Often when scrolling the Facebook and Twitter feed I see several disgruntled customers complaining to brands. Usual complaints are about bad products or services that have caused them agony. Some of the agitated customers even express anger by threatening to sue the brand in the consumer court. In fact, threatening with a court case may make the brand listen to your complaint and act on it faster.
But these guys have no clue about how to do a real-life court case. Neither did I, till a few months back.
But now I do.
Let me share with you my experience of filing a real consumer court case when the brand didn’t respond to my complaints on social media, phone calls, and emails. Also, you will learn how hard or easy it is to fight for justice in a consumer court.
The Mess – Issue For Which I Filed The Case
I needed a laptop to write blog posts, like this one on Candytech.in and Profoundblogger (my second blog), so I researched and bought a Lenovo Yoga 710 laptop. The dealer is located in Santa Cruz West (Mumbai) and sold it to me for Rs. 83,000 after some discounts.
Unfortunately, It turned out to be a dud.
The Laptop’s motherboard and SSD failed multiple times. You know It is hectic visiting the service center (65 km away) every time it failed to work. And it failed 5 times. After visiting the service center multiple times and wasting many days, I requested them to replace the laptop. But they bluntly refused.
One fine morning, it stopped working again, and finally, I thought it is enough. I gave it to the service center and later decided not to pick it up. Lenovo has pathetic after-sales support and the unfriendly company refused to solve the problem of frequent failures.
It is an expensive laptop and was expecting good quality, reliable product; which it wasn’t.
Left with no other choice, I decided to approach the court for justice.
But I had no idea how to file the consumer court case and in fact, I have rarely been to a court before. I was under the impression it is not going to be hard, you go to the court and file the case and the judge will listen to the plea and will give the judgment. Maybe it will take a month or two to get sorted.
Nope, it doesn’t work like that mate, it takes patience, time, and more patience.
The Court – Filing a Consumer Court Case
After reaching the court complex, I inquired about the consumer court. But it was an off day due to the strike. Nevertheless, I was determined to file the case. So, I went again the next day and talked to some of the men I met outside the courtroom.
I learned we need all the evidence, receipts, date-wise record of service, emails to the brand, all the records to prove the case. Most of the people will not have kept records but fortunately, I had.
District Consumer Court Vs State Consumer Court
You should know, for cases with claims up to Rs. 20 lakh you can file it in district consumer court, cases up to 1 Crore in the state consumer court and above Rs. 1 crore in the national consumer forum. Mine was fit for the district consumer forum.
Should You Hire a Lawyer or File the Court Case Yourself?
People I met outside the courtroom, said it is slightly more complicated to file the consumer court case and it needs to be submitted with all the details, proofs, and a proper 4-5 page legal document, otherwise, the judge at this court may dismiss the case immediately.
Probably, the judge already had a lot on his plate, but it felt like a little setback.
The judge doesn’t like to waste time with the uninitiated. He has a set procedure and method that he likes to follow. The advice was to hire a lawyer and file the case through him else it may get dismissed.
I read on the internet you don’t need a lawyer to represent yourself in a consumer court, and it is true. But if you want to increase your odds of winning; it is better to have a legal counsel who knows in’s and out’s of the judicial system.
I needed a lawyer and suddenly I remembered a friend whom I have ignored for months. Hesitantly, I called him, his brother is a lawyer at the same court. I got his brother’s number and fixed an appointment for the next day.
The following morning, I went on to see my new lawyer. I shared with him my ordeal and asked for advice. He said the judge usually dismisses such cases and I should try to settle with the brand; if possible.
Also, he told me, there is an issue of jurisdiction, since the laptop was bought in Mumbai, so I should file the case in Mumbai, not in Haryana.
Now, the friend who referred me is very close to me, and his brother didn’t want any money from me. He told me the earlier judge was lenient and was more empathetic to the consumers.
It seemed weird to me. I thought the consumer courts are meant for the protection of consumer rights.
The Documents Required for Case Filing
After I insisted to him that I need to file the case, he unwillingly asked his typist to take the full details and any proof of complaints and all the documents like bill and service center records.
I told him that I will gather all the documents and will meet him 2 days later.
After gathering the documents, I visited the court but my lawyer was busy with some other case so he requested me to come the next day.
