Who is a consumer?

Consumers are people who1 buy and use goods or services.  Consumers have a right to file a complaint for any of the services or goods used by them:

Person buying and using goods and services

A consumer includes any person who buys goods and services, as well as anyone who uses them. For instance, a person who watches a movie after buying a movie ticket is a consumer and similarly, a person who uses a gift voucher gifted from someone else  is also a consumer.

Person using goods for self-employment, and not for commercial purposes

The consumer protection law does not apply to people who use goods and services for commercial purposes. However, there are some exceptions to this. For example, a person who buys large machines for using it in their business, is not a ‘consumer’. However, people who use goods for self-employment are considered as consumers2.  For example, artists who buy art supplies for their work or beauticians who buy beauty products are consumers.

Person using online facilities

A consumer also includes any person who buys or hires goods or services online. For example, if you order from an online clothes website, you are a consumer.3

People facing issues related to food

Consumers also include people who may be facing issues related to food items, such as adulteration, poor quality, lack of service, etc.4 For instance, issues related to food can cover problems across a wide range of products, starting from water that goes into the production of items like  juices as well as the sale of animals like chicken, mutton etc. that are expressly intended for human consumption5

 

  1. Section 2(7), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
  2. Section 2(7)(i), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
  3. Explanation (b), Section 2(7), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
  4. Section 2(21), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
  5. Section 3(j), Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.[]

What are consumer rights?

Consumers who are unaware of their rights are vulnerable to the marketplace. It is vital for consumers to be aware of their rights so that they can make choices confidently, and with due regard to their interests. Consumer Rights include, but are not limited to, the following ((Consumer Rights, Department of Consumer Affairs, accessed at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/consumer-protection-unit/consumer-rights:

Right to protection against goods and services which are hazardous to life and property

Goods should not only meet the consumers’ immediate needs, but also fulfill long-term interests, and the use of goods and services  should not result in any harm to consumers. For instance, if a person uses a medicine that cures an immediate ailment such as the flu, but the medicine causes worse side-effects, then they can file a consumer complaint.

Right to be informed

Consumers have the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods. This right ensures that sellers put out authentic information on the product labels and do not make claims which are not true.

The government also publishes a price monitoring list for essential commodities along with Mandi prices, daily price reports, educational material on consumers’ digital safety etc. Some state Governments, such as Tamil Nadu, have also published advisories to educate consumers.

Right to choose a variety of items at competitive prices, wherever possible

Consumers have the right to get basic goods and services at fair prices. For example, you have the right to buy medicines either from the hospital medical store or from general stores at fair prices.

Right to file a complaint at Consumer Redressal Forums

Consumers have the legal right to use Redressal Forums to file their complaints. Every consumer has a right to file a complaint and be heard so that the grievance can be resolved.

Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices

Unfair trade practices usually relate to cheating, deceiving, or defrauding the consumer through schemes, advertisements etc. The law protects consumers from being exploited and creates a system for the consumer to claim a fair settlement through the redressal forums.

    What is Consumer Welfare Fund?

    The overall objective of the Consumer Welfare Fund(CWF) is to provide financial assistance to promote and protect the welfare of the consumers and strengthen the consumer movement in the country1. There are certain rules in place which govern the use of the CWF. Some of them are2:

    • Consumer awareness projects with wide coverage and adopting best international practices will receive priority for funding from CWF.
    • The Government will focus on rural and disadvantaged consumers and schemes to protect them when using the CWF. For this, projects relating to rural consumers and their empowerment3, and such organizations that work for rural consumers (which also have large participation of women and socially marginalized groups)4, will receive special focus.
    • The CWF is also to be disbursed among the States and Union Territories, to create regional Consumer Welfare Funds, to fund welfare activities.
    • There is a marked effort towards contributing to the CWF through the corporate social responsibility funds that are earmarked by companies.
    • Innovative projects for consumer awareness and education, setting up training and research facilities for consumer education, projects relating to the rural consumer empowerment, Consumer Clubs in schools/colleges/Universities, setting up of Consumer Guidance Bureau at the State/ regional level for counselling and guidance, product testing labs, creating Centres of Excellence in Universities, meeting expenses on advocacy and class action suits, etc. get priority.

