Not making a complaint within the stipulated time could end in irretrievable loss for aggrieved consumers

If an aggrieved consumer does not act on time, then, it could end in an irretrievable loss for him / her. The Consumer Protection Act (CP Act) stipulates a time frame of two years from the date on which the cause of action arose for filing a complaint before the consumer fora. Otherwise, the complaint will be barred by limitation and the fora normally do not condone delay and might consider a case only if sufficient proof is submitted for the delay.

Also, for appeals from the lower fora, the CP Act provides for preferring an appeal within 30 days from the date of the order. It also states that the State or the National Commission may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the said period if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing within the time-frame. Lately, in a revision petition that came up before the National Commission for condoning delay, where there was a delay of 400 days in filing the appeal before the State Commission and was therefore dismissed, the National Commission held that the applicant who approaches Court for condonation of delay has to explain each and every day’s delay in a satisfactory manner. In the particular instance, since sufficient cause was not shown, the revision petition was dismissed.

Similarly, for all life and health insurance policies that are for a period of at least three years, there is a free-look period — 15 days from the date of receiving the policy document — laid down by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, within which the consumer, if not satisfied with the terms of the policy, can opt for cancelling the policy that he had chosen earlier. However, if the policy holder fails to turn up within the specified time, then, he / she is stuck with the policy.

Likewise, in the case of theft of a vehicle, apart from lodging FIR with the police, information in writing, about the theft of the vehicle, should be conveyed immediately to the insurance company. The National Commission recently dismissed a related appeal that came up before it. The respondent’s car that was insured was stolen. He filed an FIR with the police on the same date. However, he submitted the claim form to the insurance company only after a month. The insurance company repudiated the claim against which the complainant preferred a complaint before the State Commission. The State Commission held the insurance company guilty of deficiency in service and directed the company to pay the insured value of the vehicle (less five per cent) as depreciation value, Rs. 50,000 as compensation towards mental agony and Rs. 10,000 towards litigation costs, to the complainant. The insurance company, however, preferred an appeal before the National Commission. The National Commission quoted the relevant conditions of the policy, which said that “Notice shall be given in writing to the company immediately upon the occurrence of any accident or loss or damage and in the event of any claim and thereafter the insured shall give all such information and assistance as the company shall require”, and observed that as per the terms of the policy, the insured was required to immediately inform the company about the theft of the vehicle, which he failed to do, and therefore set aside the order to the State Commission.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details / queries contact 2491 4358 / 2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)