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Every consumer has a right for redressal as and when they are cheated in some form or the other by a few unscrupulous traders. The government has set up redressal forums in all four districts of Sikkim. The aggrieved consumer can file his complain with relevant documents in the district forum.

CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

OBJECTIVES OF THE ACT

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (68 of 1986) is a milestone in the history of socio-economic legislation in the country. It is one of the most progressive and comprehensive pieces of legislation enacted for the protection of consumers.
The main objective of this law is to provide for better protection of the consumer. Unlike other laws which are punitive or preventive in nature, the provisions of this act are compensatory in nature. The Act intends to provide, simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to the consumer’s grievances. For this purpose, the Act envisages three- tier quasi judicial machinery at the National, State and District levels. The Act enshrines certain rights of the consumers and provides for the setting up of Consumer Protection Councils in the centre, the State and District level. The objective of these Consumer Protection Councils will be to promote and protect the right of Consumer.
Extent & Coverage of the Act:
The salient features of the Act are summed up as under:-
The Act applies to all goods and services purchased or hired, unless exempted by the Central Government,
It covers all the sectors whether private, government, public or co-operative.
The provisions of the Act are compensatory in nature.
It enshrines the following rights of consumers:-
 
1. The Right to be protected against the marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and property,
2. The Right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to project the consumer against unfair trade practices,
3. The Right to be assured wherever possible, access to a variety of goods at competitive prices,
4. The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums,
5. The Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers, and
6. The Right to consumer education.
 
Who is a Consumer?
All of us are consumer of goods and services. The producer of some goods and services are also consumer of various other goods and services produced by others.
In the case of goods, a consumer means a person belonging to the following categories.
One who buys any goods for consideration which has been paid or partly promised or under any system of deferred payment.
It includes any user of goods other than the person who actually buys and such use is made with approval of the purchaser.
In the case of services, a Consumer means a person belonging to the following categories.
One who hires any service or services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised or under any system of deferred payment.
It includes any beneficiary of such service other than the one who actually hires the service for consideration and such service are availed with the approval of such person.
 
Who can file a Complaint?
Following categories of persons may file a complaint under the Act:-
A Consumer
Any voluntary Consumer Organization, registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or the Companies Act, 1956 or under any law for the time being in force.
The Central Government
The State Government or Union Territory Administrations.
 
What Constitutes A Complaint?
Under the Act, a complaint means any allegation in writing made by a complaint in regard to one or more of the following:-
That he has suffered loss or damage as a result of any unfair trade practices adopted by any trader.
That the goods mentioned in the complaint suffer from one or more defects.
That services mentioned in the complaint suffer from deficiencies in any respect.
That a trader has charged for the goods mentioned on a complaint, a price in excess of the maximum retailer price or
 
1. Fixed by or under any law for the time being in force or
2. Displayed on goods or
3. Displayed on any packet containing such goods.
 

Where to file the Complaint?

1. Filing of a complaint depends on the cost of goods purchased or hiring of services and the compensation claimed for.
2. If the total claim is less than Rs. 20.00lakhs, the complaint can be filed in the District forum where the cause of action has arisen or where the complainant and opposite party normally reside.
3.  If the total claims are above Rs.20.00 Lakhs but less than 1 Crore, the complaint has to be filed in the State Commission. Appeal against the order of any District Forum has to be filed in the State Commission as per the relevant provision incorporated in the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act ,2002.
4.  For any claim involving more than Rs 1 Crore, the complaint has to be filed in National Commission. Appeal against the order of the State Commission shall lie in the National Commission of the country duly adhering to the provision incorporated in the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002, as enumerated in the subsequent chapter on the procedure for filing the appeal.
 
Fee for making complaint before District Forum:-
1. Every complaint filed under sub-section (1) of section 12 of the Act with a District Forum shall be accompanied by a fee, as specified in the table given below in the form of crossed Demand Draft drawn on nationalized bank or through a crossed Indian postal order drawn in favour of the registrar of the State Commission or the District Forum as the case may be, and payable at the respective place where the State Commission and District Forum are situated. The State Commission and the concerned District Forum shall deposit the amount of fee received in the State Consumer Welfare Fund Account.
 
Sl.No. Total Value of goods or service and the compensation claimed: Amount of fee payable

1.

