation
  • Resignation can be done with a letter addressed to the State Government
  • The State Government decides the salary structure of the Forum

Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines the jurisdiction of the District Forum, explained below:

  • The value of goods and services and compensation should not exceed 20 lakh rupees.
  • Jurisdiction in terms of place can be determined as:

a) The place of residence or carrying out of the business of the opposite party,

b) any party or each party

c) The place where the cause of action wholly or partly arises.

In accordance with Section 14 of the Act, the District Forum has the power to grant damages.This can be in the form of compensation, removing defects or deficiencies, discontinuing unfair trade practice, withdrawal of hazardous good for sale and so on.

Section 15 of the Act grants an appeal against the decision of the District Forum within 30 days to the State Commission. Also, the appellant must have paid 50 per cent of the compensation decided against him or ₹25000, whichever is less.

Section 13 of the Act pertains to the procedure for the admission of a consumer complaint. Procedure for the complaint against an allegedly defective good which the Forum should implement is as follows:

a) Within 21 days of filing the complaint, the opposite party should receive a copy to explain his version. The version should be submitted in 30 days, with a maximum extension of 15 days.

b) When the opposite party either disputes and denies or fails to take action to represent his case, clause (c) or (g) must be followed

c) If a complaint needs an analysis of the good, a sample can be taken by the District Forum to be sent to a certain laboratory for testing for the defect. The report of the findings should be complete in 45 days unless an extension is granted by the Forum.

d) The complainant may have to pay a fee in order to carry out the process of sample testing at the said laboratory.

e) This fee will be given to the laboratory and the report with the appropriate remarks will be forwarded to the opposite party.

f) If one of the parties disputes the findings of the laboratory, the party’s objections should be submitted in writing.

g) Both parties will be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard by the District Forum.

Deficiency in services follows a similar procedure, focussing on the evidence brought to the District Forum.

If the complainant fails to appear on the date of the hearing, the Forum may either dismiss the complaint or act on its discretion.

State Commission

The Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, better known as State Commission is the second stage of courts from the bottom of the hierarchy. It is the court that deals with the appeals against the grassroots level consumer protection agencies. The sections 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 deal with this Commission.

Section 16 of the Act deals with the composition of the State Commission. The important aspects of this Act involve:

  • There is a President who is or was a judge of the High Court, appointed by the State Government
  • Apart from the President, there are two other members, one being a woman.
  • The number of members in the State Commission cannot be less than 2
  • These members are to be chosen based on three grounds. They must be at least 35 years of age, they must have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university and they must have at least 10 years of experience in law, economics, commerce and so on.
  • Not more than fifty per cent of the members should have a judicial background.
  • The State Government determines the remuneration of the members.
  • The President can choose the size of the Commission as one or more
  • Decisions are of the majority, with the President intervening in case of an equal division in opinion.

The above appointments have certain disqualifications:

  • A convict sentenced to imprisonment which breaches moral conduct according to the State Government
  • An undischarged insolvent
  • A person of an unsound mind as declared by a competent court
  • One removed from a government job or a government controlled corporate job
  • A person with such financial interest that will create a prejudice in his functions as a member.

Section 16 1(A) of the Act prescribes that every appointment mentioned above will be made by a committee with is composed of:

  • The President of the State Commission as the Chairman
  • The Secretary of the Law Department of the State as a Member
  • The Secretary dealing in consumer affairs in the State as a Member.

In the absence of the President, the Chief Justice of the High Court may nominate a sitting judge of the High Court in his place.

Every member of the District Forum need to have the following qualifications:

  • The term is five years or 67 years, whichever is earlier
  • Reappointment is possible through the Selection Committee’s recommendation
  • Resignation can be done with a letter addressed to the State Government

Section 17(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines the jurisdiction of the State Commission, explained below:

  • The value of goods and services and compensation should be at least 20 lakhs but not exceed 1 crore rupees.
  • Appeals against the orders of District Forum are settled here
  • If the District Forum has seemingly acted beyond its power or has failed in its duty, then the National Commission can call for records.

Jurisdiction in terms of place can be determined as (Section 17(2)):

a) The place of residence or carrying out of the business of the opposite party,

b) any party or each party

c) The place where the cause of action wholly or partly arises.

The State Commission may transfer a complaint to it from the District Forum at any stage of the proceeding. The State Commission may also outside of its ordinary place of the capital. These are called Circuit Courts.