    Applying for financial aid under the CWF

    Calls for proposals seeking financial aid from the Consumer Welfare Fund are online, twice a year usually in the months of January & July. The appropriate notice and format of inviting proposals will be issued and published on the Consumer Department website. You can also download the application form for grants from Consumer Welfare Fund from the Consumer Department website5.

    However, the Appraisal Committee can reject an application, for reasons including not meeting the eligibility criteria, incomplete forms trying to receive funds for the same venture through multiple Government forums, etc6.

     

    1. Section II, Consumer Welfare Fund Guidelines, 2019[]
    2. Section III, Consumer Welfare Fund Guidelines, 2019[]
    3. Section IV, Consumer Welfare Fund Guidelines, 2019[]
    4. Section V, Consumer Welfare Fund Guidelines, 2019[]
    5. Section VIII, Consumer Welfare Fund Guidelines, 2019[]
    6. Department of Consumer Affairs, Consumer Welfare Guidelines, https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/sites/default/files/file-uploads/guidlines-2014/CWF%20Guidelines%202014.pdf. []

    Types of Consumer Complaints

    Every person has a right to file the following types of consumer complaints under consumer protection law:

    E-commerce complaints

    “E-commerce” means buying or selling goods or services (including digital products) over digital or electronic networks1. It includes the production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means 2. 

    E-commerce entities, such as online shopping websites like Flipkart 3 and Amazon4 , have long been treated as service providers who work for a profit5. They have been held liable whenever there has been a violation of consumer rights. One of the major reforms brought about by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is that it lays down a set of rules to govern these e-commerce entities6:

    • E-commerce entities will have to respond within 48 hours of complaint.
    • Complaints can be made from any place, regardless of where the purchase was made.
    • E-commerce entities such as Amazon, Flipkart, are now required to display the details of the sellers, such as their legal name, geographic address, contact details, etc.
    • These entities must not directly or indirectly manipulate the goods’ prices, and must not adopt any unfair or deceptive methods of sale.
    • They are prohibited from exaggerating the qualities of a product, and posting fake reviews.
    • The law mandates the protection of consumers’ personal information so that personal details are kept confidential and the privacy of consumers is protected.

    Complaints about misleading advertisements 

    An advertisement is a promotion through television, radio, or any other electronic media, newspapers, banners, posters, handbills, wall-writing etc. A misleading advertisement says untrue things about the goods and services, which can mislead the consumer in  buying them(( Misleading Advertisements, Department of Consumer Affairs, accessed at https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/more/misleading-advertisements. These advertisements may make false claims about a product or services’ usefulness7 , quality and quantity8, or deliberately conceal important information about the product9 (such as known side-effects), etc. Advertisers can be sued for making misleading claims in their advertisements. These include claims of being the first toothpaste to have a certain beneficial composition when it actually isn’t10, or advertising schemes that seek to increase profits without passing on the benefit to the consumers11, etc. 

    Complaints about unfair trade practices

    Unfair trade practices have a broad definition under the consumer protection law. They include false statements about the goods’ standard, quality and quantity, and the marketing of used/second-hand goods as new goods. It also includes false claims about a warranty, or the warranty period being scientifically untested, etc. This has resulted in several lawsuits, one involving a noodle-maker labelling its packets with false lead content12, replacing the labels of pharmaceutical drugs to extend the expiry period13, marketing adulterated goods with different ingredients than stated on the label14, etc.

    Complaints about restrictive trade practices

    Restrictive trade practice means a trade practice which tends to manipulate the price, or delivery, of goods, which affect the flow of supplies in the market. This leads to the consumers facing unfair costs or restrictions. This is usually done in some of the following ways: price fixing, dealing exclusively, restricting the resale values of sold goods, mandating that buying one good or service entails buying other goods or services. One real-life example of this is the inbuilt price of delivery and fixing electronic goods. This ensures that the consumer ends up paying for the service, whether they want to or not, making them bear unfair costs.

