NCDRC: How it helps in consumer protection for home buyers


Apart from the RERA, home buyers can also approach the apex consumer forum, NCDRC, to safeguard their interests against unfair practices

To safeguard the interests of consumers in India and to protect them against unfair practices, a national body under the Consumer Protection Act has been formed. This quasi-judicial body is the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC).

While the New-Delhi headquartered NCDRC is the apex body that deals with consumer complaints of a certain monetary value, its district and state counterparts – the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission or DCDRCs (or district commission) and the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission or SCDRCs (state commission) – deal with consumer complaints of less monetary value, under a three-tier protection system.

Before we talk about the basis on which this division has been made, let us first find out who qualifies as a consumer under the consumer protection law.

 

Who is a consumer?

A consumer is a person who buys any goods, irrespective of offline or online transactions, electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling or multi-level marketing.

 

NCDRC jurisdiction

NCDRC National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

 

After changes were made in the consumer law under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which came into effect from July 20, 2020, the district commission (earlier known as the district forum) can now entertain consumer complaints having value of up to Rs 1 crore, as against the earlier limit of Rs 20 lakhs.

The state commission can entertain disputes where such value exceeds Rs 1 crore but remains within Rs 10 crores. The national commission can exercise jurisdiction, where such value exceeds Rs 10 crores. This means, a consumer can file complaints with the national commission, where the value involved is over Rs 10 crores.

However, the Supreme Court (SC), in March 2021, ruled that the national and state consumer commissions should decide old consumer complaints pending before them, in terms of the monetary jurisdiction fixed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Only cases filed on or after July 20, 2020, should be dealt with according to the 2019 law, while the old cases will be decided in accordance with the 1986 Act, the apex court held.

Also note that while appeals from a district consumer court are entertained by the state commission, the appeals from the state commission are heard by the apex consumer panel. The final appeal lies before the Supreme Court (SC).

This means that if a home buyer is not satisfied with the ruling of the district forum, he can move the state commission. Subsequently, he can move the national commission if he is unhappy with the verdict of the state commission, too. If he is not satisfied with the decision made by the national panel too, he has to move an appeal in the SC. In such cases, it is immaterial whether or not the buyer meets the monetary parameters set to approach the state or national commissions.

 

NCDRC judgments and home buyers

The SC, in November 2020, said that home buyers can approach the consumer forum to seek remedies, including refund and compensation from builders for delay in handing over possession of homes, in spite of the enactment of the real estate law (RERA).

“The parliamentary intent is clear that a choice or discretion is given to the allottee, whether he wishes to initiate appropriate proceedings under the CP Act or file an application under the RERA Act,” the SC ruled.

A home buyer can also drag the builder to the consumer court over misleading advertisements as such an act is termed a criminal offence under the consumer protection law. If the developer is found guilty, he could be sentenced to imprisonment for up to two years, apart from a monetary penalty of up to Rs 10 lakhs. The penalty may extend to Rs 50 lakhs and imprisonment of up to five years, in case of subsequent offences.

See also: Consumer Court, RERA or NCLT: Can a home buyer approach all these forums simultaneously?

 

Why does the national consumer forum remain popular among home buyers despite the RERA?

Even though home buyers are promised protection under the sector-specific RERA, they continue to approach the consumer commissions, because of the high rate of justice delivery. As on March 31, 2021, the NCDRC had disposed of a total of 1,16,572 or over 84% of the cases it had taken up since its inception. The rate of justice delivery is also quite good at the district and state -level forums.

 

NCDRC case status

Name of agency Cases filed since inception Cases disposed of since inception Cases pending % of total disposal
National Commission  1,38,015 1,16,572 21,443 84.46%
State commissions 9,67,746 8,43,187 1,24,559 87.13%
District commissions 44,45,633 40,44,449 4,01,184 90.98%
Total 55,51,394 50,04,208 5,47,186 90.14%

Source: NCDRC portal

A consumer-friendly quasi-judicial body that conducts summary proceedings to provide relief to aggrieved consumers within the specified timelines, the NCDRC allows home buyers to argue their own cases, too. The consumer does not need to involve a lawyer.

 

National consumer forum helpline

One can call on the toll-free numbers 1800114000 or 14404, to reach the national consumer forum on all days, between 9:30 am and 05:30 pm, except national holidays.

For any enquiry with the registry of the national commission, one can contact on the telephone numbers 011-24608801, 24608802, 24608803, 24608804 or use the fax number 24651505.

 

FAQs

When was the NCDRC constituted?

The National Commission was constituted in 1988.

Are goods and services both covered under the Consumer Protection Act?

The provisions of the Consumer Protection Act cover goods, as well as services.

What is NCDRC full form?

The NCDRC is an acronym for National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

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