- Consumer Protection Council
- Central Consumer Protection Council
- State Consumer Protection Council
- District Consumer Protection Council
- Right Of Consumer
- Who is a Consumer
- What is Goods
- What is Services
- How To File Complaint
Consumer protection implies assurance against anti-consumer trade practices such as adulteration, overcharging etc. by producers or traders. The consumer seeks protection, advice and information when his rights are adversely affected.
In order to provide protection there is a change from “buyer beware” to “seller beware” and thus the role of government in protecting the rights of the consumer has changed and increased to a great extent.
In law of tort there is a maxim Ubi jus ibi remedium where there is a wrong there is a remedy. Thus, any consumer who suffers by the act of traders cannot remain without remedy. In most consumer cases, remedy is given under law of tort.
- The consumer movement is a social movement which refers to all actions and entities within market which give consideration to the consumer. This movement is called consumerism. It is a movement of the consumers, by the consumers and for the consumers to safeguard and promote their interest.
- The consumer movement is a universal phenomenon which is an outcome of sufferings and exploitation of consumers and some businessmen aim to make abnormal profit, at the cost of consumer’s safety and health.
- The major causes of consumerism in India have been identified as rising prices, poor product performance etc. Majority of Indian consumers are not consciously aware of their rights and the marketer exploits them.
- The Government has now understood the need to protect the consumers and so several laws have been made for this purpose. The Indian Contract Act, the Sale of Goods Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act etc. have been provided by the government which to some extent protect consumer interests. However, these laws require the consumer to initiate action by way of a civil suit which is a lengthy process and can be very expensive and time consuming.
- The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (hereinafter the ‘act’ or ‘CPA’) was enacted to provide a simpler and quicker access to redress grievances. This act for the 1st time introduced the concept of consumer and conferred express additional rights on them.
- The purpose of this act is to protect the consumers against defective goods, unsatisfactory services, unfair trade practices etc.
- The act provided machinery whereby consumers can file their complaints which will be taken by the consumer protection council and if the traders are found guilty then the consumer will be awarded compensation for the hardship that he had suffered.
Consumer Protection Council
Under Consumer Protection Act it is given to establish consumer protection forums at state and central level to protect the consumers from the malpractices and hazardous acts. It acts as a platform to give the consumers right to be protected, a place of redressal of consumer grievances etc.
Department of consumer affairs under Ministry of consumer affairs food and public distribution is the nodal organization set up for the protection of above stated rights.
Under this act, there is a three tier quasi-judicial dispute redressal machinery set up at central, state and district levels for efficient and effective settlement of the disputes.
The three tier organ is the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions and District Forum.
Also the act establishes a consumer protection council at the central, state and district level. The consumer protection councils are set up to spread the awareness about the consumer rights among the general masses. It includes the Central Consumer Protection Council, State Consumer Protection Council and District Consumer Protection Council.
The Consumer Protection Council has been working tremendously in creating awareness at all three levels that is Centre, State and District level.
Central Consumer protection Council[i]
- 4 of the Act authorizes the Central Government to establish a Central Consumer Protection Council which shall consist of members as follows:
- Chairman: The minister in charge of Consumer Affairs in Central Government.
- Other member: Any official or non-officials who may represent their interests adequately in the council.
- 5 of the Act provides for the meetings and other procedures of the council. It states that there shall be at least 1 meeting of the members of the council held in a year which can be held at any place as the Chairman would think fit. There may be more meetings as the council may deem necessary.
- Regarding procedure of council the Act states that it shall be prescribed by the Chairman in regard to the procedures for transaction of business as may be prescribed.
- 6 further declares the object of Central Council which shall be to protect and promote the rights and interests of consumers as have been discussed in detail later in this article.
State Consumer Protection Council[ii]
- 7 of the Act provides for establishment of State Council by the State government which shall have a Chairman who is minister in-charge of consumer affairs in State government and such other official or non-official members who may represent their interests in the council.
- Meetings of State Council shall be done whenever it is deemed necessary. However the Act prescribes that every year there must be at least two meetings. The time and place of such meetings shall be decided by the Chairman upon his own volition.
- The object of State Council shall be same as that of Central Council i.e. to protect and promote rights and interests of consumers.
