Win your consumer cases
Moneylife Digital Team 31 March 2015

Drawing lessons from several judgements that delivered justice to consumers, M Rajyalakshmi Rao, former member of NCDRC explained how consumers should successfully fight their cases 


Consumer is King, they say. But that is only until you buy a product or service. Once the deal is done, the manufacturers and service providers treat their consumers as beggars whose grievances related to the product or service are completely ignored. According to M Rajyalakshmi Rao, former Member and Judge at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), only “an enlightened consumer is king”. She urged consumers to make an effort to stand up for their rights and keep all records of their purchases, which would help in case there is any grievance or issue in future. 
Speaking at an interactive seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation, Ms Rao cited several cases and judgements where consumers were provided justice. She pointed that consumer courts happen to receive a massive number of complaints regarding medical negligence and insurance claim rejections, especially in mediclaim policies. 
Cases of Medical Negligence

According to Ms Rao, the NCDRC was forced to take action against irresponsible or negligent doctors because the Medical Council of India (MCI) had shut its eyes to the wrongdoing of its member-doctors. 
She provided some examples where patients were seriously harmed because doctors failed to take simple steps to ensure the wellbeing of their patients, especially cases where post-operative care was deficient. For instance, a diabetic patient, who complained of a headache after his eye surgery had to have the eye removed because the doctor did not even monitor his blood sugar level after the operation. The Consumer Court verdict was that just because the surgery was performed properly, does not make the doctor unaccountable for this incident. Doctors are obliged to provide high standards of post-operative care, Ms Rao said. 
Denial of Insurance Claims
In one case, an insurance company denied compensation to a man who underwent a triple-bypass surgery on the grounds that his was a pre-existing condition. Their only proof for the argument was that the boy on hospital duty had made a tiny little note that the wife of the man in question (policyholder) stated that he had been complaining of such issues for quite some time. 
The Consumer Court rejected the insurance company's argument, stating that there was no way that a man, if he were aware that he suffers from such a critical ailment, would not get medical help anytime before this incident. The NCDRC noted that there was nothing to prove that either the patient, or his doctors, had any knowledge of his condition beforehand. 
Ms Rao said that it was obvious that the insurance company had “no bonafide intent to pay” in the first place. 
If your insurance company is fooling you, or is rejecting claims on flimsy grounds, the doors of consumer courts are open to you.
Cases related to housing and property
There were thousands of cases against Urban Development Authorities for being hand in glove with builder to fool buyers. For example, Ms Rao said, in many cases, builders would take 80% of the payment in instalments. Then one fine day they would demand final instalment in one go through a letter, which was never delivered to the buyer or delivered after the time limit. Citing non-response from the customer, the builder would then cancel the contract and forfeit the money paid by the buyer. The buyer had no knowledge of these things unless he was vigilant. In fact, there was a Supreme Court judgement, which said that many officials in Urban Development Authorities were helping these builders instead of protecting the consumers. 
In a smart move, the Consumer Court cited the Supreme Court judgement, demanded an enquiry, and said that all officials found guilty would be made to compensate for the losses suffered by the consumers by paying from their salaries. According to Ms Rao, this was enough to scare the Urban Development Authorities, and that such cases have significantly reduced since their judgement. 
What can you do? 
Ms Rao noted the importance of proactive consumers who take the efforts to raise an issue when someone fails to deliver on their promises in the delivery of goods or services. This serves a much larger purpose than just individual gain, as it can often ensure justice for the public at large. 
“We are not looking for disputing consumers,” she clarified. However, a laidback attitude will not help anyone. She urged everyone to write a registered letter to the wrongdoer, requesting them to rectify their shortcomings in a fortnight. Mention in the letter, that if they fail to do so, you will have no option but to approach the consumer court. 

Things to remember:

