Consumer rights: How to complain about a company's service
Have you been duped, ignored, insulted or cheated by a company from which you bought a good or a service? Do you want revenge? Fighting consumer disputes in courts has become a fair bit easier since 1988.
Complaining without a lawyer
First off, consider using a service such as Akosha to help you. They will write an angry letter to the company on your behalf for free, or for a nominal fee, they will up the pressure on the company to compensate you. They have had pretty good success rates and will save you the hassle of going to court. Check http://www.akosha.com/ for more information.
If Akosha can't help, the good news is that you do not necessarily need to engage a lawyer to fight for you unless you are fighting for a very high amount. Court fees are zero, and consumer advocacy groups in your city may be ready to fight for you for free or nominal charges.
If you live in a metro there’s also likely a forum close to where you live and if you approach the dispute properly, companies do start shuddering about the potentially bad publicity and hassle involved for them.
However don’t let your emotions fool you into believing that you won’t face long queues in over-crowded and under-ventilated consumer courtrooms, corrupt and harassing court officials, and 5 to 10 years of trial if the company fights back hard.
Are you ready for that? Then here’s what you’ve got to do:
Collect supporting documentation
An invoice or bill for purchase of your good or service, with the invoice number and tax ID of the errant company; write many emails and letters and collect the entire chain of communication; write dated and detailed telephone logs by hand of conversations with the company. If you have misplaced invoices, you can always ask the company to provide you a copy from their ledger. If the company does not cooperate, you can quote the serial number of the product you purchased in court, and the company will be ordered to retrieve your bill.
File your complaint in as much detail as possible
Make sure you amass as much documentary proof as you can. Use the help of popular consumer blogs on the internet, consumer advocacy groups in your city, with the local police if the company may have committed a crime, possibly your state’s human rights commission, the ombudsman for insurance and banking issues, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for insurance and banking issues, or the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for telecom issues.
Media blitz (optional)
Send a succinct summary of your complaint to the media – print, television and radio.
Send a legal notice to the errant company
Give it 15 to 45 days to comply with your demand. State that you will be constrained to take the dispute before a consumer forum if they don't cooperate.
Be detailed about what it is that you are complaining about and what you expect the company to do. Be fair in your demands to the company.
For example, if a product you purchased for Rs 10,000 is broken through no fault of yours, ask the company to either replace the product or refund Rs 10,000 plus a small additional sum for any inconveniences caused; do not make unreasonable demands for Rs.50,000, for example. You are also entitled to ask for interest on any amount paid, if you think you are eligible for it.
In the demands in your legal notice, the more options you give to the company, the better the chances of an out of court settlement. For instance company policy may not allow a full refund but may allow replacement of a product.
There is no prescribed format for the notice but you need legal proof of its delivery, so send it through speed post or registered post.
File a complaint on a stamp paper, in this format, with an affidavit, before:
- the district forum if your claim is below Rs 20 lakh,
- the State level if it is above Rs 20 lakh but below Rs 1 crore, or
- with the National Commission if it is above Rs 1 crore.
The complaint should be filed within two years from when you first had your grievance.
You will need to attach copies of the evidence you have collected. Ensure that you attach only photocopies of the documents and not the originals.
You will need to approach a notary and get your complaint filed and the affidavit “notarised”. Notaries can usually be found near the consumer or other courts in your city. The notary, unless known to you, will require you to show proof of identification such as your driver's license, PAN card, passport, ration card or election ID. You will then need to sign the complaint and the affidavit in front of the notary, after which he or she will notarise the document with his or her notary seal and signature.
You will need to make a total of five copies of your complaint including three for the court, one for the court to send to the company and one for yourself. We recommend that you visit the court in which you intent to file the complaint and find out exactly how many copies are needed.
Prepare the court fee payment. Most courts accept Demand Drafts (DD) through a nationalised bank duly crossed, drawn in favour of the president if it is the dispute level, and registrar if it is at the national level. Court fees can vary from Rs 100 to Rs 5,000 depending on the value of the dispute.
Go to the court, locate the receiving clerk, deposit your complaint file and make the court fee payment. Be sure to obtain a receipt of the payment. At this time, the clerk will also give you a date that the judge will first hear your case (admission hearing) and a complaint reference number.
The court will serve the company and give it time to respond within 30 days. From here your dispute starts in earnest.
It is not rocket science, but it can be a time consuming process, so you might want to consider hiring a lawyer to assist you.
If you do need a lawyer, check out Legally Direct to post a legal case for hundreds of lawyers to have a look at and bid for.
These guides are not legal advice, nor a substitute for a lawyer
These articles are provided freely as general guides. While we do our best to make sure these guides are helpful, we can not give any guarantee that they are accurate or appropriate to your situation, or take any responsibility for loss their use might cause you.
Do not rely on anything you read here without seeking experienced legal counsel first. If in doubt, please always ask a lawyer.
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