Consumer Protection is safeguarding the interests of consumers in order to promote and develop a healthy market with satisfied consumers. However, achieving this is not easy and requires various regulatory measures in order to enforce rules upon the sellers. As seen in the past, without rules and regulations, chaos replaces peace and smooth functioning. Hence, to ensure that all sellers in the market behave in a prescribed manner or code or conduct, means of consumer protection exists in Indian society.
The means of Consumer Protection involves Business Regulations, Legislation, Lok Adalats, Consumer Associations and Self Help. Each of these means will be explained in detail in this article.
Business organisations that sell goods and services to consumers are well aware of the significance of building loyalty and trust of the consumer in the product for the long run of the organisation. The main objective of any business organisation is to survive market competition and thrive by reaping profits. The best way to achieve this objective is to satisfy the consumers who are purchasing their products.
For this purpose, business organisations follow a manner of performance that is efficient and healthy for the consumers. From the process of production to the after-sales services, all activities are conducted ethically, without compromising on morals. Hence, the raw material, manufacturing procedures, equipment and trade services are all done upholding the happiness of the consumer. A safe and healthy environment with virtuous practices in order to ensure self-discipline and regulate all sales processes is created. All activities are carried out by upholding the consumer.
Illustration: A customer service department is provided for by business organisations with a large number of staff dedicated to listening and problem-solving. This customer care takes and records feedback from consumers, notes the grievances that consumers face and attempts to solve their problems and clear their queries. This is a means of Business Regulation that ensures that consumers are satisfied after consuming their products.
Legislative measures are basically the legal protection that is given to the consumers. It has a much wider ambit than the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, as it includes various other regulations enforced before 1986 as well. These are very much in use to this day in India, despite some having been introduced before Independence. These legislation aimed to protect the consumer’s various malpractices. They are as follows:
The Indian Contract Act, 1872 –
This act governs all agreements between private parties enforceable by law due to the creation of the mutual obligation. It looks into the various circumstances where promises that are made by the parties to a contract shall be legally binding. It enforces these rights and duties that arise out of contractual agreements.
The Act defines a contract and establishes all the intricacies of entering into contracts. A breach of a contract will strictly be looked into, and punishment will be granted according to the terms of the contract or otherwise.
This Act helps consumers who enter into oral, implied or written contracts with sellers be safe and protected from prospective breaches, fraud and so on.
The Sale of Goods Act, 1930 –
This Act was separated from the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and was given an individual existence. This Act lays down special provisions that govern the contract of sale of goods. The general law of Contract is applicable to the contract for the sale of goods unless they are inconsistent with the provisions of The Sale of Goods Act.
Goods have expressed or implied conditions or warranties. If a good received by a consumer does not comply with these, the consumer will be safeguarded.
Illustration: If a good has a warranty of one year but stops to function beyond repair in 6 months, it will fall under the ambit of this Act.
The Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937 –
This Act is dedicated to maintaining a quality of agricultural goods in order to assure the consumer. This quality mark is known as AGMARK which is awarded only to those goods that prescribe to a certain pre-decided standard of grading or marking.
The Act includes all produce of agriculture or horticulture. It also includes all articles of food and drinks wholly or partially manufactured by any such produce and fleeces or skin of animals. The Act has provisions for making Rules to carry out the provisions of the Act.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 –
This Act aims at preventing adulterated food. The major objective of this Act is to maintain public health by ensuring the purity of food.
It prevents the sale, import, manufacture or distribution of adulterated or misbranded food. To ensure this, it sets up various administrative bodies such as Food Inspector, Public Analyst, Central Food Laboratory and Central Committee for food standards.
The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 –
The Act was introduced with the aim of supervising and controlling the production, supply and distribution of essential commodities. This is done in order to ensure affordable prices and fair distribution. Under this Act, the offenders are punished.
The Act empowers the Central Government to-
I. Production, supply, storage, distribution and transportation
II. Control the prices of the commodities that have been declared essential under the Act.
The Act was amended in 1986, empowering recognised consumer associations to make a report in writing of any facts constituting an offence under the Act.
The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 –
The Act aims to prevent underweight and under-numbered goods by ensuring that the accurate weight, measure and number of goods are sold as per the demand of the consumer.
The standard for weights and measures is administered by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, as established under this Act. All weights or measures should mandatorily be recorded in metric units.Certain commodities can only be packed in specific quantities in terms of weight, measure or number.
The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986–
This Act focuses on the quality of products. The Bureau of Indian Standards has two broad functions:
I. Formulation of quality standards for products.
II. Certification of the quality of the product through the Bureau of Indian Standards certification scheme.
ISI marks are granted under this Act if the products meet the prescribed standards.
ISI gave the nation the standards it needed for nationalisation.It has boosted industrial and commercial growth. The quality production and competitive efficiency have increased as the Act provides licenses.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 –
This Act contains various provisions regarding consumer protection. The basic purpose of enacting this Act is to provide provisions for protecting the consumers’ interests through speedy and economical redressal of their grievances. Besides providing redressal machinery for redressing the consumer grievances, the Act also has provisions for the formation of Consumer Protection Councils in every district and state of the country.
The basic purpose of the Act is to provide safeguards to consumers against defective goods, deficient services, unfair trade practices and other forms of consumer exploitation.