    Complaints about defective goods

    Defective goods are goods15 with any fault, imperfection or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, purity or standard which is required to be maintained by the seller, under the law in force. Some examples are adulterated or imperfectly brewed beverages, malfunctioning machinery, misshapen artifacts, etc.

    Complaints about spurious goods

    Spurious goods are those which are falsely claimed to be genuine16 or are fake or imitative of real, original goods. These are often of inferior quality and infringe upon the trademarks and copyrights of legal owners of the original goods. A crucial example is that of medicines or cheap make-up products found in local markets. Often, spurious medicines are marketed under another drug’s name, or imitate/substitute another drug in a deceptive way17.

    Charging above the MRP (Maximum Retail Price)

    Overcharging generally occurs in covert ways, when sellers charge the consumer more than what is prescribed as the Maximum Retail Price of a product. It is a gross violation of consumer rights.

    Complaints about food

    Presently, the law also addresses grievances related to food products. For example, customers can file their grievances about packaged food like the presence of adulterant, expired goods, missing FSSAI license, etc. or serving issues like the lack of hygiene, presence of pests, etc. at the Food Safety Connect Portal.

     

    1. Section 2(16), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    2. Electronic Commerce, WTO, accessed at https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/minist_e/mc11_e/briefing_notes_e/bfecom_e.htm#:~:text=Electronic%20commerce%2C%20or%20e%2Dcommerce,and%20services%20by%20electronic%20means%22.&text=These%20WTO%20bodies%20were%20instructed,WTO%20agreements%20and%20e%2Dcommerce.[]
    3. Ajay Kumar v. Flipkart Internet Private Limited, 2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 549.[]
    4. Kent RO Systems v. Amazon Seller Services, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 8016.[]
    5. Rediff.Com India Limited v. Ms. Urmil Munjal, 2013(2) C.P.C. 536.[]
    6. Consumer Protection (E-Commerce Rules), 2020.[]
    7. Section 2(47)(f), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    8. Section 2(28)(ii), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    9. Section 2(28)(iv), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    10. Colgate Palmolive (India) Ltd. v. Anchor Health & Beauty Care P. Ltd., (2008) 7 MLJ 1119.[]
    11. Society of Catalysts v. Vodafone Essar Mobile Services Limited, LNIND 2008 SCDRCD 962.[]
    12. M/S Nestle India Limited v. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, W.P. L. No. 1688 of 2015.[]
    13. Pooja Roy v. Krishnango Bhattacharya, C.R.R 2796 of 2008, Calcutta H.C.[]
    14. Consumer Guidance Society v. Amway India Enterprises, (2007) C.C 140 of 2007.[]
    15. Sections 2(10) and 2(11), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    16. Section 2(43), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    17. Drugs and Cosmetics FAQs, Integrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism, accessed at https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/faq-details.php?fid=Drugs%20and%20Cosmetics.[]

    Who can complain?

    A complaint 1 about a product or service can be filed by 2 a number of persons under the law, such as:

    • People who buy goods or use services for themselves or for their own work in exchange for a payment. 3 For example, if a person takes an Uber cab to work, they are a consumer of a service. If a person buys a car to use it as a taxi and drives it themselves for earning their livelihood, they are a consumer of goods.
    • People who use the goods and services with the permission of the buyer who bought such goods for self-consumption or self-employment in exchange of a payment. For example, if a person buys a soap and that soap is used by their family members. All these people are consumers of the soap and can file a complaint in case of any defect in the soap.
    • A person who buys goods for commercial purposes can file a complaint during the warranty period of the goods 4. For example, if a person buys a computer system for their company and finds any defect in the system within the warranty period of the system, they will be a consumer.
    • Multiple consumers 5 who share similar grievances or issues. For example, if multiple people wish to complain about the service standards at a restaurant.
    • A registered or recognized voluntary association of consumers 6 can also file a complaint.
    • Legal guardian of a consumer who is a minor. Legal guardian includes a parent or a relative or a person lawfully bestowed with parental obligations.
    • Legal representative of a consumer in case the consumer has passed away.
    • The Central or State Government can file a complaint.
    • The Central Consumer Protection Authority can take notice of a consumer grievance under the direction of the Central Government7. Under the law, this is known as the power to take a case suo motu (on its own) 88.
    1. Section 2(6), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    2. Section 2(5), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    3. Section 2(7),The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (Act 35 of 2019[]
    4. Super Computer Centre vs Globiz Investment Pvt. Ltd., 3 (2006) CPJ 256 NC[]
    5. Section 2(7), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    6. Section 35(1)(b), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    7. Section 18(2)(a), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    8. Section 18(2)(a), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]