Anyways, I visited the next day and spent a few hours dictating all the facts and details to the typist who prepared the legal document.
So, by the time we finished it, the person who registers the case was gone and I went to the court the next day to file the case.
I am not sure how it works in the Metros but in my small town, you need to go multiple times to get anything done. Or maybe it is the same everywhere.
Filing The Case
Then I waited. After a couple of days, the case was finally admitted and presented to the judge. The notice for appearance was sent to the concerned parties and was asked to appear before the court.
Lenovo hired a lawyer and sent the representation to the court. It was more than 2 months before the first hearing. The lawyer for the other side appeared and the next date was given. (Tareek pe tareekh, tareek pe tareekh). The next hearing was after 45 days. I have filed the case against Lenovo, the Dealer, and the service center.
The other two parties didn’t appear so notices need to be sent to them again. Now the case is proceeding and another date has come for mid-February. More than 4 months have passed since I started the legal battle and it may take another 6-8 months or more to get a verdict.
Not to mention, I paid Rs. 6000 to the lawyer, though he was not willing to take it.
I don’t have a laptop to work on and don’t have money to buy a new laptop at the moment. The only hope I have is the judge deciding the case in my favor.
Not sure what will happen, but I will update this article as things progress.
If I win the brand can challenge the decision in the state and then in the national consumer court, which can turn into a long ugly legal battle. They will spend less than half the cost of a laptop in dragging the matter for years and I will be left without any justice. My lawyer told me, that most people give up, and several complainants abandon the cases mid-way.
Also, Mr. Gupta (my lawyer) shared with me that earlier consumer courts were settling cases in 3-6 months but now it can take 1 to 3 years to settle a case. A long legal battle is a non-starter for many individuals.
There are initiatives like “Jago Grahak Jago” but in reality, the procedure for filing and winning consumer court cases is not suitable for busy professionals, who can’t spare time and visit the court multiple times.
Chinese Brands are ruling the Indian market and some of the stuff they sell is great and others is not so. But the bigger problem, I see, is that our legal system is not fast or strict with these brands. Lenovo could have easily changed the faulty laptop but it is cheaper and easier for them to have a lawyer and fight the case. Also, all big brands have a legal cell and they are experts and experienced in twisting facts to fight and win cases. They do it daily for the brand and can offer better legal counsel than the less experienced lawyers that consumer hires.
Moreover, It is very few customers who will go after the brand, and in most cases, brands will just getaway.
Fighting for Justice is a Long Battle in India
It is just a laptop and nearly Rs. 1 lakh loss. Maybe I will get justice or maybe not; but there is no fear in brands of consumer rights in India. There are no severe penalties like the US and other developed countries if the brands are found guilty of wrongdoing.
If this was the case in the US, Lenovo would have sent a replacement laptop in the blink of an eye. Unlike in India, penalties are steep and brands can’t get away easily in the west.
I am not alone, there are several more complaints online about my laptop model (you can read about issues with Lenovo Yoga 710 laptop here)
In India, brands can get away with a slap on the wrist. Customers have limited choice, either to accept what the brands offer or run from pillar to post.
Update – 05 May 2022 – The case is still in court. It is more than three years and there were no hearings for the last 2 years due to Covid-19, the Indian Judiciary has taken long leaves during the pandemic and more cases have piled up in courts.
No Justice for Criminal Cases – Forget Small Civil Cases
What about criminal cases, where is the justice for people fighting against heinous crimes. Looking at Nirbhaya’s mother’s cry for justice, for her daughter, every day on TV, this looks like nothing, not a tiny bit wrong. It took more than 8 years after the girl was brutally killed before the culprits were punished. This is grossly wrong at every level.
I don’t know when we will have a stronger justice system in this country or when the courts will take fast action. And when people will not take justice into their own hands, as in the recent Hyderabad rape case.
I am an Indian Citizen who has avoided courts or police stations in the last 36 years of my life and don’t want to ever visit one.
But there are wrongdoings that others have suffered that need urgent justice, but the judiciary is turned into a mockery by the people who run it.
If you believe the Judicial system needs to be improved in our country for Civil/Criminal cases and courts and should have a fixed tenure to solve cases, please write about it on social media or share this article with your friends and family.