Consumer court registers maximum cases against insurance firms
- Number of registered cases increasing in the consumer disputes redressal forums
- Cases against insurance firms make up a majority of registered cases in Guwahati
- Cases filed in district consumer forum in 2017 - 94, 2016 - 125 and 2015 - 92
- Guwahati resident paid Rs 13 for a Rs 10 water bottle and filed a case
- He was provided with Rs 2500 compensation
- Consumers need to become more aware of their rights, say officials
While the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DCDRC) in Guwahati sees a number of cases ranging from defective goods to negligence in services in different sectors, negligence on the part of the insurance firms makes up the majority of registered cases here in Guwahati.
Consumer courts are meant to handle cases related to consumer grievances and disputes in order to protect consumer rights. According to officials, cases filed against insurance firms make up at least 30 to 40 per cent of total cases on an average, in a month.
Other categories of disputes include complaints against automobile companies and e-commerce platforms for sub-standard or defective goods, airlines and courier companies for deficiency in services, medical negligence, and against mobile service providers for lack of services.
Further, officials from the DCDRC said that consumers in Guwahati are becoming more aware of their rights and are exercising their powers within law. As per the official record, a total of 94 cases have been filed in 2017 till November. Before this, 92 and 125 cases were registered with the district consumer forum in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
“The consumers today have become very conscious and file a case when they do not receive favourable response from the sellers. Mostly, it is not about the money but about their rights as a consumer,” said Archana Deka Lahkar, member of the DCDRC, Kamrup district.
The DCDRC deals with dispute cases the value of which are up to Rs. 20 lakhs. State-level cases with a value of more than Rs 20 lakhs and up to Rs 1 crore are taken up by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC). And finally, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is the apex body which looks after disputes where the total claim and compensation amount exceeds Rs 1 crore.
Insurance companies fail to deliver on their promises
Several cases are being reported every month from Guwahati against both public as well as private insurance firms.
In a recent case, a resident of the city had insured a newly-bought van with a private insurance company. However, within a month, the van got badly damaged in a head-on collision accident with a truck. The owner of the van filed an FIR with the police and informed the insurance company about the damages to the vehicle.
However, the insurance company closed this claim as “no claim” saying that they did not receive proper documents such as registration certificate, driving licence and route permit of the vehicle, among others.
On the other hand, the consumer said that he had submitted all the necessary documents and was being harassed by the company. He then filed a case under Section 2, “the deficiency in service”, of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
In a different case, a Guwahatian had paid Rs 13 for a half-litre bottle of water when the maximum retail price (MRP) as printed on the bottle was Rs 10. He decided to approach the consumer court for redressal.
“The complainant was aware enough to demand a proper cash memo from the shop owner. This was then presented in the court as evidence and he received Rs 2500 as compensation,” said an official of the DCDRC.
Officials say that the possession of evidence in form of memos becomes crucial while filing cases for defective goods and services. Additionally, if a consumer is unable to produce a genuine memo in court with the company or shop’s name, then claiming compensation becomes difficult in such cases.
More awareness about consumer rights needed, feel authorities
While the awareness among consumers is increasing at the state level too, a lot still needs to be done in order to make them aware of the types of potential exploitation practices which can be faced by the customers from sellers, say authorities. At the SCDRC, 81 cases in total were filed in 2015, 109 in 2016 and 95 complaints were registered till September 2017.
“The consumers should know all of their rights and must also exercise it whenever they feel that these have been violated,” said Registrar of the SCDRC, Anuja Bhuyan.
Authorities feel that many consumers still feel hesitant to come forward and file complaints. “People feel that filing a case is too much of a hassle and they are not willing to spend their time appearing in the consumer court. Moreover, it does take some time for the case to proceed and reach a judgement which people are not ready to spare,” said an official.
Rights of a consumer include the right to choose. Under this the consumer has the right to choose between different products and services offered at competitive prices. The customer also has the right to be informed about the product or service. This means that all information related to the product should be disclosed to the buyer in the form of labelling.
Further, the consumer possesses the right to be heard. If a consumer has some grievances about a product or a service, then under this right, he or she should be able to voice their opinion about it to the seller. Under the right to redressal, the consumer reserves the right to seek redressal from consumer forums in case of exploitation by the sellers.