    Consumer Complaint Forums

    The consumer protection law specifies relevant authorities and complaint forums1 that a consumer can approach if their rights2 as a consumer are violated. There are three Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, at the district3, state4, and national level5. All these forums have the duty to hear the concern of a consumer and ensure that every concern is given due importance6. The jurisdiction of these Commissions is based on:

    1. The value (price) of the goods or services availed
    2. The place of residence of the consumer or seller, or the workplace of one of the parties, or where the dispute began
    3. The place where the person filing the complaint7 resides

    Complaints must be filed within 2 years since the dispute arose, to be admitted for a hearing at the Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions8. The Complaint Redressal Commissions that can be approached for consumer rights violations and the type of matters adjudicated by them are as follows:

    District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DCDRC)

    The District Commission is a district-level complaint redressal forum that looks into complaints about goods whose value is below Rupees one crore9. The Commission accepts or rejects a complaint within a period of 21 days. If the commission does not respond in the specified time, the complaint will be accepted and looked into by the District Commissions10. Before rejecting a complaint, the commission must give the complainant the opportunity to be heard. The Commission has the power to order for the removal of any problems or defects from the goods or services availed, or it can order a payment of fine11 as a relief to the complainant. The parties to a case also have the option to file an appeal against the order of the District Commission to the State Commission within 45 days of the District Commission order12. You can find details of the district commissions given in the National Consumer Redressal website.

    State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC)

    The State Commission is a state-level complaint redressal forum located at the capital13 of the respective state where complaints with respect to goods having value between Rupees 1 crore to 10 crores can be filed. There are about 35 state commissions in the country where complaints, appeals from the District Commission, and cases about unfair contracts are heard14. An appeal against the decision of the State Commission can be filed with the National Commission, within 30 days from the date of the order15. Once such an appeal is filed, it is required to be decided within 90 days by the National Commission16.

    National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): 

    The National Commission is the upper-most authority for consumer complaints redressals. It is located at New Delhi17. Complaints about goods or services whose value is above Rupees 10 crores, and appeals against the orders of the State Commission or the Central Consumer Protection Authority, can be filed with the NCDRC18. An appeal against the decision of the National Commission can be filed with the Supreme Court within a period of 30 days from the date of the order passed19. The orders of the Commission are published on its website. The Commission has the legal right to publish the orders and no proceedings can be brought against the Commission for publishing these orders20. The National Commission portal also provides video instructions pertaining to registration and filing of an electronic complaint through its forum.

    Time for deciding complaints

    A consumer complaint must be decided by the Commissions within a period of 3 months. This may be extended to 5 months in case there is a requirement for testing of the products/defects21.

    Appeals for orders passed by Commissions

    The order passed by the Commissions are final if they have not been appealed in the specified period of time22. This rule has exceptions, as the Commission can accept cases for which appeals were not filed in the prescribed time.  Besides these provisions, the cases can be transferred from one district commission to another and from one State Commission to another by the State 23 and National Commissions24 respectively, if and when the parties apply.

    A consumer who has filed a complaint with any of the forums given above, can track their case through the Online Case Status portal. You can ask your lawyer for details of your case number for tracking the case25.

