Scope of class action as a complaint under Section 12(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act

The primary object behind permitting a class action such as a complaint under Section 12(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act being to facilitate the decision of a consumer dispute in which a large number of consumers are interested, without recourse to each of them filing an individual complaint, it is necessary that such a complaint is filed on behalf of or for the benefit of all the persons having such a community of interest. A complaint on behalf of only some of them therefore will not be maintainable. If for instance, 100 flat buyers /plot buyers in a project have a common grievance against the Builder / Developer and a complaint under Section 12(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act is filed on behalf of or for the benefit of say10 of them, the primary purpose behind permitting a class action will not be achieved, since the remaining 90 aggrieved persons will be compelled either to file individual complaints or to file complaints on behalf of or for the benefit of the different group of purchasers in the same project. This, in our view, could not have been the Legislative intent. The term ‘persons so interested’ and ‘persons having the same interest’ used in Section 12(1) (c) mean, the persons having a common grievance against the same service provider. The use of the words “all consumers so interested’ and “on behalf of or for the benefit of all consumers so interested”, in Section 12(1)(c) leaves no doubt that such a complaint must necessarily be filed on behalf of or for the benefit of all the persons having a common grievance, seeking a common relief and consequently having a community of interest against the same service provider.

Sub rule (2) of Rule 8 of Order I of the Code of Civil Procedure mandates the Court to give notice of the institution of the suit /complaint to all the persons “so interested”, meaning thereby to the persons having the same interest, i.e. a common grievance, on whose behalf or for whose benefit the complaint is instituted. Notice can be either by way of personal service or where personal service is not reasonably practicable, by way of a public advertisement .”

The primary object in filing a ‘class action suit, such as ‘complaint’ under Section 12(1) (c) of the Consumer Protection Act is to only facilitate the decision of the consumer dispute in which a large number of consumers are interested, without recourse to each of them filing an individual complaint. [NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION, FA/2154/2017 RAKESH BIHARI & 6 ORS. AMIT PRAKASH & 2 ORS. Dated : 03 Jan 2018]