As according to Section 18, the State Commission observes the same procedure as the District Forum under Sections 12, 13 and 14.

Section 19 of the Act grants an appeal against the decision of the National Commission within 30 days to the State Commission. Also, the appellant must have paid 50 per cent of the compensation decided against him or Rs. 35000, whichever is less.

National Commission

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, better known as National Commission is the highest structure of redressal agencies, subordinate to the Supreme Court. It is the court that deals with the appeals against the State Commission. The sections of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 deal with this Commission.

Section 20 of the Act deals with the composition of the National Commission. The important aspects of this Act involve:

  • There is a President who is or was a judge of the Supreme Court, appointed by the Central Government
  • There must be 4 members at least, one being a woman.
  • These members are to be chosen based on three grounds. They must be at least 35 years of age, they must have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university and they must have at least 10 years of experience in law, economics, commerce and so on.
  • Not more than fifty per cent of the members should have a judicial background.
  • The Central Government determines the remuneration of the members.
  • The President can choose the Bench of the Commission as one or more
  • Decisions are of the majority, with the President intervening in case of an equal division in opinion.

The above appointments have certain disqualifications:

  • A convict sentenced to imprisonment which breaches moral conduct according to the Central Government
  • An undischarged insolvent
  • A person of an unsound mind as declared by a Central court
  • One removed from a government job or a government controlled corporate job
  • A person with such financial interest that will create a prejudice in his functions as a member.

Section 16 1(A) of the Act prescribes that every appointment mentioned above will be made by a committee with is composed of:

  • A judge of the Supreme Court nominated by Chief Justice of India as the Chairman
  • The Secretary in Department of Legal Affairs of the Government of India as a Member
  • The Secretary of the department dealing in consumer affairs in the Government of India as a Member.

Every member of the District Forum need to have the following qualifications:

  • The term is five years or 70 years, whichever is earlier
  • Reappointment is possible through the Selection Committee’s recommendation
  • Resignation can be done with a letter addressed to the Central Government

Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines the jurisdiction of the National Commission, explained below:

  • The value of goods and services and compensation should exceed 1 crore rupees
  • Appeals against the orders of State Commission are settled here
  • If the State Commission has seemingly acted beyond its power or has failed in its duty, then the National Commission can call for records.

The National Commission may receive a transfer of a complaint from the State Commission at any stage of the proceeding in the interest of justice. This can be on the application of the complainant or its own motion. The National Commission may also outside of its ordinary place of the capital of India, New Delhi. These are called Circuit Benches.

The National Commission has the power to review any order made by itself when there seems to be an error on the record, as stated in Section 22.

Section 19 of the Act grants an appeal against the decision of the National Commission within 30 days to the Supreme Court. Also, the appellant must have paid 50 per cent of the compensation decided against him or Rs. 50000, whichever is less.

Consumer Councils in the International Sphere:

  • Nigeria: Nigerian Consumer Protection Council (CPC) looks after Consumer Protection. The government has been given the duty to ensure these rights through education. Health is given immense importance and unsafe goods are curbed. Consumer Protection councils ensure speedy relief.
  • Australia: The agencies to ensure Consumer Protection are Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the individual State Consumer Affairs agencies.They ensure Consumer Rights.

These are the three consumer redressal agencies, namely, the District Forum, the State Commission and the National Commission. Its significance is visible all across the country where all the grievances of the consumers are being tackled, upholding consumer interest.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the hierarchy of consumer redressal agencies in India?

Consumer redressal agencies follow a hierarchy of District Forum, State Commission and National Commission starting from the bottom to the top of the hierarchy.

  1. Where do the consumer redressal agencies arise from?

Consumer redressal agencies are a product of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, which sets regulations for the establishment and functioning of these agencies.

  1. Do other countries indulge in Consumer Protection?

Countries across the globe have implemented laws for consumer protection. Two major advocates of consumer protection are the United States of America and the European Union, including the United Kingdom.

  1. Can consumer complaints reach the Supreme Court?

Yes, complaints can reach the Supreme Court on an appeal against the decision of the National Commission.

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Sonika Sekhar
I am Sonika Sekhar from National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam. I have a keen interest in reading and writing, which stems from my fascination for the English language. Having done debates and moots in the past, articulation is of great importance to me. I have studied Civil Law and Consumer Protection Law in detail, along with some aspects of Criminal Law.

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