     

    1. Chapter IV, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    2. Section 2(9), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    3. Section 28, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    4. Section 42, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    5. Section 53, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    6. Section 2(9)(iv), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    7. Section 2(5), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    8. Section 69(1), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    9. Section 35(1)(a)(i), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    10. Section 36(2), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    11. Section 39, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    12. Section 41, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    13. Section 42(2), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    14. Section 47(1), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    15. Section 51, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    16. Section 52, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    17. Section 53(2), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    18. Section 58(1), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    19. Section 67, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    20. Rule 12(8), Consumer Protection (Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) Rules, 2020.[]
    21. Section 38(7), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    22. Section 68, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    23. Section 48, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    24. Section 62, Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    25. Rule 7(2), Consumer Protection (Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions) Rules, 2020.[]

    Consumer Complaints against E-commerce Platforms

    Consumers can also complain against unfair trade practices involving digital and other products bought through e-commerce platforms and retailers. Any person who owns, operates or manages any digital or electronic platform offering goods or services for sale, is an e-commerce entity. An e-commerce entity is separately governed by e-commerce rules1 in India.

    These rules are only applicable to professional and commercial businesses and not for an individual acting in their personal capacity2. For instance, a consumer can complain against Amazon as it is an e-commerce entity regularly engaged in the activity of sale of goods through its e-commerce website. However, if there are issues with a product on a platform like Amazon, Amazon would be held liable for product liability actions, not the product manufacturer.

    Interestingly, the product liability for an e-commerce entity extends beyond India. This means that these platforms are equally liable under the consumer protection law, in addition to their own country’s domestic laws3. For instance, a foreign e-commerce entity such as Liyid delivers its products in India; in case of any harm caused due to defective products, a product liability action can be brought against Liyid in India and in the foreign country.

    Liabilities of e-commerce platforms

    E-commerce platforms are held liable for the following:

    • Price manipulations on their sites,4
    • Negligence in services provided and discrimination against customers5.
    • Misleading advertisements, unfair trade practices6 and inaccurate descriptions/information of products.
    • Refusing to refund or return a defective product7.
    • Failure to provide warnings or instructions with respect to the goods or services availed by a customer8.
    • False descriptions, and violations about the authenticity and images of the goods or services advertised for sale on their platform9.

    However, they will not be liable if the dangers of the product are common knowledge. For example, if a consumer misuses or alters a dangerous product like flamethrowers then the e-commerce entity cannot be held liable for this10.

    Complaining to E-Commerce Platforms

    E-commerce platforms must establish a ‘Grievance Redressal Mechanism’ and should appoint a ‘Grievance Officer’ for Indian customers to get their concerns addressed11. The details about the Grievance Redressal Mechanism must be displayed on the e-commerce platform. The Grievance officer must acknowledge the complaint within 48 hours and address the concern within a period of one month12.

     

    1. Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.[]
    2. Proviso to Rule 2, Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020[]
    3. Rule 2(2), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.[]
    4. Rule 4(11)(a), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.[]
    5. Rule 4(11)(b), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.[]
    6. Rule 4(3), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020[]
    7. Rule 7(4), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020[]
    8. Section 85(c), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    9. Rule 5(2), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020[]
    10. Section 87(1), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    11. Rule 4(4), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020[]
    12. Rule 4(5), Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020[]

    Procedure to file a consumer complaint

    A complaint1 can be filed electronically to the Integrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism portal (INGRAM), or offline with the consumer protection authorities such as district or state commissions to seek relief for consumer rights violations. Further there are helplines as well as phone based applications one can use to register complaints. If the complaint is not resolved, you can take the help of a lawyer to approach the consumer forums as the next step.

    Complaint Process: Telephone 

     

    Step-1: Check if you are a Consumer under the law

    The complainant should be a consumer or an association of consumers2.

    Step-2: Call the Helpline Number

    Consumers can call the National Consumer Helpline: 1800-11-4000 or 14404 to register a complaint, except on national holidays. Alternatively, complaints can also be registered through SMS on + 91 8130009809.

