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How to File a Case in Consumer Court?

A consumer court deals with cases regarding consumer complaints and grievances. The judiciary hearings are set up by the government of India to protect consumer rights wherein unsatisfied consumers can file a case in consumer court against the seller on the grounds of harassment or deliverance of flawed goods or services. Here is our complete guide on how to file a case in a consumer court in India.
Written by:
Prachi Darji
Published on
16-Aug-19

What is a Consumer Court in India?

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. 

"Consumer Courts have proven to be the most effective way to provide a remedy to Consumers and address their grievances. Filing a complaint is very easy and cost-effective, unlike other forms of litigation. The territorial jurisdiction also plays a role while deciding which district consumer forum one can file the complaint along with the pecuniary jurisdiction. As in Delhi, it depends on the location of the person's business, cause of action and residence and over to that, it should also take into account the said location under which police station jurisdiction the cause of action arose before filing the case in the concerned district consumer forum," says Advocate Akshay Agarwal.

Table of Contents:

  • Who can file a complaint in a Consumer Court?

  • When can a consumer lodge a complaint? 

  • Grounds for Filing a Complaint

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

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

  • How to approach the District Forum?

  • How to approach the State Consumer Forum?

  • How to approach the NCDRC?

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

  • Is there a time limit to file a case in consumer court?

  • Can I appeal against the order of the consumer court? 

  • Consumer court Complaint Format

  • Frequently Asked Questions

Who can file a complaint in a Consumer Court?

A complaint can be made in the Consumer Court by: 

  • A consumer. But who is a ‘consumer’ exactly? A person is a consumer if he/she fulfills the following conditions:

    • The person has purchased goods or availed some services in exchange for some value, i.e. he/she has paid money 

    • The person must have bought the goods for personal use, and not for resale or commercial purposes

  • Voluntary consumer association: Any registered association under the Companies Act, 1956, or under any other law 

  • The Central or the State Government

  • One or more consumers who have the same interest

  • In cases of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative. 

When can a consumer lodge a complaint? 

A complaint can be filed by the Consumer or his legal heir or representative or voluntary consumer association if 

  • any of the grounds listed below are satisfied in his case;

  • the statutory period of 2 years from the date of cause of action has not lapsed;

  • the complaint must have the legal capacity to file the complaint i.e. should be sane, solvent and major.

If you fall within the ambit of the definition of a “Consumer”, you need to identify the ground under which you can file the “Complaint”. A complaint here means any allegation made by the complainant in written form. 

Grounds for Filing a Complaint are:

  • Adoption of unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice by the service provider; 

  • Defective goods, whether already bought or agreed to be bought by the complainant;

  • Deficiency in Services, whether hired or availed or agreed to be hired or availed;

  • Overcharging of goods or services in excess of the price that may have been fixed by law or displayed on the packaging of goods or the price list exhibited or so agreed between the parties;

  • Selling or offering to sell hazardous goods or services which pose a threat to life and safety when used or availed provided the trader could know that the goods or services are hazardous by due diligence.

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 the complaint. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

It is pertinent to note that an Amendment has been passed and published in the Gazette in 2019 which enhances the pecuniary limit of jurisdiction for the forums. However, the Act is still not in force. The amendment has increased the Pecuniary Jurisdiction of District Forum to 1 crore, the SCDRC to 10 Crores and that of NCDRC to 100 Crores. 

"With the boost in economy and the various services being offered on both online and offline platforms, there was a dire need to regulate consumer-service provider relationships and to address the grievances for maintenance of a harmonious relationship. That is where Consumer Courts play a major role and provide for a grievance redressal platform," adds Advocate Akshay Agarwal.

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 [1] 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 [2] that support your case in consumer court are important. These documents include:

    • A copy of the bill, receipt of delivery, packaging of a product, a record of online booking of the goods bought

    • Warranty/Guarantee certificates

    • 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.

How to approach the District Forum?

The complainant can make the complaint on a plain paper, which is then notarized and can be filed in person or through an authorized agent. 

  • Four copies plus additional copies for each party are to be filed by the complainant. 

  • The Court Fee for valuation of suit upto 1 lakh is nil for those holding Antyodaya Anna Yojana cards and in all other cases is Rs. 100. Further, for suits valued upto 5 lakhs, the court fee is Rs 200, for suits valued upto 10 lakhs the court fee is Rs 400 and for those up to Rs 20 lakhs the court fee is Rs 500. 

  • The Court Fee is to be submitted through a demand draft made out to the President, Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, (name of) district.

How to approach the State Consumer Forum? 

  • The complainant may either file an original complaint provided it falls within the pecuniary jurisdiction limit provided by law or file an appeal from the order of the District Forum within 30 days of the order being passed.

  • The Court Fee for complaints valued between Rs 20 lakhs and Rs 50 lakhs is Rs 2,000 while the court fees for complaints valued upto Rs 1 crore is Rs 4,000. 

  • The Court Fees is to be deposited in a similar way as mentioned above via a demand draft in favor of the Registrar, (name of) State Commission to be payable in that particular State only. 

The following documents are required to file an appeal in SCDRC: 

  • The Documents of Record i.e. the Copy of the complaint filed, the proofs, evidence if any, the material placed on record and other documents. The documents must bear the correct name and address of the parties.

