In today’s fast-moving world, consumer protection is of paramount importance. Only when there is a sound system of safeguarding the interest of consumers who purchase goods or services from businesses or sellers will there be smooth functioning of markets, consumer welfare, and accountability on the part of businesses.
Consumer Protection Act, 2019 governs consumer protection in India
The statute that currently governs consumer laws in India is the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The Act repealed the 1986 Act of the same name. While large parts of the older act were retained, there were certain new provisions such as stricter norms for misleading advertisements, product liability, Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanisms, adjusting of pecuniary jurisdiction, and so on.
Consumer Commissions in India
Consumer cases are handled at each level by Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions. The jurisdiction is decided by the amount of money concerned in the particular case. The District Commission has a pecuniary jurisdiction of an amount up to Rs. 1 crore. For the State Commission, it is Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 10 crore while at the National Commission, it is above Rs. 10 crore. It is noteworthy that the pecuniary jurisdiction values were different (lower) in the 1986 Act.
How to file a consumer complaint?
There are various ways to register a consumer complaint. Firstly, one can call the number 1800-11-4000 or 14404 or one can SMS 8130009809. However, these are quite time consuming since it becomes difficult to quickly make all information known. Therefore, the Indian government has created portals and apps online to register a complaint. They are as follows:
- Consumer Helpline Portal – This is an online portal that doesn’t need any app to be installed. Just visiting the link (https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/) is enough for one to be able to register a complaint.
- National Consumer Helpline (NCH) App – This is the same as the online portal but it is in the form of an app.
- Consumer App – This is an alternative app for filing complaints. It differs from the NCH app as it also allows for suggestions on draft bills to also be made.
- Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG) App – This is an app that has various services across various branches of law and governance that are available. Amongst these, a service to register a consumer complaint is also available.
Now, once one signs in and accesses the right portal to file a complaint in the aforementioned facilities, the procedure is largely similar as it is the details relating to the complaint that has to be given. Note also that it is mandatory to sign in, in order to file a complaint. Before one files a complaint, there is a message that pops up on the portal (which also applies for the apps) stating that complaints on the following should not be filed.
- Matters that are sub judice
- Grievances that fall under the purview of a foreign government
- Matters relating to religion
- Offering suggestions (though it can be done on the Consumer App)
Once the complainant agrees that his/her complaint does not fall under any of the above, the Grievance Registration Form will open. The form will have the following details which must be filled
- State and City where the good/service was purchased
- The industry (such as agriculture, banking, railways etc.) and subsequently the category of the complaint
- The name of the company
- Nature of grievance (this will be more specific than the category of the complaint)
- The value of the good/service purchased
- Complete description of the grievance
- Photo proofs (relating to the good/service)
After each of these are filled and the form is submitted, the complaint will be filed and sent to the authority that has jurisdiction to handle the matter. The complaint can be tracked after it is filed by going to ‘Grievance History’ in the portal or apps which will have details on the status of the complaint and the action, if any, which was taken.
The process of registering consumer complaints has been made extremely simple by the various apps and portals available for swift filing. The option to track complaints is a huge boon as well. Therefore, consumers must be made aware of this very efficient method of taking legal action against businesses and sellers.