    Step-3: Give details about the Complaint

    Name, contact details and address of the complainant and the seller must be mentioned to the helpline authority, along with the details of the complaint. The authority will register your complaint and give you a Unique Grievance ID.

    Step-4: Track your Application

    The grievance is then forwarded to the concerned seller, company, regulator, or authority for action. The action taken is updated against each grievance. Your grievance can be tracked with your Grievance ID by calling the helpline or through the Integrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism portal.

    Step-5: Resolution of complaint

    If your complaint is not resolved, then you can initiate a legal process by approaching the relevant Consumer Forum. The helpline authority can help in clarifying any doubts that you may have about the legal procedure.

    E-Complaint Process: Internet (INGRAM Portal)

    The Department of Consumer Affairs has launched a portal known as the Integrated Grievance Redress Mechanism (INGRAM) for bringing all stakeholders such as Consumers, Central and State Government Agencies, Private Companies, Regulators, Ombudsmen and call centres etc. onto a single platform. The portal will also help in creating awareness among consumers to protect their rights and inform them of their responsibilities. Consumers can register their grievances online through this portal.

    Step-1: Check if you are a consumer under the law

    The complainant should be a consumer under the law, meaning someone who is a consumer of a product or an association of consumers.

    Step-2: Register on the INGRAM Portal

    The complainant must register themselves as a consumer on the INGRAM portal. The complainant must fill in the required details and documents3to register their complaint, such as name and address of the complainant and the seller, the facts of the dispute and the relief that the complainant seeks3. A one time registration is required for lodging a grievance. For registration, go to the web portal http://consumerhelpline.gov.in and click on the login link. Sign up giving the details required, and verify through your email. The user id and password are created. Using this user id and password, enter the portal and fill in required details of the grievance, attaching necessary documents (if available).

    Step-3: Pay the Fee

    The complainant must pay the fee4(if applicable) for complaint registration through digital payment mode, or apps like BHIM App, UMANG App to the respective Consumer Commissions in accordance with the value of the goods5.

    Step-4: Track your Application

    Every grievance is registered and a Unique Grievance ID is issued. The grievance is forwarded to the concerned company, regulator, or authority for action. The action taken by them is updated against each grievance. The grievances filed can be tracked through the INGRAM portal.

    Consumer Courts/Forums

    Through the INGRAM portal, efforts are made to ensure that the grievance is redressed by taking up with the authorities concerned, which may be a company, ombudsman etc. However, if the issue is still pending, a consumer has a choice to approach the appropriate consumer court or forums with the help of a lawyer. Only complaints that are filed within 2 years since the dispute arose will be admitted for a hearing at the Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions.

     

    1. Section 2(6), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    2. Section 35(1), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    3. Rule 12(1), Consumer Protection (Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions) Rules, 2020[][]
    4. Section 35(2), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    5. Rule 7(2), Consumer Protection (Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions) Rules, 2020[]

    Fee for making complaints

    Every complaint1 filed under the consumer protection law must be accompanied with a nominal fee that is payable in the form of a demand draft of a nationalized bank or through a postal order2, or in electronic form3. The fee structure based on the value of goods or services is given below4:

     

    Fee payable to the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission:

     

    Value of Good or Service Fee
    Below Rs. 5 lakhs No fee
    Rs. 5 lakhs – 10 Rs lakhs Rs. 200
    Rs. 10 lakhs – Rs. 20 lakhs Rs.400
    Rs. 20 lakhs – Rs. 50 lakhs Rs. 1000
    Rs. 50 lakhs – Rs. 1 crore Rs. 2000

     

    Fee payable to the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission:

    Value of Good or Service Fee
    Rs. 1 crores – Rs. 2 crores Rs. 2500
    Rs. 2 crores – Rs. 4 crores Rs. 3000
    Rs. 4 crores – Rs. 6 crores Rs.4000
    Rs. 6 crores – Rs 8 crores Rs. 5000
    Rs. 8 crores – Rs. 10 crores Rs. 6000

     

    Fee payable to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission:

     

    Value of Good or Service Fee
    Above Rs. 10 crores Rs. 7500

     

    An important thing to note is that the fees so collected goes to the Consumer Welfare Fund, at the State level or the National level, as the case may be. Where such Fund does not exist, it is directed to the State Government5. The fee is utilized towards the continuation of consumer welfare projects.

