The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 states that ‘in a case of consumer being cheated by a third party, the ultimate authority to decide the matter in favour of either rests with the annointed Consumer Court(s) of India.’ And nobody else.
No private individual or institution can pass judgements and render justice in consumer cases.
All consumer forums, private institutions rendering services to help the hapless consumer seek justice are supposed to complement and not compete with the legal arrangement . Yet, many a times it has come to my notice that such entities act like a consumer court themselves; and work on behalf of the consumer court resolving the consumer cases thus directly competing with the consumer court and its objective.
Worse, these entities charge a hefty commission or fee from hapless consumers to resolve their complaint. But with a disclaimer that in case of the issue not being resolve, the fees won’t be refunded back . This is such a state of shame. A consumer who is already hassled by the consumption of defective goods or services of a company, is now supposed to wait for relief from such entities, who have absolutely no legal knowledge of the Act or how the system is supposed to work. The mode of operations of many such self-appointed entities are simple:
- Accept a complaint from the consumer
- Approach the defaulting company, and befriend someone in authority
- Work with the officer to resolve the case
- Advertise success far and wide while hiding unsuccessful cases
The problem with the above approach is that it is now becoming a common place in certain companies to keep defaulting instead of improving. It is also birthing the process of defaulting and then resolving. As doing so brings revenue to the officer involved.
This approach is prevalent for petty issues such as overcharge of phone bills, unfair recharge credit, wrong good delivered, etc. But what about serious offences like medical negligence? Or insurance scams? Or LPG cylinder blasts? Do these so called private institutions, consumer forums, have the legal knowledge required to support a consumer?
I earnestly resort all consumers and readers to take the appropriate legal way. And approach an educated consumer rights lawyer to guide you on the way forward.
I have always rendered free advice on consumer issues through www.powertoconsumer.in. And will continue doing so in service of the empowered consumer.