DISTRICT FORUM

 

(i)

Upto one lakh rupee for Complainants who are under the below poverty line holding Antyodaya Anna Yojna Cards. Nil

(ii)

Upto Rs.10,000/- Nil

(iii)

Upto one lakh rupee for complaints other than Antyodaya Anna Yojna Card holders Rs. 100/-
(iv) Above one lakh rupees and upto five lakhs rupees Rs. 500/-
(v) Above Five lakh rupees and upto ten lakhs rupees Rs. 1,000/-
(vi) Above ten lakh rupees and upto twenty lakhs rupees Rs. 2,000/-
2.

STATE COMMISSION

 
(i) Above twenty lakhs rupees and upto fifty lakhs rupees Rs. 5,000/-
(ii) Above fifty lakhs rupees and upto one crore rupees Rs. 10,000/-
3.

NATIONAL COMMISSION

 
(i) Above one crore rupees Rs. 25,000/-
(ii) Above five crore rupees Rs. 50,000/-
(iii) Above ten crore rupees Rs. 1,00,000/-
 
A Complaint should contain the following information:
a. The name, description and the address of the complainant,
b. The name, description and address of the opposite party or parties, as the case may be as they can be ascertained,
c. The facts relating to complaint and when and where it arose;
d. Document, if any, in support of the allegations contained in the complaint.
e. The relief which the complainant is seeking.
  The complaint should be signed by the complainant or his authorized agent. The standard form for filing complaint is annexed at Annexure-I.
 
Relief available to Consumer:
Depending upon the nature of relief sought by the consumer and facts, the Redressal forums may give order for one or more of the following reliefs:-
1. Removal of defects from the goods.
2. Replacement of the goods.
3. Refund of the price or
4. Award of compensation for the loss or injury suffered.
 
Procedure for filing the Appeal:
Appeal against the decision of a District Forum can be filed before the State Commission within a period of 30 days. Appeal against the decision of a State Commission within a period of 30 days. Appeal against the orders of the National Commission can be filed before the Supreme Court within a period of 30 days.
No appeal shall lie in the State Commission by a person who is required to pay any amount in terms of an order of the District Forum, unless the appellant deposits 50% of that amount or Rs 25000/- whichever is less. In case of an appeal against the order of the State Commission or the National Commission, the deposit is Rs 35000/- and Rs 50000/- respectively.
Procedure for filing the appeal is the same as that of complaint, except that the application should be accompanied by the copy of the order of the District Forum/ State Commission as the case may be and reason for filing the appeal should be specified.
 

Time Limit for Deciding Complaint/ Appeal:

The thrust of the Act is to provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to consumer grievances, the following provisions have been incorporated in the Act and the rules framed there are as under:
It is obligatory on the complainant or appellant of their authorized agents and the opposite parties to appear before the Forum / Commission on the date of hearing or any other date to which hearing could be adjoined. The National commission, State Commission and District Forum are required to decide complaints, as far as possible, within a period of three months from the date of notice received by the opposite party where complaint does not require analysis or testing of the commodities and within five months if it requires analysis or testing of commodities.
The national Commission and State Commission are required to decide the appeal as far as possible, within 90 days from the first date of hearing.
 

For Consumer Knowledge:

Government accords a high priority to the programme of consumer protection. It is a social movement which seeks to protect the rights of consumer in relations to innumerable forms of unfair trade practices, such as short weighment / measurements, adulteration, fraudulent packages, misleading advertisement, sub-standard consumer goods, hoardings and black marketing. While the government has taken action to enforce consumer protection laws for safeguarding the interest of the consumer. It is equally important to educate the consumer about the legal protection available to them and to exercise proper selection in the purchase of goods and services, be informed about contents, quality and prices of goods and be heard about their grievances to ensure good health and safety.
Enactment of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was one of the most important steps in promoting the strong and broad-based consumer movement. This is a milestone in the history of socio-economic legislation in the country.
In order to promote consumer awareness on a massive scale and at grass root level, the ‘WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY on 15th of March, and ‘NATIONAL CONSUMER DAY’, on 24th of December are observed throughout the country. The Central Government has also instituted the “Swami Vivekananda National Award”, for the youth, women and consumer organization performing outstanding work in the field of consumer protection.
As provided under the Act, the State Government has also constituted the State Consumer Protection Council with the inclusion of voluntary organization active in the field of consumer movement. A State Commission and a District Forum for each District has also been constituted for the redressal of consumer grievances.
 

THE ADDRESS OF THE CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL AGENCIES ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1.

