Can Consumer Forums adjudicate telecom disputes? - India Consumer Forum

Can Consumer Forums adjudicate telecom disputes?

We recently came across a few consumer cases relating to telecom disputes that were dismissed by the State Commission on the ground of jurisdiction to hear telecom disputes. The State Commisson cited Hon’ble Supreme Court’s decision in a couple of cases that Consumer Fora have no jurisdiction over telecom disputes and these disputes will fall under The Indian Telegraph Act that required reference of the matter to an arbitrator appointed by Central Government. This is really disappointing and unfortunate.

We feel the Consumer Fora has the jurisdiction to adjudicate cases filed with them for the following reasons.

The very purpose of enacting Consumer Protection Act was to provide simple, quicker and less expensive access to redressal of consumer grievances as otherwise the consumers would have to initiate civil suits that involve lengthy, expensive and time consuming legal process. In effect, this Act can be said to be a special act passed to protect the interests of the consumers of various sectors.

The Indian Telegraph Act was enacted at a time when there was no mobile/wireless communication and the telephone connections were far and few. In the present age of nearly 900 million subscribers, it is unthinkable that the consumers should go through the process of appointing arbitrators through lengthy legal process. We could not come across any useful information for the consumers on how to appoint these arbitrators. Moreover the relevant section under the Indian Telegraph Act refers to “telegraph line, appliance or apparatus” which obviously does not encompass wireless communication and services relating thereto.

The judgement delivered by District Consumer Forum Ferozepur (President Sri Sanjay Garg) in C.C No.180 of 2009 Lakhbir Singh Vs. Aman Arora Telecom & BSNL clearly explains why Consumer Fora can adjudicate consumer disputes in the telecom sector.

Section 25 of Telecom Consumers Protection and Redressal of Grievances Regulations, 2007 clearly recognizes and gives credence to the consumers’ right to seek redressal under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Sec. 25(2) of the said regulation goes on to state “Any consumer may, at any time,— (a) during pendency of redressal of his grievance, whether by filing of complaint or appeal, under these regulations; or (b) before or after filing of complaint or appeal, under these regulations, exercise his right conferred upon him under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986(68 of 1986) or any other law for the time being in force and seek redressal of his grievance under that Act or law.

Section 3 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 states “Act not in derogation of any other law – The provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force”. This means remedy available under Consumer Protection Act is in addition to remedy available under any other Act.

We hope Consumer Forums will consider the above points before dismissing any telecom dispute on the ground of jurisdiction(lack of) to adjudicate telecom disputes.

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