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What to do if goods received was defective?

A Consumer Court is a court established under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to redress and adjudicate disputes in India. These Courts are established at three levels i.e. District, State, and National levels. According to the law, a dispute is filed in these forums depending on the monetary limit i.e. each Court has a valuation fixed by law.

Consumers are the backbone of an economy owing to their purchasing capacity of goods and services. Ideally, the goods and services must be of a certain quality and not be defective or deficient in nature. However, there are multiple situations wherein the Consumer is a victim of deficient service or substandard goods. To remediate the consumer and provide for a redressal mechanism, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 came into force.

The consumer, his legal heir, representative, or voluntary consumer association may file a complaint if the following conditions are met in their situation:

  1. the legal deadline of two years from the date of the alleged wrong was not missed.
  2. the complainant must be of sound mind, solvent, and of sufficient standing to file the complaint.

Grounds for filing a complaint in consumer courts are:

  • adoption by the service provider of a restrictive or unfair business practise;
  • defective goods, regardless of whether the complaint has actually purchased them or has committed to do so;
  • a lack of services, whether they were hired, used, or agreed to be used;
  • overcharging for goods or services above the price that may have been set by law, published on product packaging, listed in an exhibit, or as otherwise agreed upon by the parties.
  • Selling or offering to sell dangerous products or services that endanger life and property when used or accessed, provided the trader has reasonable access to information indicating that the products or services are dangerous.

What are the different Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies responsible for consumer protection?

Once the grounds are established, the next step is to estimate the pecuniary limit for t hecomplaint. Under the Consumer Protection Act there exists a three-tier redressal forum. complaints are filed in these forums in accordance with the pecuniary limit as fixed by the law.

1. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF):

 Established in each district, it comprises of 3 members each. If the value of the claim is up to 20 lakhs
then, an appeal may be filed from the order of DCDRF in State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

2. State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC):

Established in every State, the SCDRC can entertain original as well as appellate complaints. If the value of the claim is between 20 lakhs to 1 Crore, an appeal may be filed from the order of SCDRC to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

3. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC):

Located in New Delhi, it is the highest forum in the three-tier Redressal System under the Consumer Protection Act. The pecuniary jurisdiction lies if the value of the claim exceeds 1 crore. It is also authorized to hear appeals from SCDRC. Further, an appeal from the order of NCDRC lies to the Supreme Court.

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What is the procedure to file a complaint in the Consumer Court?

STEP 1: Intimation via Notice:

A notice to be sent by the aggrieved party to the service provider who provided the goods or the services. The notice communicates the intention of the complainer to resort to litigation and informs him about the defects in the goods or the deficiency in the service or any unfair practice. The notice is also an attempt to settle the complaint without approaching the Forum i.e. if the service provider is willing to offer compensation or any other remedy.

STEP 2: Get the Consumer Complaint Drafted:

If the service provider is not willing to offer compensation or any other remedy, the
next step is to file a formal complaint under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The
filing of the Complaint does not necessarily require a lawyer. The complaint can be
filed by the aggrieved person. The following details must be specified in the
complaint:
1. Name, description and the address of the complainant(s) and the Opposite
Party or parties.
2. Cause of Action, the approximate date, time and venue.
3. Relevant facts relating to the cause of action.
4. The Relief or Remedy claimed by the complainant in accordance with the
facts of the case.
5. Signature and Verification by the complainant or his authorized agent.

STEP 3: Attach Relevant Documents:

Copies of material evidence and relevant documents that support your case in Consumer Court are important. These documents include:
1. A copy of the bill, receipt of delivery, packaging of a product, a record of online booking of the goods bought
2. Warranty/Guarantee certificates
3. A copy of the written complaint and notice sent to the manufacturer/seller

STEP 4: Appropriate Forum:

Choose the appropriate forum for filing the complaint in accordance with the pecuniary jurisdiction which is estimated in reference to the total value of goods and services bought or availed and the amount of compensation sought.

STEP 5: Pay Requisite Court Fees:

A prescribed fee is required to be paid along with the complaint filed depending on the forum. The court fee depends upon the value of goods bought and the amount of compensation sought.

STEP 6: Submit an Affidavit:

The person who wants to file a case in the Consumer Court is also required to submit an affidavit in the court. The affidavit must state that the facts presented, and statements made by the consumer are true to their knowledge.

What are the reliefs that can be granted under the Consumer Protection Act?

  • Refund of the price paid by the Consumer while purchasing the product and additional compensation for damages suffered if any and cost of litigation, if claimed.
  • Removal of Defects i.e., if the Consumer Forum concludes after conducting proper tests that there exist material defects, it may pass an order to cure or remove those defects.
  • Replacement of goods by the service provider if feasible.
  • Compensation may be awarded to the complainant if it has been proved that physical, mental or any other loss or damage was suffered owing to the usage of the goods or availing of the services.
  • Imposing a ban on the sale of hazardous goods and their withdrawal from the market.
  • An order for removal of deficiency in service if feasible.
  • An order for discontinuance of Unfair/ Restrictive Trade Practice in cases where the cause of action was such practice. The Authority is empowered to impose a complete or conditional ban on the aforementioned practices which may be unfair or restrictive in nature.
  • Payment of the adequate cost or the cost of litigation if claimed by the complainant.

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