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Interview: Arun Saxena, who helps cheated consumers in filing complaints in consumer courts
You buy a brand new mobile. Use it for ten days, and then on one day it suddenly breaks down. What will you do is obvious. You rush to the nearest authorized service center where they repair your cell phone. You come back to your home. After two days your mobile again stops functioning. Now what else you can do apart from going to the service center?

At this point of time you can approach to the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum commonly known as consumer courts and file a complain against the cell phone company and can demand replacement and compensation, which the company will normally not give you under the one year warranty it offers on the product.

The consumer courts are established with the aim that they would provide relief to the consumers in case they have been sold faulty products. However, the number of consumers who reach these forums are still very less in numbers because of many reasons like less awareness about consumer courts, and the procedure of filing a case in these courts.

To help out cheated consumers in getting justice from the companies, an NGO called International Consumer Rights Protection Council (ICRPC) is working day and night, whose sole aim is to help and guide grieved consumers to handle their complaints in the consumer court. And the ICRPC does it almost free of cost.

In an e-mailed interview, the founder-cum-President of the ICRPC, Arun Saxena speaks about his organization, consumer courts, consumers rights etc.

Q. What is ICRPC? Please tells us in brief.

Arun SaxenaArun Saxena (AS): ICRPC stands for International Consumer Rights Protection Council. ICRPC is a registered NGO. It's aim is to educate people about consumer laws and make them fight their own cases. With their experience we encourage them to teach others to file cases in consumer courts. This way, we wish that more and more people file cases in consumer courts. At least people should file complaints against defective product and services.

Q. What made you to establish this organization? How you did the planning? How you arranged the required capital and other things.

AS: My aim was to help the underprivileged, helpless common man to get justice. I want that everyone should develop a habit of complaining. The problem with we Indians is that we do not complain, and we expect that NGOs or someone else should do all the work for them. Most of us say that we do not have time to complain and to do follow-ups, despite having time to go to restaurants and watching TV. My strategy is to teach a few that how easy it is to file complaint in the consumer court and win the case without the help of a lawyer. And I expect that these few will teach others to file complaints like this, the word will spread, and soon we will see people complaining and coming strongly on defaulters.

There is no capital required in filing complaints directly to defaulter. The only investment is time and few documents.

The scope for our work is large. If you ask anyone whether he has any problem....he will immediately list at least 4-5 issues like bad roads, problem with mobile phone service, or some problem in any day to day happening. Problems are plenty and the population of our country is big. Hence, there is no dearth of work if the services are made reachable, economical and result oriented. There is no much capital required as the volunteers can work from home office. I have myself developed intelligent software that does most of the work eliminating the need of staff.

Q. It is really good to hear that you don't charge consumers in return of filing their complaints at the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums. Plus you don't accept any donations, you don't advertise on your website. But for sustaining an organization earning is must? So we are very curious to know how ICRPC is running successfully, only if you want to share this story with us.

AS: Most of the valuable information on the website is free. We charge a small fee for sending notice. We help and guide the consumers to file their complaints in the consumer court and fight their own cases. These consumers then tell others and guide them to file their cases. We do not give advertisement space on our website because it should not look that we have favored anyone, or someone has bought us, influenced us, or paid us by investing money through advertisements.

I do not want to give a chance to anyone to point fingers at me and my work. If I want to earn money, I can very well take up any job as I am qualified as M. Tech; MBA, Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communications, Diploma in AS 400 computer programming from IBM, Diploma in Graphics and Animation, Law, etc. I was doing job abroad for many years, and I returned back to serve the people of India.

Firstly, when the client base is large and fee is small.....satisfactory earnings do pour in from all parts of the world. Secondly, my aim is not to earn large amount of money. People know me for my serious and fruitful work. It really makes a difference when a qualified person does social work. But such breed is rare in India.

Q. In India Consumers have very less knowledge about their rights, about consumer courts. What reasons you see behind this less awareness?

AS: Consumers think that they will not get justice looking a the height of corruption left by Congress government in last 15 years. To some extent they are true. Police does no act, government machinery does not work. But why to let them get away with it. I have seen that a nuisance gets his work done very fast. The consumers should come on heavily on these government babus....they easily get afraid of getting exposed and getting their other bad accounts exposed once they are trapped in controversy. So, consumers should keep on complaining by emails or send unstamped letters. Let the defaulter pay for the stamps on receiving the complaint letter.

In the world of Internet we cannot say that the consumers are not aware of their rights and don't know the presence of consumer courts. They know everything, thats why they are able to find me and get help from me. Now everyone has a mobile with Internet and "whats app". People even reach me through "whats app" throughout the day and even from the spot where the defect happened.

Q. In rural areas people even haven't heard about existence of consumer courts. How this scenario can be changed there?

AS: It's wrong. Many people are aware of consumer courts now-a-days.

Q: Is the government doing enough to create awareness among the mass regarding consumer rights and the consumer courts? What else needs to be done?

AS: No. Government has set up consumer help line that is useless and is not effective. In fact I would like to state the other way round. Instead of making the consumers aware, it's time to make the courts aware of speedy justice and make their staff understand that the consumers are not lawyers and will not understand legal language. The courts and their staff should be made aware time and again that the basic purpose of the consumer courts is to give cheaper and speedy justice. So the courts need more awareness not the consumers. There are over 1, 40, 000 cases pending in consumer courts.

I wish if the government can give me a chance to run their consumer affairs department, I can bring solid changes and make such a setup that consumers will be able to file cases from their home through Internet and get justice delivered in their inbox without visiting the court.

Q: People in most of the cases do not approach consumer courts while thinking that they would be spending more than the cost of the product, plus time. Is it a misconception on consumer's part? What is the realty exactly? How would you like to convince them to approach consumers courts in cases of grievance?

AS: If they cannot go to consumer courts for small matters then at least they should file online complaint free of cost at www.pgportal.gov.in Yes the consumer courts charge fee and it takes about 2 years or more to get the judgment. Reality is that many people do not want to file cases in the consumer courts. They have lost faith in the judicial system. Sometimes I feel that they have more faith in me and my work rather than going to the court. It is rewarding to see smiles on their faces when their problems are solved just by sending a notice.

Q. What I have felt is that in most of the cases, the decision comes in favor of the consumers. Is it so? If it is, then what is the approx percentage where the decisions have come in favor of the consumers in courts?

AS: Well, I can tell about myself that 85-90% of my complaints get redressed through notice only, and in consumer courts I have helped consumers to win cases 98% of the times.

Recently I had observed that Mumbai consumer forums were dismissing the complaints and including these into the figure of "complaints redressed"....which gave wrong figure that many complaints were being redressed, whereas few were getting justice and others dismissed in order to bring down the figure of pending complaints.

Q. What if a consumer court does not rule in the favor of a consumer? Is there any higher appellate authority?

AS: Yes, grieved consumer can appeal in the state consumer commission against the district forum order, and in national commission against the defective state commission order.

Q. Suppose I am consumer and I want to file a case. In the form of ICRPC, there's one option. But how can I directly approach a court and file my case there? Please, if you can explain me.

AS: Consumers can directly file cases in the consumer court without the help of a lawyer and also attend the hearings on their own. The case is to be filed in simple format with court fee. Consumer can attend the hearings (4-5 of them in a year) and get justice. Address of consumer courts are given on my website www.consumergrievance.com

Q. Generally how long it takes for a decision to come in a consumer court? Do the consumer courts also give too many dates like the courts in general?

AS: It takes about 2 to 4 years for simple cases, and about 6 years for complicated ones. There are about 3-4 hearings in one year.

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