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The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (COPRA) was passed by the Indian parliament and came into force on December 1986. The Act was passed to protect the consumers’ interest as well as to establish state bodies to deal with consumer problems and anything that arises thereof.
Consumer courts were established as Consumer Dispute Resolution Agencies and they deal with consumer disputes, conflicts and grievances. It is a forum where a consumer may file a case against a seller in the case where the consumer feels that he has been cheated or exploited by the seller. The point of having a separate forum for consumer disputes is to ensure that such disputes are speedily resolved and make is less expensive.
COPRA provides for the formation of consumer courts, under the Act there are three tiers of Consumer Courts they are as follows:
District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum (DCDRF):
The DCDRF operates at a district level and takes on any consumer dispute where the appellants claim for compensation does not exceed 20 lakh rupees.
State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (SCDRC):
The SCDRC operates at a state level and takes on any consumer dispute where the appellants claim for compensation exceeds the amount of 20 lakhs but does not exceed 1 crore rupees.
National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC):
The NCDRC is the apex court and takes on any consumer dispute where the appellants claim for compensation exceeds the amount of 1 crore rupees.
The jurisdictions of the courts are based on the hierarchy of the courts;
1. Pecuniary Jurisdiction:
2. Territorial Jurisdiction:
Territorial jurisdiction is to be taken into consideration after establishing pecuniary jurisdiction. A complaint may be filed in the court that is within those local limits where;
To determine where the cause of action arises you can apply the same laws applicable to contract law.
Transactions done online effectively negates territorial jurisdiction. In this case, territorial jurisdiction is in any of the multiple places the cause of action arises, which also includes where the appellant resides.
3. Appellate Jurisdiction:
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 provides for the composition of each of the courts.
1. District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum:
Each district forum is to consist of:
2. State Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum:
Each State Commission shall consist of –
Provided that no appointment under this clause shall be made except after consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court;
Provided that every appointment made under this clause shall be made by the State Government on the recommendation of a selection committee consisting of the following, namely:- (i) President of the State Commission – Chairman, (ii) Secretary of the Law Department of the State – Member, (iii) Secretary, in-charge of Department dealing with consumer affairs in the State – Member.
3. National Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum:
The National Commission shall consist of –
Provided that no appointment under this clause shall be made except after consultation with the Chief Justice of India;
Provided that every appointment made under this clause shall be made by the Central Government on the recommendation of a selection committee consisting of the following, namely:-
The powers and functions of the commission are enumerated in section 4 of the act. Section 4(1) states the functions as follows.
1. Functions :
The consumer commission has the power to do anything that it deems to be necessary for it to meet and perform its functions. It may take any action that it may so deem advantageous or convenient for or in connection with carrying out its functions or to be incidental to their proper discharge and may carry on any activities in that behalf either alone or in association with any other person or body.