     

    1. Section 2(6), Consumer Protection Act, 2019.[]
    2. Rule 7(1), Consumer Protection (Consumer Complaint Redressal Commissions) Rules, 2020[]
    3. Section 35(2), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    4. Section 35(2), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    5. Rule 7(2), Consumer Protection (Consumer Complaint Redressal Commissions) Rules, 2020[]

    Punishments for Consumer Rights Violations

    The Central Consumer Protection Authority has the power to penalize an individual or entity for violating consumer rights. This is ensured through various means such as fines, taking back the defective goods1, reimbursements for such goods/services2, or discontinuation of unfair trade practices3.

    Punishments for false or misleading advertisements

    The manufacturer, advertiser or endorser is liable for false or misleading advertisements. However, the endorser’s liability in these cases only arises when they have not done their research4 before endorsing such an advertisement. The punishment is:

    • For the first offence: A fine which may extend up to Rs. 10 lakh and jail time up to 2 years55.
    • For every repeat offence: A fine which may extend up to Rs. 50 lakh and jail time up to 5 years may be awarded5.
    • The Central Authority can also prohibit them from endorsing any product for up to 1 year. In case of subsequent offences, it can be extended up to 3 years6.
    • Failure to comply with these directions of the Central Authority can result in jail time for up to 6 months or a fine extending to Rs. 20 lakh7.

     

    Punishments for sale of adulterated products

    Any action of the manufacturer or retailer involving the sale, import, storage or distribution of adulterated food is punishable. The following punishments apply:

    • When there is no injury8 to the consumer, like any kind of pain or death, jail time for up to 6 months and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh may be granted9.
    • When the injury does not amount to grievous hurt to the consumer, jail time for up to 1 year and a fine of up to Rs. 3 lakhs may be granted10.
    • When there is grievous hurt to the consumer, jail time for up to 7 years and a fine of up to Rs. 5 lakhs may be granted11.
    • When the adulteration has caused the death of the consumer, jail time for not less than 7 years and extending up to life, and a fine of not less than Rs. 10 lakhs may be granted12.

    Additionally, the Consumer Authority may suspend the license of the manufacturer for up to 2 years, when it is the first offence or cancel the license of such manufacturer altogether if the offence is repeated13.

    Punishments for sale of spurious goods

    Spurious goods are those which are falsely claimed to be genuine14 or are fake or imitative of real, original goods. These are often of inferior quality and infringe upon the trademarks and copyrights of legal owners of the original goods. A crucial example is that of medicines or cheap make-up products found in local markets. Any action of the manufacturer involving the sale, import, storage or distribution of these goods, is punishable as follows:

    1. If the injury does not amount to grievous hurt to the consumer, jail time for up to 1 year and a fine of up to Rs. 3 lakhs may be awarded1515.
    2. When such spurious goods cause grievous hurt to a consumer, jail time up to 7 years and a fine up to Rs. 5 lakhs may be awarded to the manufacturer1616.
    3. When the good bought has caused the death of a consumer, jail time for a minimum period of 7 years extending up to life jail time and a minimum fine of Rs. 10 lakhs may be awarded1717.

     

    1. Section 20(a), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    2. Section 20(b), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    3. Section 20(c), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    4. Section 21(5), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    5. Section 89 & Section 21 (2), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[][]
    6. Section 21(3), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    7. Section 88, Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    8. Section 2(23), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    9. Section 90(1)(a), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    10. Section 90(1)(b), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    11. Section 90(1)(c), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    12. Section 90(1)(d), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    13. Section 90(3), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    14. Section 2(43), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    15. Section 91(1)(a), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    16. Section 91(1)(b), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]
    17. Section 91(1)(c), Consumer Protection Act, 2019[]