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.
Consumers play a vital role in the economic system of any nation. Consumers are the key players in the market place and their consumption patterns greatly influence the society and the economy. The rise of India as an economic power in the world is due to its large consumer base.
The moment a person comes into this would, he starts consuming. He needs clothes, milk, oil, soap, water, and many more things and these needs keep taking one form or the other all along his life. Thus we all are consumers from the birth.
In the modern marketing philosophy, the consumer is supposed to be the ‘king’ and every business works to provide maximum possible satisfaction to the consumers through their products and services. New products and services are introduced in the market every day. Information technology and telecommunication have brought consumer revolution to fingertips.
When the consumer approaches the market, he/she expect value for money, i.e., right quality, right quantity, right prices, information about the mode of use, etc. But there may be instances where a consumer is harassed or cheated.
The main objective of any business is to maximize profit. Due to which some of the businesses exploit consumer and use corrupt practices like producing products that do not meet acceptable quality and supplying poor quality goods at higher prices. Some other malpractices in business are selling goods to the consumer which has manufacturing defects, imperfections, or shortcomings in the quality. The quantity and the purity of the goods is not as per standard or as prescribed. There may be a deficiency in the services rendered.
Consumers are exposed to physical, environmental and other hazards. As a result, consumers do not get value for their money. The advent of information technology created a new challenge in the form of cyber crimes. The consumer who is referred to as ‘king’ is actually a ‘victim’ of the market malpractices.
Therefore, it has become necessary to protect the consumers from exploitation, to save them from adulterated sub-standard goods and services, and to safeguard their interests. The Government understood the need to protect consumers from unscrupulous suppliers, and several laws have been made for this purpose.
Some important laws regarding protection of consumer are
The Indian Contract Act
The Sale of Goods Act
The Dangerous Drugs Act
The Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act
The Indian Standards Institution (Certification Marks) Act
The Prevention of Food Adulteration ActT
he Standards of Weights and Measures Act, etc.
These laws protect consumer interests to some extent. However, these laws require the consumer to initiate action by a civil suit which involves a lengthy legal process. The process itself is very expensive and time consuming. Hence there was need of simple and quicker process for redressal of consumer grievances.
For better protection of the interests of the consumers, the Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 1986. It provides simple and quicker process for redressal of consumer grievances. The protection is meant for the person who fits in the definition of ‘consumer’ given by the Act.
The Act provides a machinery whereby consumers can file their complaints which will be entertained by the Consumer Forums with special powers so that action can be taken against erring suppliers and the possible compensation may be awarded to the consumer for the hardships he has undergone. No court fee is required to be paid to these forums and there is no need to engage a lawyer to present the case.
Summary of the Consumer Protection Act – 1986:
THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986
(68 of 1986)
Date of Assent
[24th December, 1986)
An Act to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Thirty-seventh Year of the Republic of India as follows:-
It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
It shall come into force on such date I as the Central Government may, by notification, appoint and different dates may be appointed for different States and for different provisions of this Act.
The provisions of Chapters I, II and IV of this Act have come into force in the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir on 15-4-1987: vide Notification No. S.O. 390 (E), dated 15th April 1987, published in the Gazette of India, 1987, Extra., Pt. II, Sec. 3 (ii). The provisions of Chapter III of this Act have come into force in the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir on 1-7-1987: vide Notification, No. S.O. 568(E), dated 10th June 1987, published in the Gazette of India, 1987, Extra., Pt. II, Sec. 3(ii).
Objects of the Consumer Protection Act – 1986:
Promoting and protecting the rights of consumers.
Providing for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities. A four-tier system.
Providing speedy and simple redressal machinery at district, state and central levels for settling consumer disputes and matters connected therewith.
Salient Features of the Consumer Protection Act – 1986:
The Act applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Central Government.
It covers all the sectors including private, public and cooperative.
The Consumer Protection Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir and applies to all the goods and services unless otherwise notified by the Central Government.
The Act envisages the establishment of the Consumer Protection Councils at the central level, state levels, and district levels whose main objects will be to promote and protect the rights of the consumers.
The provisions of the Act are compensatory in nature.
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.