In a move to enhance the benefit to consumers, the consumer welfare fund guidelines were amended on Friday. The update includes the provision for reimbursement of legal expenses incurred by a complainant, or a class of complainants, in a consumer dispute involving a mediator.
The fees associated with engaging a mediator in consumer complaints will now be drawn from the consumer welfare fund.
A press release stated, “The amount of dispute, or the fee of the mediator as set by the President of the commission, or the fees prescribed in the following table, whichever is least, shall be paid to the mediator, from the interest accrued on the consumer welfare (corpus) fund, established with co-contribution from the state and the Department of Consumer Affairs.”
The Department of Consumer Affairs identified that one main obstacle leading to non-satisfactory outcomes in the redressal of cases through mediation has been the fee charged by the mediator. Parties involved in disputes have often been reluctant to pay these fees, resulting in the unsuccessful conduct of the mediation process.
In order to resolve this challenge, the department gathered suggestions and comments from all State Consumer Commissions. Based on the deliberations held, and the suggestions and comments received, it was decided that the fees of the empanelled mediator would be paid from the corpus of the consumer welfare fund, according to the release.
This change aims to remove a significant barrier in the dispute resolution process and encourages more consumers to seek redress through mediation. By having the costs covered by the consumer welfare fund, the update ensures that financial constraints do not hinder the pursuit of justice in consumer disputes.