Consumer Protection in India has been a matter of great concern. It has its deep roots in the rich soil of Indian civilization which dates back to 3200 BC. In ancient, medieval and modern period of India many measures have been taken to protect the rights of Consumer. For knowing these measures we have to learn about the History of Consumer Law in India, which we’ll cover later in this article. After India got Independence, A codified law was introduced to protect the rights of Consumer, clients and customers who were demanding value for money in the form of quality goods and better services. This Codified law is came to be known as Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which aims to provide for better protection of the interest of the consumer to make provisions for the establishment of consumer councils and the other authorities for the settlement.
So, this article includes Consumer Protection in India during different time period, salient features of the Consumer Protection Act, Reliefs provided by the Consumer Protection Act for Consumer’s protection in India and then consumer rights available to the consumers in India.
CONSUMER PROTECTION IN INDIA DURING DIFFERENT TIME PERIODS
During Ancient period all sections of society followed Dharmashastras which laid out social rules and norms. Among the Dharmashastras most authoritative text are Manusmriti, Yajnavalkya Smriti, Narad Smriti, Brihaspati Smriti, Katyayana. According to Manusmriti, there is a prescribed code of conduct for traders and specific punishment were provided to those who commit crime against buyers. There was a process to inspect all weights and measures every six months and was also a mechanism to control prices and punished wronged doers. In Yajnavalkya Smriti, Yajnavalkya had given views on adulteration, weights and measures, transaction of sales and purchase etc. According to Kautilya, in his Arthashastra- He describes the role of state in regulating trade and its duty to prevent crimes against consumer. Black marketing was prohibited, punishment for cheating, smuggling and adulteration was provided during this time.
Even during the Medieval period, protection of consumer interest was a prime concern. During Muslim rule, the holy Quran was the only primary source. During this period the use of unjust weights and measures were unacceptable, and prices were determined by the local conditions and were fixed by Sultans.
Later in Modern Period, The British system replace the traditional legal system with a unified national wide modern legal system in India. Some of the laws were passed before the Independence concerning consumer interest are – Indian Contract Act, 1872 ; Sales of Goods Act,1930 ; Indian Penal Code, 1860 ; Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940 ; Agriculture Procedure Act,1937 etc.
Consumer Protection legislation enacted after the Independence includes- Drugs Act,1950 ; Essential Commodities Act,1955 ; Prevention of food Adulteration Act,1954; Monopolies & Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 ; Bureau of Indian Standard Act,1986 and Consumer Protection Act, 1986. So, these Acts were enacted to protect the consumers against different forms of exploitation.
The Constitution of India also protect the interest of Consumer in one way or the other through Articles 14, 21,39 (b), 39 (c), 39 [A], 42, 43, 46 etc.
CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986
Features of Consumer Protection Act-
• This Act aims to provide better and all-round protection to consumer.
• It is a very unique and highly progressive piece of social welfare legislation.
• This Act applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Central Government.
• Consumer Protection Act provides effective safeguards to the consumer against distinct types of exploitation such as defective goods, deficient services and unfair trade practices.
• It provides a simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal of consumer grievances.
• This act is applicable to all private, public or corporative business sector.
• The provisions of Consumer Protection Act are compensatory in nature.
• It establishes Consumer Protection Councils to encourage awareness among consumers.
• It provides for 3 tier Grievance Redressal Machinery with the District Forum at the base, The State Commission at the middle level and the National Commission at the apex level. Any verdict given by the national commission can be challenged before the Supreme Court.
• Complaint can be filed by a consumer or an organization which must be a society registered under the Society Registration Act or can be a company registered under the Company Act, representing consumers or by the Central Government or the State Government.
• This act acknowledges six rights of the consumer, which are as follows-
a) Right to Choice.
b) Right to Safety
c) Right to be informed.
d) Right to be heard.
e) Right to seek Redressal.
f) Right to Consumer Education.
Reliefs Available to Consumers:
The Consumer Protection Act provides following reliefs to the Consumers-
• Removal of defects from the goods;
• Replacement of the goods;
• Refund of the price paid for the defective good ;
• Award of compensation for the loss or injury suffered to the consumer;
• Abandon and not to redo unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice;
• Not to offer hazardous goods for sale;
• To withdraw hazardous goods from sale;
• To cease production of hazardous goods and desist from offering services which are hazardous in nature;
• If the loss or any wound has been suffered by a large number of consumers who are not recognizable conveniently, to pay such sum (not less than 5% of the value of such defective goods or services provided) which shall be determined by Forum;
• To issue curative advertisement in order to neutralize the effect of deceptive advertisement;
• To provide adequate costs to parties.
CONSUMER RIGHTS IN INDIA
Consumer awareness in India is increasing day by day and the consumers which have been deceived or exploited by any trader or manufacturer or any other organization are increasingly approaching the consumer forums or councils set up by the government for redressal of their complaints and settlement of their claims for damages under Consumer Protection Act,1986. To protect the exploitation of consumers government of India has laid down following rights to all the consumers under the Consumer Protection Act :
1) The Right to choose: According to this right every person has the right to choose any goods or services by his/her choice or likings. The chance to choose from limited options limits their right to choose. The right to choose means a guarantee of availability, ability and access to a variety of products and services at competitive price and competitive price means just or fair price.
2) Right to Safety : According to this right the consumers are entitled to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property, this right is important for safety and security purpose.
3) Right to Information: According to this right the consumer has the right to get information about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or service so as to protect himself against the abusive and unfair trade practices.
4) Right to Heard : The consumer has the right to be heard or to represent him, if he has any complaint regarding any goods delivered or any service rendered then he has the right to heard or to be assured that his/her interest would receive due consideration or attention at respective forum.
5) Right to Seek Redressal : According to this right, the consumer has the right to get compensation in the form of money or replacement of goods; or has the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or any other exploitation.
6) Right to Consumer Education : This right includes that the consumer has the right to acquire knowledge and skills to be informed to customers. This right is very beneficial for the illiterate consumers by this they can seek information about the existing acts and agencies are set up for their protection.
Consumer Protection is very important in developing nations like India. People of India are still not fully aware of their rights which usually get violated by the manufacturers, producers and traders etc. Consumers are considered to be as the weak party in buying goods and services as compared to the manufacturers and traders producing and selling them. The corrupted manufacturers and traders exploit the consumers by practicing different unfair and restrictive trade practices. The need of hour is to protect the consumer rights by properly implementing the existing laws in a better manner and there should be check on the activities of traders and producers by the government. There is need to increase awareness of consumer rights between the common and illiterate peoples so they can exercise their rights and live freely without getting deceived by the manufacturers, traders and producers etc.
Author: Shaijal Shekhar,
Faculty of Law, A.M.U (2nd Year)