In the early years of the 21st century, the large majority of consumer cases were fought by the consumers themselves. However, the number of consumers doing so has dropped dramatically, and with it, the number of complaints themselves, according to consumer activist Jehangir Gai.

In 1999, around 1,500 complaints were filed in the Mumbai Suburban District Forum but now the number has dropped to just about 500, he says.

One reason why ordinary consumers hesitate to file complaints is the sheer technicality of the procedures which are being introduced by presiding officers, who are retired judges themselves. It is time-consuming and hard for non-legal professionals to understand the procedures.

However, it still makes sense for the injured parties to argue their own cases, as they can do it clearly and fluently, feel some experts. It is also more economical. Only if questions of law are involved, or the compensation sought is substantial should a lawyer be engaged, they say.

Before venturing to represent yourself in a consumer case, here are some aspects to cross-check:

Do you fit the definition of a consumer? (A person who avails of good or services for monetary or other considerations is considered a consumer, but not one who is the recipient of free service/goods).

Do you have all the receipts to prove that you have paid for the goods/services received?

Have you approached the company or service provider for redress of your complaint? Do you have proof of that, and that they have not acted on your complaint? (The best thing wuld be to send communications through registered post or courier services that offer proof of delivery.)

Are you within the mandated time frame of filing a complaint? (The time limit is two years). Procedure:

a. File an application for redressal at the appropriate forum.

b. Ensure that the case is admitted and listed.

c. Affidavits and evidence have to be submitted as per requirement.

d. If the order passed is not satisfactory, an appeal has to be made to a higher court within 30 days of receipt of a certified copy of the order.


Guide to approaching a consumer court

India's first practical guide to resolving your complaints by approaching consumer court. Guidance
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