This page consists of complete analysis for Consumer Protection Act 1986, enacted by Indian Parliament.
CONSUMER PROTECTION IN INDIA: GENESIS AND RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
What is the origin of consumer protectionism?
- Consumer protection owes its origin to the USA. In the early 1960’s, when consumers were unhappy with business firms which followed unfair trade practices, Ralph Nader, a young advocate, championed the cause of consumers against traders and business firms.
- John F Kennedy, on March 15, 1962, in a message to the U.S congress proclaimed that consumers has four rights i.e. right to safety, right to be informed, right to choose and the right to be heard.
- In India, the legal provisions for the prevention and control of unfair trade practices and for the promotion and protection of consumer’s interest have been in existence for a long time.
- Despite more than a dozen such resolutions consumer and consumer interests were not protected. So the GOI enacted a separate legislation called Consumer Protection Act in 1986.
What are the rights of a consumer under Consumer Protection Act 1986?
- Right to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
- Right to be informed about the quality, quantity, standard and price of goods or services so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
- Right to be assured, wherever possible, access to variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
- Right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
- Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices.
- Right to consumer education.
What is consumer redressal Forum under Consumer Protection Act 1986?
- Under the Consumer Protection Act, every district has at least one consumer redressal forum also called a consumer court.
- Here, consumers can get their grievances heard. Above the district forums are the state commissions. At the top is the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in New Delhi.
- A written complaint to the company is taken as proof that the company has been informed. The complaint must be backed by copies of bills, prescriptions and other relevant documents, and should set a deadline for the company to respond. Consumers can also complain through a consumer organisation.
- Claims of less than Rs. 5 lakh should be filed with district forum, claims of Rs. 5- Rs. 20 lakh directly with the state commission, and claims of more than Rs. 20 lakh with the National Commission.
How to file a complaint under Consumer Protection Act 1986?
- The complaint is to be filed within two years of buying the product or using the service.
- Complaint needs to be in writing. Letters should be sent by registered post, handdelivered, by email or fax. Don’t forget to take an acknowledgment.
- The complaint should mention the name and address of the person who is complaining and against whom the complaint is being filed. Copies of relevant documents must be enclosed.
- The consumer must mention details of the problem and the demand on the company for redressal. This could be replacement of the product, removal of the defect, refund of money, or compensation for expenses incurred and for physical/mental torture. Please ensure that the claims are reasonable.
- You should preserve all bills, receipts and proof of correspondence related to the case. Avoid using voice mail or telephone because such interactions are normally difficult to prove.
- The complaint can be in any Indian language, but it is better to use English.
- There is no compulsion to hire a lawyer. Main cost consists of correspondence and travelling to the consumer forum for the hearing
- Maintain a complete record of the emails and documents sent by you
What are provisions of new Consumer Protection Bill?
- The Bill enforces consumer rights, and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding defect in goods and deficiency in services.
- Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions will be set up at the district, state and national levels for adjudicating consumer complaints.
- The Bill establishes a Consumer Protection Authority to investigate into consumer complaints, issue safety notices for goods and services, and pass orders for recall of goods and against misleading advertisements.
- If a consumer suffers an injury from a defect in a good, he may file a claim of product liability against the manufacturer. The consumer must establish seven conditions in order to prove such a claim.
- The Bill classifies six contract terms as „unfair‟. These cover terms such as (i) payment of excessive security deposits; (ii) disproportionate penalty for a breach ; (iii) unilateral termination without cause; (iv) one which puts the consumer at a disadvantage.