If fools did not go to market, cracked pots and false wares would not be sold.
-- Jean Le Malchanceux (in the twelfth century).
In India, consumers have had a raw deal in the market place and suffered in the field of health and welfare. Earlier they had recourse to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act. But after The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 came into force, and key amendments took effect in March 2003, consumers have been learning to assert themselves while buying goods and services.
As a Bangalorean, what should be the first thing on your shopping list to make you a smart and savvy consumer? Buy a small but very useful booklet called The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 costing Rs.25-30. This will help you familiarise yourself with your rights. Next you must know about the consumer forums or courts in the city and how to go about filing a complaint where.
The law and process
Published by the Commercial Law Publishers (India) Pvt. Ltd. Delhi, this is a handy book to teach you all about the laws of consumer protection in India. Law bookshops located in the Gandhingar area -- there are more than 50 shops in and around Gandhinagar - sell this book. (Bharat Law House and Ganesh Book Bureau are two examples). Some of the simplest rules in this Act can help us become smart shoppers, and also to get redressal when we are short changed or cheated.
This booklet available now was updated in 2006. It also has The Consumer Protection Rules (amended in 2005) and The Consumer Protection Regulations, 2005. Here are somethings you will understand from it:
1. The MRP -- the Maximum Retail Price. Consumers must check the MRP before they make a purchase. The law expressly bars vendors from selling above the MRP.
2. Consumers can present their own cases in consumer courts and do not need to engage a lawyer.
3. They must file their complaint within two years of the dispute arising, after which it becomes outdated.
4. How and where to file the complaint the in Bangalore:
a. You must write out your complaint to the Bangalore First Additional District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, 8th Floor, BWSSB Building, Cauvery Bhavan, K.G. Road, Bangalore 560009. This office then assigns the complaint to appropriate branch of the Forum where the hearing will be held.
b. You must also submit a demand draft for Rs.100 addressed to the Forum after which you will hear from them. This payment is compulsory.
5. Your complaint should be disposed of within 90 to 150 days.
6. If your complaint is against one opposite party (shop, business, etc.) you must submit three copies of your complaint. If it is against two opposite parties you must submit six copies.
7. If you have a complaint for which the compensation you are asking for is above Rs.20 lakhs, then you have to file it with the Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Basava Bhavan, Basaveshwara Circle, Bangalore 560001. The website is: http://kscdrc.kar.nic.in.
8. The III and IV Additional Forums are located at No.7 and 8, Sahakara Bhavan, Cunningham Road, Bangalore 560052. The I Additional District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, (Rural) is at the fourth floor of Swathi Complex, Seshadripuram, Bangalore 20.
Bangalore First Additional District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum
8th Floor, BWSSB Building, Cauvery Bhavan
Complaints - Rs.20 lakhs or more
Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Consumer awareness groups
No 239, 5th C Main
REMCO Layout, Hampi Nagar
Bangalore 560 104
creatorg at sify.com
Thaltej, Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway,
Ahmedabad 380054, Gujarat
Ph: 079 - 27489945/46, 27450528
9. Even after you get the order in your favour, if the opposite party does not return your money as ordered by the court, you can go back to the court after a month and file an execution petition requesting that your money be paid back using Section 25 of the consumer protection act - the court will send your petition to the Jurisdictional Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Urban who will get back your money for you.
10. A more powerful option is Section 27 of the CPA by which the court can send an arrest warrant with the help of the Commissioner of Police to the concerned jurisdictional police station connected to your opposite party. This is a quicker way of getting back your money.
About consumers and the consumer courts
The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) was the nicest gift we, through our government have given to ourselves as consumers. Consumers finally have got a voice and a forum to air their grievances. Using consumer courts, many citizens have been able to get back their money from sloppy builders, dishonest shop keepers, shady sellers of all kinds, and even from Government organizations such as the railways, bus companies, and so forth. As noted earlier, in Bangalore there are four consumer forums and above them, at the state level, is the Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
Recently the South Central Railways paid up for an unclean compartment! The Railways was also penalised for delayed refund, and and Apollo Hospital was told to pay up Rs.Two lakhs for negligence.
But many consumers also lose their cases in the consumer forums because they have not followed some important rules about filing their cases. The most important rule that every consumer must follow is to get a bill for whatever he buys. A consumer after all, is one who buys goods or services with his hard earned money. And if he does not have a bill to prove that he has bought something, it will be difficult for him to prove his case at the consumer forum.
Citizens please note: the CPA also empowers the courts to penalise consumers when they are at fault. There have been cases where consumers have been caught filing false complaints for gain, and they have been asked to pay up money to the opposite party.
In addition to the consumer courts, there are also other consumer societies (civil society organization) where consumers can get advice on problems. CREAT (Consumer Rights Education and Awareness Trust), is one such local organization, based in REMCO Layout, Hampinagar (near Vijayanagar) run by Y G Muralidharan. Another national level group is the Consumer Education and Research Society (CERC), Ahmedabad, which helps consumers all over India.