NATIONAL COMMISSION

  The President
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
5th Floor, Janapath Bhawan,
New Delhi-110001
Telephone: (011) 3327666/3016613/3317690/3712459/3712456
 
2. STATE COMMISSION
  The President
State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission,
Palzor Stadium road
Gangtok, Sikkim -737101
Telephone: (03592) 205027
 
3.  DISTRICT FORUM
  I. East
  The President
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum(East),
Palzor Stadium Road
Gangtok, East Sikkim – 737101
Telephone: 221168
   
  II. West
  The President
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum(West),
O/O District Civil Supplies Officer,
Gyalshing, West Sikkim-737111
Telephone: 250189
   
  III. North
  The President
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum(North),
Food Godown Complex,
Mangan, North Sikkim – 737116
Telephone: 234586
   
  IV. South
  The President
District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum(South),
Food Godown Complex,
Namchi, South Sikkim – 737126
Telephone: 263140
 
Here are a few do’s and don’ts which would help a Consumer:

I

 WEIGHT

 

Do’s

 
 Check that all weights and measures, i.e., all weighing equipments and standard weights(Dhak), bear the seal of the Weights and Measures Department.
Ensure that seal is not tampered with. Weights and Measures without the seal are not genuine.

b. Don’ts

 
Don’t accept weighment by weights which do not conform to the metric system like pounds, ounces, gallons etc.
Don’t accept weighment by stones, pieces of bricks or metal pieces.
   

II

MEASURES/VOLUME

 

Do’s

 
Make sure that all the measures have not been dented to reduce capacity.
Check that the measures bear the seal of the Weights and Measures Department.
Ensure that the measuring container is full to the brim and the contents are totally empty after pouring out.

b. Don’ts

 
Don’t accept milk or oil until the froth settles.
Don’t accept the measure if it has been tampered with by a rubber lining on tin packing so as to reduce its capacity.
   

III

LENGTH

 
Do’s
 
Check that the measuring instrument bear a seal of the Weights and Measures Department.
Check that the measuring instruments have not been bent or cut to shorten its length.
b. Don’ts
 
Don’t allow the cloth to be stretched at the time of its measurement.
   

IV

BALANCE

 

Do’s

 
Ensure that the beam remains horizontal when the pans are empty. In the case of self indicating weighing scale the pointer or indicator should show zero when there is no load on the pan.
Ensure that the weighing machine bears the seal of the Weights and Measurement Department.
Ensure that no magnet is attached to either of its pan and it should not touch a wall, chair, table or the foot of the person weighing it in a manner so as to interfere with the correctness of weighing operation.
Ensure that the centre knife edge of the beam is free and not locked so as to interfere with the correct weighment.
Ensure that both sides of the counter balanced are free and have not been artificially balanced by attaching a metal piece or in any other manner.
Ensure that the weights and balance are visible.

b. Don’ts

 
Don’t accept weighment if the beam balance in a shop has not been displayed with the beam hanging in a horizontal position.
Don’t accept weighment if it is done under a fast revolving fan
Don’t accept weighment if a wooden beam scale is used.
   

V

PACKAGED COMMODITIES

 

Do’s

 

Ensure that the package bears the proper declaration, these are:

The common or genetic name of the commodity,
Name and address of the manufacturer/ packer,
The net quantity
The month and year of manufacturing/packing of the commodity,
The month and year of expiry for perishable commodities, especially medicines,
The maximum retail price inclusive of all taxes.

b. Don’ts

 
Don’t accept packaged goods which do not have proper declaration.
Don’t accept packaged goods on an excess price than one that has been printed.
Don’t accept packaged goods on which the printed price has been obliterated.
  Don’t accept goods which are of expired date.
   

VI

PETROL, DIESEL & KEROSENE OIL

 

While buying, Petrol, Diesel and Kerosene oil, ensure that the meter of the pump is calibrated and not tampered with. Ensure that the indicator is at zero (0.00) point at the start. In case of any doubt, check the delivery of petrol, diesel and kerosene oil with the verified and stamped fuel liter measure are available at each POL pump.

   

VII

L.P.G. CYLINDERS

 

Do’s

 
While taking delivery of cylinder, check if the seal on it is intact.

b. Don’ts

 
Don’t accept a cylinder unless the delivery man weighs it on his balance and the weight is equal to 14.2 kg,plus the weight of the cylinder printed on the body of the cylinder.
   

VIII

BUREAU OF INDIAN STANDARDS ACT

 

Do’s

 
Insist on BIS certified products.
Ensure that the product carries the BIS standard mark (ISI, Agmark).
Buy from authorized sales outlets whenever you can.
Keep the purchase receipt to utilize after sales service in case of complaint.

b. Don’ts

 
Don’t go for spurious and sub-standard products which may be hazardous to life and safety.
Don’t go for quantity only, insist on quality also.
   

