A consumer court is a legal venue where consumers can bring complaints related to consumer issues, such as disputes with merchants and manufacturers. This is an example of a special purpose court, a court convened to address a specific area of the law. Using such courts can cut down on costs and prevent bottlenecks in the legal system. India has the most structured example of a consumer court system, and many other nations have adopted the model for their own use.
In India, these courts hear cases at different levels, depending on the amount of money involved in the dispute. Consumers can file cases easily and efficiently, and a judge will hear the matter and make a ruling. The judge may determine the case merits compensation for a complaint such as a defective product or a failure to provide adequate customer service. Going through these specialized courts can allow people to have their cases heard more quickly and by a judge who is very familiar with the relevant areas of the law.
Other countries may not have a full-time consumer court, but can periodically convene a court to handle consumer complaints. Judges from regular courts, usually civil courts, receive a temporary reassignment to the consumer court to hear complaints for time periods ranging from a day to a week. Setting up a special court allows for quick clearance of these cases from the docket to resolve consumer complaints and keep the court schedule clear for other kinds of cases.
Consumer rights under the law vary between and within nations, depending on how aggressively lawmakers have chosen to pursue consumer protections. At a consumer court, some plaintiffs may represent themselves, while others may choose to bring an attorney for support. Legal guidebooks can be helpful for people who want to bring their own cases to court. These books provide detailed instructions on every aspect of the process so people can handle minor legal matters independently.
People who are not sure if there is a consumer court in their area can ask a court clerk at the regional courthouse. The clerk can provide information about whether such a court exists and can determine if a case qualifies for it. The clerk of the court will also have the necessary forms to fill out to file a suit. Some courthouses maintain a small law library for the public with guidebooks and may offer a periodical self-help legal clinic where people have a chance to ask an attorney for assistance with preparing a case for court.