A consumer is considered to be the queen of the market and the business is expected to provide maximum possible satisfaction to them. But, in actuality, consumers are often exploited and harassed due to the ignorant behaviour and lack of unity among them. Fake and misleading advertisements, unsafe and adulterated products, overpricing, overcharging, overweighing, etc. are some of the ways in which businesses abuse their customers and consumers. Unscrupulous and avaricious businessmen exploit consumers. As a result, consumers are deprived of their basic rights.
The Consumer Protection Act 1986 defines a consumer as, “a Consumer is a person who purchases a product or avails a service for a consideration, either for his personal use or to earn his livelihood by means of self-employment. The consideration may be:
Paid promised partly paid and partly promised. It also includes a beneficiary of such goods/services when such use is made with the approval of such person.”
What is the need for consumer protection?
It is the purpose of the business to create and satiate customers. Customers are the foundation of business and are the reason for a business’ existence.
A business exists to serve human beings and can’t grow and survive unless the consumers and other people are served well.
As a part of the society, a business is supposed to take care of the interests of all sections of the society including its consumers.
Growth with social justice is the aim of our country. Consumer protection is in accordance with the derivative Principles of State policy given in our constitution.
According to Mahatma Gandhi, “a customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in work. He is purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is a part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is giving us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
A business without ethics cannot be tolerated for long in any civil society.
The Consumer Protection Act , 1986
Enacted in 1986, this Consumer Protection Act protects the interests of consumers in India against deficiencies and defects in goods or services. It makes provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the easier and quicker settlement of consumers' disputes and related matters. The CPA, 1986 is also known as COPRA Act.
The grievances of the consumer can be solved with the remedies such as:
Removal of the defect in the goods or deficiency in services.
Replacement of defective goods with the new ones of similar kind.
Refunding of the price by the seller.
If any loss is suffered by the consumer, payment of compensation by the seller for it.
Withdrawing the hazardous goods from the market.
Unfair and restrictive trade practices to be discontinued.
According to CPA, 1986, the following rights are guaranteed to the consumers:
Right to Safety
The right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life.
Right to be informed
The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, as the case may be so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
Right to Choose
The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
Right to be heard
The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate fora.
Right to Redressal
The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.
Right to Consumer Education
It is right of every Indian citizen to be educated on matters of consumer protection and the rights given by Consumer Protection Act 1986.
Consumer Protection councils:
The Act has made provisions for establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at Centre, State and District levels. The purpose of these councils is to review consumer related policies of the government and to suggest measures for further improvements to protect and promote rights of the consumers. The composition of these councils is broad based. The Minister in charge of the Consumer Affairs in the Centre is the Chairman of the Central Consumer Protection Council and it has other official and non-official members. The State Consumer Protection Council is headed by Minister In-charge of Consumer Affairs in the State and the District Consumer Protection Council is headed by the Collector of the district. These Councils are advisory in nature and their object is to protect the rights of the consumers listed under the Act.
Consumer disputes Redressal Agencies:
Consumer Protection Act provides for a three tier Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies. These agencies are: District Consumer Disputes Redressal, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
The Department for consumer affairs:
DCA is one of the two departments under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and is the nodal agency for consumer protection. The mandate of DCA is consumer advocacy. Converting this mandate into action entails: Enabling consumers to make informed choices; Ensuring fair, equitable and consistent outcomes for consumers; and facilitating timely and effective consumer grievance redress. It empowers consumers through education and awareness; enhances consumer protection by ensuring prevention of unfair trade practices; enables quality assurance and safety through standards and their conformity; and ensures access to an affordable and effective grievance redress mechanism. DCA has been entrusted with administering: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986; The Legal Metrology Act, 2009; The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986; The Essential Commodities Act, 1955; The Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980; National Test Houses Consumer Cooperatives. It also keeps an eye on the Prices and the Availability of Essential Commodities.
What is the role of Consumer organisations in consumer protection?
Consumer organisations are voluntary associations of the consumers. Some of the prominent consumer associations are Voice (New Delhi), Consumer Guidance Society of India (Mumbai), Consumer Education and Reasearch Center (Ahmedabad), Consumer Utility and Trust Society (Jaipur).The Consumer Coordination Council has been set up as an apex body of consumer organisations in India.
Jago Grahak Jago:The slogan 'Jago Grahak Jago' has become a household name as a result of the publicity campaign undertaken in the last 5 years. Through the increased thrust on consumer awareness in the XIth Five Year Plan, the Government has endeavoured to inform the common man of his rights as a consumer. As part of the consumer awareness scheme, the rural and remote areas have been given the top priority. The Government has used multiple channels to create awareness it includes: Print media advertisements, Audio Campaign, Video Campaigns, etc.
Who can file a complaint?
Any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or under any other law for the time being in action;
Central or any state government;
One or more consumers having the same interest;
In case of death of the consumer, his legal heir or representative.
Against whom can a consumer file a complaint?
Supplier of services.
Apart from these initiatives the standard marks like the ISI, Agmark, Fruit Products Order (FPO), Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Mark, Wool Mark, etc. are also playing a vital role in the product standardization.
Considerable measures have been taken to protect and encourage consumer protection. A consumer should obtain full information regarding quality and price of the good before making any purchase. He should be fully aware about the false/ misleading advertisements. In helping consumers to exercise their rights, quality and standards have a crucial role to play. Standards provide consumers with reliable benchmarks of quality. Now, it is the consumer’s responsibility to practice these rights and perform his/ her duties as a citizen of the country. Let us all take a pledge to neither withstand any kind of exploitation done to us, as consumers nor to exploit any consumer, as a business person to make this world a better place for ourselves, as Mahatma Gandhi has rightly said,