• Here are some of the things you can do ensure you have a watertight case in case of an eventuality where you have to approach the consumer court.
  • • After every hospital visit (especially during discharge after a surgery or serious disease), insist that the hospitals give you your detailed medical records. They cannot refuse to give the records on grounds of confidentiality. The Medical Council of India has now ordered hospitals to provide patients with their medical records within 72 hours of request.
  • • If you purchase something from a seller in bulk, always save one or two from the lot as samples. This may turn out to be useful evidence later on in case the items turn out to be defective.
  • • During the purchase of gold, always look for the BIS Hallmark that certifies the quality of gold before you make your payment.
  • • Do not take everything stated in commercial advertisements on face value. A lot of information is either false or twisted or omitted.
  • • Along with a print out, also ensure that you save the 'Confirmation Page' as a PDF file after an online purchase (Say airline tickets, electronics etc.)
  • • Store all important bills, correspondence, receipts, documents and warranty/guarantee cards safely. You may think these are useless, but you never know when you will need them!
How to file a case: 
The Consumer Protection Act is a “benevolent legislation that encompasses all individuals who have paid for a good or service, and there has been a defect or deficiency in the delivery of the same. The objective of consumer courts has been described as 'justice at your doorstep'.” Only in case of insurance related issues, the Act allows corporate entities and organisations to file before the consumer court for deficiency of service. In cases where the litigant is unable to afford a fee or argue her case, the court even provides financial aid by asking lawyers to argue on their behalf. 
It is well known that not all consumers are satisfied with the efficiency with which justice is delivered at consumer courts. Many members of the audience at the seminar had also faced issues. For example, many cases have been pending in these courts for several years. In some cases, judges in particular district fora are transferred and no one is deployed to fill that position for a long time.
Ms Rao explained the reason behind some of these issues, and what is being done to tackle them. She said the National Commission has been working with great efficiency, and nearly 92% of the cases with them have been decided. “However, things are much slower at State and District level. This is because, the upkeep and infrastructure of these Courts is the responsibility of the respective State Governments, and these governments usually tend to be extremely laidback in their attitude towards consumer courts. They are hardly bothered about the humongous backlog that is piling up, and consumer courts are generally treated as ‘step-children’ in the States,” she added.
Some judges also try to enforce procedures followed in civil courts in consumer courts, something that goes against the very principle of consumer courts – which are supposed to be consumer friendly in every way possible, said Consumer Activist Jehangir Gai, who has been involved with consumer organisations since 1984.
Ms Rao stated clearly that such behaviour is not permitted. There is no specified format for filing a complaint in the consumer court, and no judge is allowed to insist on one. If they do, this issue can be raised at the National Commission, she added. 

Those seeking help or advice on consumer issues can contact
Moneylife Foundation’s Legal Resource Centre (LRC) ( )

arun verma
7 years ago
Thanks for the detail information on consumer courts.
Please let me know, where to file the case on line. I tried many sites but not finding it appropriate. Some of the sites are asking money to file the case.
Please advise.
Arun Verma
[email protected]
7 years ago
Recent Media Reports On
Amendments To Consumer Protection Law

Offhand Personal Reactions Here -

Being left with only intriguing Posers, but no Answers, -
hopefully , an Expert on Consumer law alone should be better equipped with the necessary info.,/ Know- how, so as to come to rescue, by providing useful guidance.

Aarmin Banaji
7 years ago
If Ms. Rao or any one else would clarify, I would be grateful.

I have been successful in both cases I have personally fought before the Consumer Court, one of them upto the State Level Appeal and spread over many years. This route is not for the faint-hearted but at least you need not depend on lawyers.

However, the local (Nagpur)and state (Maharashtra) Consumer Court has now started insisting that all matter including the paperwork, be done only through Marathi as the language being used.
Besides it being unconstitutional, as English is the recognised language for all courts, even on a practical level, if I as a consumer from a non-Marathi speaking state, on a temporary posting has to go before the Court, I have to learn the language to present my case? By the time I do that, I would be transferred.

Are there any rulings/guidelines which negates such dictates?

Thank you.
7 years ago
if u call I shall come in person ; Sub ; THE ‘CATEGORY OF PLOT’ BECAME THE BONE OF CONTENTION .
We request your urgent intervening in to the matter of merit less WP-8508/2003 with an ORDER to HC Pleader to get ‘QUASHED’ stay order against the final order of ‘The state Government No- RVA 2702/CR-208/15-C,’ Dated-25/08/2003 and if ‘NO STAY’ make us informed with a certified copy of ‘STAY ‘.(Attached-4/pages)
(Said order materialized from our HC WP-No 4481/2001).
Brief ; Even after matter of membership is settled by the bench of Mumbai HC with the PIL-474/1996 and then again rejected from HC/ WP-5771/1997 with a remark ‘as it is an abuse of the process of law’ and finally Supreme court (SLP (civil) No 10922/98) kept HC order intact but society MC is still paddling the same argument keeping concealed information from the high court.