  • A certified copy of the order passed by the District Forum.

  • Four copies to be filed in Court and additional copies to be served on each Respondent.

  • A copy of Interim orders passed by the District Forum or related Petitions to the case to be attached and submitted along with an Affidavit.

  • Application for Condonation of Delay (if any) with reasons to be submitted along with an Affidavit.

  • A statutory deposit of Rs 25,000 or 50% of the award or the compensation amount, whichever is less, is to be made by the Appellant / Opposite parties.

How to approach the NCDRC?

  • The Consumer can either file a complaint directly, if it is within the pecuniary jurisdiction or file an appeal from the order of SCDRC within 30 days of the passing of the order. 

  • The Court Fees for filing a complaint in NCDRC is Rs 5,000 and the demand draft is to be made in the name of The Registrar, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. 

  • Further, there is no fee for filing an appeal before the State or National Commission. 

You can approach the Supreme Court, against the orders of the NCDRC within a period of 30 days of the passing of the order. 

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. 

Is there a time limit to file a case in consumer court?

A consumer complaint should be filed within two years from the date on which the cause of action or deficiency in service or defect in goods arises. However, the law allows the Consumer to file a complaint after the statutory period of two years if the District Forum is satisfied that the complainant has sufficient reasons for not filing the complaint within the statutory period. The delay can be condoned if it is reasonable and can be accounted for.

Can I appeal against the order of the consumer court? 

The law allows the complainant and the Accused to file an appeal against the order of the forum at all three levels to ensure that there is no injustice. The hierarchical order for filing an appeal is:

  1. District Forum

  2. State Forum

  3. National Forum

  4. Supreme Court

Thus, under the Consumer Protection Act protection has been extended to the Consumers to protect them against unscrupulous traders or sellers and to safeguard their basic rights. It provides protection, a mechanism to settle disputes and the establishment of forums exclusively for Consumer Protection Cases. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I decide whether to file a complaint in District/State/National Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum? 

The complaint has to be filed in the appropriate consumer forum as per the amount involved. If the consumer forum decides in favor of the seller/ manufacturer, an appeal can be filed against the order. The jurisdiction and appeal courts are mentioned in the following table: 

AMOUNT INVOLVED (IN RS.)

COMPLAINT TO BE FILED IN

APPEAL TO BE FILLED IN

0 – 20 Lakh

District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum

State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission

20 lakh – 1 Crore

State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission

National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission

Above 1 Crore

National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission

Supreme Court

What is a ‘defect’ in product or service?

Defect in a product or service refers to the substandard quality or a prima facie imperfection in the product or good. The defect can be in reference to the durability, quality, quantity, standards, composition, purity, hygiene or adulteration. It is to be measured or checked in reference to the standards required to be maintained as per the law in force or so decided by the parties or otherwise claimed by the seller or trader. 

Is it mandatory to send a legal notice before filing a consumer case?

Yes, it is mandatory to send a legal notice before filing a Consumer Case. A legal notice gives an opportunity to settle the matter without approaching the Forum if the Opposite Party is willing to offer compensation or any other remedy. Further, it also brings to their knowledge the possibility of litigation.

Can I file a consumer complaint online?

Yes, you can file a Consumer Complaint online. The following steps need to be followed by the Complainant to file a complaint online:

STEP 1: Register on the official website https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/ of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. You need to register yourself and make an account by clicking on the option of ‘new user’ or login to your account if you are an existing user.

STEP 2: You need to provide details like name, mobile number, address, email address amongst others.

STEP 3: Once registered, log in to your account with your username and password. Go on the option of ‘File a Complaint’ to file your complaint online.

STEP 4: Select the type of the Company or service provider and the services or goods they offer. For example for a Complaint against a Shopping Website, the Service will be Online Shopping and the Company can be the platform you shopped from.

STEP 5: Thereafter, a registration form pops up on the screen. Fill in the relevant details, evidence if any and the issue with the goods or service provider in detail. This step basically provides for the cause of action.

  

STEP 6: Submit the form and your complaint is filed.

What type of cases are heard in consumer court?

Cases that involve a dispute in the nature of a Consumer-Trader/Seller are heard in a Consumer Court. The cases must be either for deficiency in service, damaged goods, hazardous goods or services, unfair or restrictive trade practices, etc. Cases affecting the public at large in the spectrum of Consumer disputes may also be heard in a Consumer Court.

Do I need a lawyer for filing a case in consumer court?

You may or may not choose to hire a lawyer for filing a case in the Consumer Court. You can file a complaint on your own. However, you may need external assistance as the case progresses or at the stage of an appeal. However, it is your discretion. 

How much time does the consumer court take?

The law does not specify a time limit within which the Consumer Forum should adjudicate complaints. The Forums are overburdened owing to the 3 tier Appeal structure. However, the average time may range anywhere from 1 year to 5 years. If an appeal is filed against the order, an additional time of 1-3 years may be taken by the Forums.

Can I file a consumer complaint on my own?

Yes, you can file a Consumer complaint on your own. You must remember to put all the particulars which include the name and address of the parties, the brief facts of the case, the cause of action and relevant details as to approximate date, time and venue, the relief claimed, any documents or evidence which serve as proof of availing the service or buying the goods or of the defect/deficiency in goods or service or justifying any other allegation in the complaint.