In any society, goods and services are made for consumption. Those who avail these goods and services in an economy are called consumers. Thus, a consumer can be called a person who purchases goods and services for satisfying their personal needs. For example, a person buying a television or a refrigerator or a person taking assistance of a barber or a driver. There are two types of consumers: One is Consumer of Goods, and the other one is Consumer of Services. The consumer of goods is the person who buys goods for his/her interest or for any other person (on behalf of others) paying the consideration. In contrast, the consumer of services is the person who avails the services (for himself/herself) after spending a particular consideration. Therefore, while availing of these goods and services, a consumer thus exercises some fundamental rights and duties. The rights like Right to Basic needs, which means a consumer have a right to get essentials full fill his/her basic needs, Right to Safety which means a consumer has a right to be protected from goods that are hazardous to life and property, Right to Information which includes right to be informed about the quality, quantity and purity of goods or services he/she is buying, Right to Choose goods and services as per his/her liking or to dislike and various other rights. And some consumer duties can be Duty to Take Bills of the goods or services purchased, Duty to get Redressal which involves getting remedy in the form of compensation and Duty to Protect the Environment. But some businesses violate the rights of consumers to earn profits by providing false information about the ingredients, manufacturing or expiry date of the product. The government must keep a check and protect the consumers from unfair trade practices. Consumers can register their complaint to fight for their rights and remedies.
The Consumer filing the complaint is called a Complainant, which includes:
● Consumer himself/herself
● His/her legal heirs (in case of death of consumer)
● One or more than one consumer
● Any volunteering Consumer Association which is registered under Companies Act 1956
● Central Govt. or State Govt.
The complaint can be filed against:
● His Agents
The law which protects the consumers from these unfair trade practices and secures the rights of consumers is called consumer law. Consumer law provides regulations to keep a balance between buyers and sellers by protecting the buyers in the marketplace and prevent sellers from dishonest practices. The state plays a vital role in regulating consumer law by prohibiting false advertisements and imposing product safety measures.
The Consumer Protection Act of 1986 is a law that protects consumers’ rights and interests by prescribing specific remedies for losses or damages caused by unfair trade practices. Several laws have been enacted to protect the consumer’s interest. The Sale of Goods Act, 1930; the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937; the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; the Indian Standards Institution (Certification Marks) Act, 1952; the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006; the Essential Commodities Act, 1955; the Legal Metrology Act, 2009; and others are some of the essential enactments aimed at protecting the interests of consumers. Before these laws, an aggrieved customer had no choice but to file a civil suit, which was a lengthy and expensive procedure that resulted in unreasonable harassment of the consumer. After the amendment came in this act, on Aug 06, 2019, the Consumer Protection Bill of 2019 was passed by the Parliament of India, which was afterwards signed by the President of India. This new act will replace the old Consumer Protection Act, 1986; it provides quick and easy remedy at the three-tier levels- District, State and National levels[i] namely:
● The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, also known as the District Forum, is governed by Section 38 of the Consumer Protection Act. It has jurisdictions to file complaints of the goods are services up to Rs. 1 Crore. Section-41 covers appeal, which is 41 days and the jurisdictions are covered under Section-37.
● The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, also known as the State Commission, is the second entity covered by Section 42 of the CPA. It has jurisdictions to file the complaints of goods and services if its value is from Rs. 1 Crore to Rs. 10 Crore. The appeal is to be filed within 30 days as mentioned in Section-51, and the jurisdictions of this forum are covered under Section-47.
● And the third forum in which a consumer can file his/her complaint is National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which is also known as National Commission under Section-53. The appeal can be filed up to 30 days from the day of cause of action covered under Section-67, and Section-57 relates to the jurisdictions of this forum. If the value of the products and services reaches Rs. 10 crores, it has the authority to file a complaint. The limitation period for filing a complaint is two years from the date of cause of action.[ii]
These forums may issue orders for one or more of the following reliefs, depending on the facts and circumstances:
● Removing defects from the goods;
● Replacing the goods;
● Refund of the paid the price;
● Compensation award in case of loss or injury suffered;
● Removal of dangerous products from the market;
● Payment of adequate costs to parties;
● Correction of defects or deficiencies in services;
● Unfair trade should not be allowed to continue;
● Restrictive trading practises or a warning not to do so in the future
Unlike the act of 1986, the definition of “goods” has been updated to include “food” as defined by the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006. To bring telecom service providers into the 2019 Act, the word “telecom” has been applied to the meaning of “services.” The regulation of “product liability” under the 2019 Act holds producers and suppliers of goods and services responsible for any damage to a customer caused by faulty products, whether produced or sold, or a lack of services covered by Sections 82 and 83. All these changes signify an attempt to create more transparency in the marketplace through legislative protection to ensure that consumer interests are above all else.[iii]
The new law gives authorities the authority to control matters involving violations of consumer rights and protect and uphold the rights of all consumers. Furthermore, regulators have the power to file lawsuits and interfere on behalf of consumers before Consumer Commissions. Overall, the 2019 Act represents a significant step forward in the advancement of consumer legislation.
[i] Vinay Vaish, Partner, Vaish Associates Advocates, The Consumer Protection Law In India (Aug 31 2017)
[ii] Hemant Singh, What is Consumer Protection Act, 2019: Meaning and Key Features (Jan 22 2020; 11:31)
[iii] Satvik Varma, Consumer Protection Act 2019: Enhancing Consumer Rights (Sept 2 2019 8:40 AM)