The Indian Consumer Movement and The Consumer Protection Act Of India

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By Dr. Sheetal Kapoor
Associate Professor, Department of Commerce, Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi

New Delhi, Dec 2, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) The Consumer Protection Act in India celebrates its silver jubilee next year. Consumer is considered as an inevitable part of the socio-economic-political system, where the exchange initiated and transactions realized between two parties, namely buyers and sellers has an impact on a third party i.e., society. The inherent profit motive in mass production and sales also offers the opportunity to many manufacturers and dealers to exploit consumers. Thus the need for consumer satisfaction and consumer protection has been recognized.
This year the theme proposed by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is “Consumers Discharge your Responsibilities: Assert your Rights”.  The  consumers  have  eight rights empowering  them to voice their opinion in case of defective goods, deficiency in service, restrictive trade practices or unfair trade practices.

The Government as the policy making body helps empower the consumers to act responsibly. The  “Jago Grahak Jago’ campaign run by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is a good example of how the common man can be made aware about his rights and responsibilities. India as a country has never fallen behind in introducing progressive legislation.

The most important milestone in Consumer Movement in the country has been the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The Act applies to all goods and services unless specially exempted by the Central Government, in all sectors whether private, public or co-operative. This Act has been regarded as the most progressive, comprehensive and unique piece of legislation. In the International conference on consumer protection held in Malaysia, the Indian Consumer Protection Act was described as one “which has set in motion a revolution in the fields of consumer rights, the parallel of which has not been seen anywhere else in the world.”

As consumers we are dependant on the markets for meeting our needs and wants. At present we have around 24 legislations in India for protecting the consumers. We have moved from the situation of caveat emtor, ie let the buyer beware to a situation of caveat venditor ie, the marketer or the vendor needs to be careful and responsible when he sells goods and services to the consumers. Amongst the various laws for the protection of the consumers, the foremost is the Consumer Protection Act in India.

Salient Features

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted for better protection of the interests of consumers. Consumer Protection Act imposes strict liability on a manufacturer, in case of supply of defective goods by him, and a service provider, in case of deficiency in rendering of its services. The term “defect” and “deficiency”, as held in a catena of cases, are to be couched in the widest horizon of there being any kind of fault, imperfection or shortcoming. It covers to all the sectors whether private, public, and cooperative or any person. The provisions of the Act are compensatory as well as preventive and punitive in nature and the Act applies to all goods covered by sale of goods act and services unless specifically exempted by the Central Government.

The Act  enshrines the following rights of consumers  right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property; right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services so as to protect the consumers against unfair trade practices; right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices; right to be heard and to be assured that consumers’ interests will receive due consideration at the appropriate fora; right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and right to consumer education.

The Act also envisages establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the centre, state and district levels, whose main objectives are to promote and protect the rights of consumers. To provide a simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal of consumer grievances, the Act envisages a three-tier quasi-judicial machinery at the national, state and district levels. These are the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission known as National Commission, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions known as State Commissions and District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum known as District Forum. The provisions of this Act are in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.

The country now has exclusive special law to protect the interest of the consumer with a foolproof redressal mechanism in case of defective goods and unsatisfactory services.  Hence the welfare of consumers now remains in their own hands.  If the consumers are responsible, vigilant and are able to assert their rights and responsibilities, resist/reject substandard goods/services wherever required and do not hesitate to seek justice through consumer courts if needed, the manufacturers, traders and service providers cannot afford to take them for granted while selling a product or rendering service on payment or by adopting  any  unfair trade practice.  An alert consumer aware of his rights and responsibilities not only can protect himself but can also make consumer sovereignty a reality.

(PIB Features)


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