IX

ESSENTIAL COMMODITY ACT

 
Do’s
 
Ensure that the rate boards in each Fair Price Shop are displayed properly.
Ensure that the rate are as that of the rates fixed by the Government.
Ensure that the essential commodities are available at the price fixed by the Government.
Ensure that the Ration Card issued to you is kept in your custody.

b. Don’ts

 
Don’t accept the goods if price is in excess to that fixed by the Government.
Don’t let the shop keep your Ration Card.
Don’t let the shop misuse your quota.
If you have any complaints then please contact the office of the

Commissioner – cum – Secretary,
Food, Civil supplies and Consumer Affairs Department,
Government of Sikkim,
Telephone : 202708/202215/ 202893.

 
SIKKIM STATE CONSUMER HELPLINE (SSCH)
You can now register your consumer complaints via telephone by calling our toll free help line number.
Just Dial 1800-345-3209 from any BSNL landline/mobile number during office hours of 10 am to 4 pm on working days.
State you complaint and get your complaint register ID.
Do not forget to leave your name, address and your telephone number.
We will get back to you as soon as possible.
 
JAGANA GRAHAK JAGA AB TA JAGA
The State Consumer helpline (SCH) has been set up in the line to the National Consumer Helpline(NCH) to bring about relief to the consumers of the State of Sikkim. Owing to immense success of the NCH, the Central Government has issued directives for starting and opening the SCH. The Sikkim State Consumer Helpline has been made operational on 12th May 2009 and is presently giving service in English, Hindi and Nepali via a toll free telephone number 18003453209 and the office numbers 203916/202675 where a citizen can call from any part of the State and seek information, advice or guidance for his/her day to day consumer problem.
The objectives of the State Consumer Helpline are as follows:-
Development of a resource centre at the State Level which will be networked with national resource centre.
Develop Alternative Consumer Disputes Redresssal mechanism at the State Level.
Maximum number of disputes resolved outside court.
Early resolution of complaints
Reach out to rural consumers
Capacity building of the State Level VCOs.
State level machinery gets experience
Companies and service providers become more active in solving consumer disputes.
Provide service in regional language in addition to English Language
The State consumer Helpline will provide counseling on all products and services and will also develop database information relating to the State.
 
SIKKIM STATE CONSUMER WELFARE FUND
In pursuance to the directives issued by the Government of India, the Sikkim State Consumer Welfare Fund has been set up to assist Voluntary Consumer Organizations in undertaking publicity measures and other activities relating to consumer protection. The overall objective of the Consumer Welfare Fund is to provide financial assistance to promote and protect the welfare of the consumers and strengthen the voluntary consumer movement in the State, with more emphasis in the rural areas.
For more details, please contact the Office of the Additional Secretary, Weights and Measures and Consumer Protection, Palzor Stadium road, Gangtok, Sikkim. Telephone No 202893.
 
Consumer Club in Schools
The Department of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India , New Delhi, had launched the scheme of consumer clubs in schools in order to spread consumer education amongst the student community and teachers. 50 Senior Secondary Schools were selected from all four districts of the State.
50(fifty) Consumer Clubs have already been constituted. Constitutional and Bye Laws of the Consumer Clubs have already been framed and executed.
The response from the member of the teaching faculty and students of all Schools was very overwhelming. In fact other Sr. Secondary and Secondary Schools have approached the Department of Food & Civil supplies & consumer awareness programmes and open Consumer Club as done in the first phase.
The Department is already receiving request from different schools to organize consumer awareness programmes at selected common venues for the teachers, students, Gram Panchayat Units and General Public. It is proposed to hold demonstration on the usage of different kinds of weights and measures. Weighing and measuring instrument along with the consumer awareness programmes for imparting better quality of consumer education. The Human Resource development Department has been extending all cooperation and help to organize the programmes.
It is also proposed to hold at-least three consumer awareness programmes in colleges, for which financial assistance will be sought from the Government of India.
 

Awareness activities undertaken by the consumer protection unit

Holding World Consumer’s Rights Day on 15th March every year
Holding National Consumer Day on 24th December every year
Organise public awareness on PDS and legal provision of legal Metrology rules in every district and sub-divisions.
Display of Hoardings/Boards in Public places giving details address and telephone number of district forums and state commission for consumer benefit and their redressal.
State Consumer Help Line service is constituted in Gangtok. Toll free Help Line No. is 1800-345-3209.
 

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