buyers beware!
How do I file a complaint in the consumer court?

During Diwali last year, I purchased a washing machine. But from day one, it did not work properly and despite repeated repairs, the service centre has not been able to detect or rectify the problem. Now I want to file a complaint before the consumer court. How do I go about doing that?

First and foremost, you need to put together some crucial evidence to back your complaint: (a) an attested copy of the receipt showing the date of purchase, the model and the retailer from whom you have bought the machine. (b) Job cards or the receipts of the service centre (or the person attending to your complaint) to show the repeated complaints and the repair work undertaken (c) copies of letters, if any, that you have written to the company complaining about the defects in the machine. (d) If there are any brochures about the product, extolling its virtues, keep them too- it would help you establish the fact that the product was different from what was promised. In addition, if you can get an expert to certify to the defects, it would further strengthen your case.

Once you have these papers, you can write out your complaint, explaining briefly, the factors leading to the complaint and the redress that you seek a replacement or a refund and also compensation for the harassment and hardship caused to you as a result of the defects. You can also ask for costs of litigation. You can name only the retailer or both the retailer and the manufacturer as the opposite parties. The complaint has to be filed within two years from the day the cause of action arose.

I would suggest that you first write a formal letter to the retailer and the manufacturer, explaining the defects and the fact that if they fail to resolve the issue immediately and give you a new replacement, you will be constrained to go to the consumer court. You can also point out that at this point, the company only needs to give you a new replacement with a fresh warranty, but if you go to the consumer court, they will have to spend on their lawyer and also pay you compensation and interest on the refund due to you. If they are smart, they will replace your machine immediately.

Recently, I bought a kg of sweets from a halwai. When he weighed the sweets along with the box, I protested and he told me that the box weighed 100 gm and he would give me 100 gm of sweets extra to make up for it. After we had consumed the sweets, out of sheer curiosity, I weighed the empty packet and to my surprise and shock, I found that it weighed 250 gm. What action can I take against the shopkeeper?

You can join up with other residents in your area or a consumer group, purchase a few more packets of sweets from the shop (be sure to collect the receipt) and check the weight of the boxes. If this proves that the shopkeeper is defrauding customers (that, if the boxes weigh more than what is claimed), then get witnesses to sign on a paper indicating the correct weight and file a complaint before the consumer court. Here, you can not only seek compensation, punitive damages and costs of litigation, but also a direction to the shopkeeper to credit to the account of the Consumer Welfare Fund, the amount earned by defrauding customers during the past one year. (This can be calculated on the basis of his sales).

In the case of Hotel Nyay Mandir vs Ishwar Lal Jinabhai Desai ( RP No 550 of 2006, decided on December 14, 2010), the highest consumer court upheld such a plea made by the complainant and directed a seller to pay Rs 1,50,000 to the Consumer Welfare Fund and also pay the consumer, Rs 5,000 as compensation and Rs 1,000 as costs, besides refunding him Rs 22 extra charged on a soft drink.

In addition, you should also lodge a complaint with the Controller, Department of Legal Metrology.