District Consumer Protection Council[iii]
- 10 further provides for establishment of District Council for the protection of interests of consumers at the district level.
- The President of the District Council shall be the person qualified to be a district judge and there shall be 2 other members who shall be persons of integrity and have sufficient knowledge to promote the interests of consumers.
- 11 further enumerates the jurisdiction of the district council.
Rights of consumer[iv]
There is one basic thought that consumer needs to be protected. Another thought is how he can be protected? Definitely, there has to be some agency to work towards the protection. The Act has provided for constitution of consumer councils (at the central, state and district levels).
For this purpose, the S.6 of the Act has detailed six rights of consumers which need to be protected by the councils. These are:-
- Right to safety – It is right of consumers that they shall be protected against the unauthorized marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property. For this purpose it is to be ensured by manufacturers and traders that—
- the goods are safe for the users;
- in case of hazardous goods, clear instructions have been given as to mode of use. Also that the consumer shall be informed of the risk involved in improper use of goods.
- Right to information – The consumer has been provided with the right to be informed about the specifics of the product available in the market like its quality, quantity etc. However, in India it is not practicable in regard to the poverty and illiteracy that they can be made aware of all these specifics.
- Right to choose – The Act further provides that the consumer must get options in the market to choose from various products based on his need and budget. Hence there shall not be monopoly in the market.
- Right to be heard – It is right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. The CPA, 1986 has well taken care of this right by making available the instrumentality of Redressal Forums.
- Right to redressal – The consumer shall get a redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. When consumers are wronged in a market place transaction, appropriate and adequate redress must be made available.
In order to ensure this right of redressal, the Act provides for the establishment of forums and it recognizes unfair and restrictive trade practices as a ground for making complaints.
- Right to Consumer Education available to every citizen ensures that they are capable enough to avail all the rights and benefits provided to them through the Act.
Who Is A Consumer?
Section 2(1) (d) of CPA defines a consumer as someone who buys goods or hires or avails any services by paying a consideration which may be either present, past or future consideration or a combination of them. It also states that a consumer is someone who is user of such goods and services and not someone who buys such goods by the approval of another person. It basically means an end user and not someone who buys goods to sell it further to the end user.
What Is Goods?
Section 2(1) (i) of CPA states that any movable property which is not money or actionable claim shall be considered as goods for the purpose of this Act. The definition provided by the Act in an inclusive one that lists the things that shall mean goods. The list only includes certain things along with many other things which have not been expressly excluded and fulfill the criterion of movable goods.
What Is A Service?
Section 2 (1) (o) of CPA states that service of any description provided to potential users/consumers shall mean service under the Act. It provides an inclusive list of acts that shall be considered service and an exclusive list that excludes service without consideration to mean service under the Act.
Section 2(1)(c) of CPA defines ‘Complaint’ as any allegation in writing made by a complainant regarding any of things stated therein like an unfair trade or restrictive trade been a adopted by any trader or service provider or one or more defect been identified by him in the good or services bought or agreed to be bought by him or that an excessive charge is being asked by a trader or price provider for the goods or for the services etc.
Section 2(1)(b) of CPA defines complainant as any of the following who makes a complaint as defined under S. 2(1)(c)-
- A Consumer; or
- Any voluntary consumer organization registered under the companies act.1956 or under any law for the time being in force; or
- The Central or State government:or
- Group of consumers having same interests; or
- Legal heir or representative of a consumer in case he has died.
How to File a Complaint
A complaint can be filed on a plain paper by the complainant himself or his agent who may or may not be a lawyer and should contain-
- Necessary details of both complainant and opposite party;
- Description of all the facts of complaint;
- All related documents to support the facts of complaint;
- The relief that the complainant seeks;
- Signature of complainant or his agent;
- Court fee as applicable.
Hence, it can be concluded that the Consumer Protection Act 1986 has proved to be a crucial weapon in the hands of the consumer to fight back the irregularities, problems, cheating etc. faced by them at the hands of the seller.
The consumer protection council has proved to be a good machinery to redress the grievances of the consumer and to create awareness among the masses. The government agencies especially the Consumer Protection Council has played vital role in empowering and making the consumer vigilant through educating them regarding their rights and responsibility.
Now it is also the responsibility of consumer to take precautions and make complaints if they find any kind of miscreants by the traders in the market.