Since last 16 years we 315 members out of 454 battling for membership of ’Shree Ganesh Co-operative Housing Society’ would like to bring your notice a serious violation of ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’ and continue to contempt of LAW & JUDICIARY by the MC.
Thanks and wish your cooperation as in past.
7 years ago
To dilate
On the point as to why, before going to consumer court, anyone ought to know the implications of any specially governing enactment in a given case :
One of the recent instances in which issues came to be raised and taken to consumer fora,- but in one’s conviction wrongly so, because of abject ignorance or palpable misconception of what the special law governing property of the kind, known as ‘Flat’ provides- has been brought to focus in a couple of published articles:

LAW vs Case Law on 'FLATS' (MOFA)

LAW vs Case Law - A Critique

As to the points of issue (s) raised, look up media reports titled:

Stilt parking ownership in co-operative society - Legal advice
Parking becoming the most important criteria for a home buyer
'Can't charge flat buyer extra for parking slot' - Times of India
FAQs on Parking in Co-operative Housing Societies ...

So far as one is aware, nothing further has since been heard as to what was the final outcome of referred litigation.
7 years ago
OFFHAND (to share own thoughts):

The only one comment posted and displayed as of now is, as is seen,in the form of a request soliciting a response from the expert.

Pending a response hoped for from the expert,however, in the interim, as viewed independently, it is not simply confined to any single grievance in individual's personal experience. Instead, it has attempted to touch upon the whole gamut of problems commonly faced with by 'consumers', of all kinds, on a day to day basis. May be,as seem to have been assumed,those are supposed to be widely and inclusively, -but in one's view not exclusively,- covered by the most fundamental but comprehensive legal terminology, - "Restrictive & Unfair Trade Practices",hence coming within the scope / administrative regime/powers of DCRF. Nonetheless, it ought to be remembered, there are numerous enactments governing separately industries and sectors of varying types,e.g. Realty,insurance,so on; hence, also the provisions of the special enactment governing /applicable in a given case will require to be kept in focus.

CCI is another authority known to have similar powers to deal with complaints, though technically of a different type and on distinct grounds.

May have more to share !

M N Rao
7 years ago
Madam Mrs Rajyalakshmi garu, could you please clarify to this whether i can file a complaint before DCRF: "Even I invited you to visit and check the conditions of the furniture personally for your adjudication of the matter ‘to see, to believe’.
That you are well aware what does the legal consequences if a person indulges in ‘Restrictive & Unfair Trade Practices’ = i.e:-
i. false and misleading advertisements,
ii. false and misleading statement regarding utility and quality of products that the goods are of a particular standard, quality, grade, composition, style or model,
iii. Misleading discount sales,
iv. Gives to the public any warranty or guarantee of the performance, efficacy or length of life of a product or any goods that is not based on an adequate or proper test thereof; such defence shall lie on the person raising such defence, a warranty or guarantee of a product or of any goods or services; if such purported warranty or guarantee or promise is materially misleading or if there is no reasonable prospect that such warranty, guarantee or promise will be carried out, so on and so forth…………………. on failure legal course of action imminent.

That you can’t evade under pseudo provisions of time limit. Your warranty period will not work out in the above circumstances, where your product itself is not only manufacture defective but also dangerous to the human body besides false statement made to the public/consumer which amount to cheating

That you are knowingly sold the said two items that do not comply with the standards prescribed by competent authority relating to performance, composition, contents, design, constructions, finishing or packaging as are necessary to prevent or reduce the risk and/or injury to the person using the goods.

That disregard to protect the consumers' interest, safety, health – due to defects in manufacture and over pricing are considered offences against the public/ customers and is supposed to lead to penalties.

That Seller needs to prove that it takes the buyers/consumers’ safety and security seriously.

That you have indulged in an Unfair Trade Practice for the purpose of promoting your sales, earned superfluous profits dishonestly by supplying the above referred substandard and defunctive furniture articles by adopting unfair method.

Further, you have falsely sponsored that the goods are of a particular standard quality, grade, composition, style or model, in fact, they are not. You have made a false and misleading representation concerning the need for and the usefulness of the said two articles;

That you have falsely gave warranty or guarantee of the performance, efficacy and length of life of the said two articles but in reality, they are not based on an adequate or proper test. In view of several defects engraved in both the articles, you are under obligation to replace the two articles immediately.

Therefore, in view of the above, My Claim through this Legal Notice is that:

01. Replace both the articles viz., (01). Recliner & (02). Computer Chair which are most dangerous to the users, sold to me under false guarantee and bogus promise which amounts to cheating the consumers, OR Refund the amount of Rs. 22,794/- (Rupees twenty-two thousand seven hundred and ninety four only), with interest @21% p.a since I have not used them but dumped which are occupied my valuable premises.

02. Pay compensation of Rs. 50,000/- for misleading the consumer and thereby causing physical injury, mental agony and other sufferings,

Therefore, you are hereby called upon to comply with the above within two weeks from the date of receipt of this notice, failing which I will be constrained to take legal action against you for adopting ‘UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICE’, before the competent court of law and you will be held solely responsible for the costs and consequences thereof.

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