This article attempts to explain the procedure of filing a consumer complaint in India in simple terms without involving technical niceties.
A consumer complaint in India has to be filed under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The Act provides for establishment of 3 Consumer Commissions – at National Level, State Level, and District Level – for adjudication of consumer complaints filed on certain grounds enumerated in the Act.
A complaint can be filed by a consumer on grounds of –
A consumer can file a complaint. A consumer does not include the one who buys goods for resale or for commercial purposes or avails of any service for commercial purposes. However, use of goods exclusively for earning livelihood by way of self-employment is not considered commercial purpose and in such a case, the person can file a consumer complaint.
A legal heir or legal representative (in case of death) and a parent or a legal guardian (in case of a minor) can also file the complaint.
The answer depends on the pecuniary and territorial jurisdiction of the Commissions. A complaint can be filed in the commission which has both the territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction to decide the complaint.
A complaint can be filed where -
For example, if a flat buyer residing in Delhi has purchased a flat for Rs. 90 lakhs in the district of Gurugram, a consumer complaint has to be filed in District Commission as the consideration for the flat is less than one crore rupees. The complaint can be filed either in the District Commission of Delhi (where consumer resides) or Gurugram (where the cause of action arises and also the opposite party carries on business) at the complainant can choose the Commission as per his convenience.
The complaint shall clearly contain particulars of dispute, the relief claimed and shall also be accompanied by copies of such documents as are necessary to prove the claim made in the complaint. It should be comprehensive and self-explanatory.
Even though there is no prescribed format, it is preferable that the complaint is properly drafted and arranged in a coherent manner. It is also advisable that the contents of the complaint are supported by an affidavit. An ideal complaint should be arranged as below:
The Consumer Commissions can also grant interim reliefs to the consumers depending on the facts and circumstances of each case.
Such interim order can also be passed ex-parte, that is, without hearing the other party. However, ex-parte interim orders can be vacated or modified on an application by the other party.
The fee has to be paid in accordance with the table below. It can be paid in the form of crossed Demand Draft drawn on a nationalised bank or through a crossed Indian Postal Order in favour of the President of the District Commission or the Registrar of the State Commission or the Registrar of the National Commission, as the case may be, and payable at the respective place where such Commission is situated. It can also be paid through electronic mode in case such arrangement is made by the Commission concerned.
For the state of Haryana, the fees can be paid online through e-GRAS website and the payment challan has to be attached with the complaint.
|Value of goods or services paid as consideration
|Amount of fee payable
|Upto rupees five lakh
|Above rupees five lakh and upto rupees ten lakh
|Above rupees ten lakh and upto rupees twenty lakh
|Above rupees twenty lakh and upto fifty ten lakh
|Above rupees fifty lakh and upto rupees one crore
|Above rupees one crore and upto rupees two crore
|Above rupees two crore and upto rupees four crore
|Above rupees four crore and upto rupees six crore
|Above rupees six crore and upto rupees eight crore
|Above rupees eight crore and upto rupees ten crore
|Above rupees ten crore
The complaint has to be filed in three (3) sets with additional sets equal to the number of opposite parties. Therefore, minimum four (4) sets have to be filed in case only one opposite party is there. The complaint set has to be submitted along with requisite fees in the office of the Secretary/Registrar of the appropriate Commission.
In case of defects, the complainant will be informed at the time of filing or afterwards. The defects are to be removed within 15 days. If the complaint is in order, the date of hearing is informed at the time of filing.
The complainant or the opposite party can appear –
The person appearing before Commission shall not wear flashy dress or dress displaying any affluence or Jeans or T-shirts.
The first date of hearing is informed at the time of filing of the complaint. Thereafter, the next date is informed at the time of hearing. The Cause-Lists are also uploaded online on CONFONET portal
On the first date of hearing, the Commission hears the complainant on brief facts of the case and thereafter it admits (it can reject the complaint also if it is time-barred, outside its jurisdiction, etc.) the complaint and issues notice to the opposite party directing him to give his version of the case within thirty (30) days.
On the next date of hearing, the opposite party appears and files the written version of the case. In any case, the written version has to be filed within forty-five (45) days of the notice. If the opposite party seeks adjournment, the complainant can request the commission to impose costs.
Once the written version is filed by the opposite party –
Thereafter, the matter is listed for arguments. In case, a party appears through an advocate, it is mandatory to file brief written arguments. The Commission hears the parties on merits of the case and finally decides the matter.
The Consumer Protection Act provides that the Commission shall attempt to adjudicate the complaint expeditiously within 3 to 5 months. However, in practice, it usually takes around 1.5 to 2 years for the final adjudication of the complaint, primarily because of large pendency of cases.
After hearing the arguments, final order is passed by the Commission. A copy of the order is provided to both the parties free of cost. The copy of order is also made available online through CONFONET portal. The opposite party is required to comply with the order of the Commission within the time limit prescribed in the order, failing which complainant can file for execution.
The order of the Commission can be enforced in the similar manner as that of a decree by a Civil Court. In addition, failure to comply with the order of the Commission can lead to imprisonment for a maximum term of three (3) years and/or a maximum fine of one (1) lakh rupees.
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