Out of all Acts, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is more comprehensive which has prescribed the consumer rights and mechanism for redressal of consumer grievances.
Abhay Kumar Panda v. Bajaj Auto Limited, Ayesha Begum v.All India Institute of Medical Sciences, A.C. Modagi v. Cross Well Tailor and Another and various other significant cases have been judged by this Act.
Various remedies available to the consumers for redressing their grievances under the consumer protection Act 1986.
a) District forum: According to consumer protection Act state government can set up one or more district forum in each district.
1) District forum hears disputes involving a sum up to Rs. 20 Lacs.
2) It can file an appeal against it with the state commission within 30 days.
b) State commission:
1) State commission redresses grievances involving a sum exceeds Rs. 20 lacs and up to Rs. 1 crore.
2) It can file an appeal before the national commission within 30 days.
c) National Commission:
1) It is appointed by the Central Government
2) It has the jurisdiction to hear complaints involving a sum exceeding Rs. 1 crore.
3) It can file an appeal with the Supreme Court within 30 days
The Trade Marks Act, 1999 –
The Act has been introduced with the objective of preventing the use of fraudulent marks on products. This is done in order to protect the interests of the consumers.
The Trade Marks Act provides for registration of trademarks of services. It provides for an appellate board for speedy disposal of appeals. It also provides for punishments for offences related to trademarks.
The Competition Act, 2002–
This Act encourages healthy competition in the market so that the consumers are benefitted. This is done by preventing monopolies and restrictive trade practices. The Act covers:
i. anti-competitive agreements,
ii. abuse of dominant positions and
iii. regulation of combinations and mergers.
iv. Penalties entail for contravention of orders.
The Act established the Competition Commission of India. It also ensures the freedom of trade carried on by the participants in the market in India.
The safety and stability of the market are of greatest importance. Transparency and prevention of abusive practices will protect consumers. This is sought after by the Act.
Lok Adalat is an alternative dispute redressal mechanism. It is conducted by Legal Service Institutions along with NALSA. It is a forum for an amicable settling of pending disputes or cases in the court of law. It takes place at a pre-litigation stage. Statutory status was given to the Lok Adalats in 1987, under the Legal Services Authorities Act.
The decision made by the Lok Adalats is equivalent to that of a civil court. It’s settlement final and binding on the parties. There is no appeal allowed against such a decision in any court of law. Hence, the dissatisfaction of the parties after the decision will not result in any consequence unless they initiate litigation by filing a case in the court of law with the appropriate jurisdiction.
Lok Adalats charge no court fee when a matter is filed. Court fee paid for a case at a court of law is refunded when the case gets referred to the Lok Adalat. Those who decide cases in the Lok Adalats are called the Members of the Lok Adalats, who shall assist the parties in an independent and impartial manner to settle their dispute amicably.
The disputes that the Lok Adalat takes up and aims at settling are either those cases that are pending before the court of law or any dispute which has not yet been heard before any court and is likely to be filed before the court soon. It is an efficient means of consumer protection with great benefit to the consumers.
A consumer association is a group of consumers that are established for dedication to serving consumers’ interests. These associations play a significant role in consumer protection and are seen in large numbers across India. The Consumer Associations aid the consumers in the following ways:
a. They educate the general public about consumer rights by conducting seminars, workshops and training programmes.
b. They publish publications like periodicals in order to impart knowledge on various issues of consumer protection.
c. They organise campaigns on consumer protection to make the public aware of it.
d. They often carry out tests of various consumer products in order to ascertain their quality.
e. They compare different brands that are in competition andcommunicate the results to the consumers.
f. They encourage consumers to protest against any unfair or restrictive trade practice and enlighten them to take action against exploitation.
c. They assist aggrieved consumers to seek legal measures to receive redressal.
d. They file complaints in appropriate redressal agencies on the behalf of the consumer.
e. They ensure better deals for consumers by interacting with business organisations and sellers.
f. They file Public Interest Litigations on important consumer issues.
Self-help, as the name suggests, is consumer-centric. It involves attaining knowledge and awareness about consumer rights and duties. According to self-help, consumers should take adequate precaution before purchasing a good or availing a service. This will protect their interests.
This is the best method of consumer protection. It has brought about the concept of consumer awareness. Consumer awareness refers to being alert while purchasing products. This means, not getting deceived by advertisements, reading all the information provided on the package, checking if the good is defective before the purchase, and so on. If such precautions are adopted, the consumer protects himself from the malpractices of providers of goods and services.
These are the various means of Consumer Protection, which ensure the safety of the consumers of goods and services of various types.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does consumer protection affect business?
A business organisation aims to reap profits by building consumer loyalty. If the business ensures the protection of consumers through its means, it will thrive.
What is AGMARK?
AGMARK is a certification mark, where AG stands for “agriculture”. Itis used on agricultural products in India only after assurance that they conform to a prescribed set of standards.These standards are to be approved by the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection, which is an agency of the Government of India.
What is ISI mark?
Indian Standard Institute (ISI) mark is a mark of certification. It is granted to industrial products in India. The mark certifies that a product fulfils the prescribed Indian standard.
Why is Lok Adalat important?
Lok Adalat is important as it provides speedy settlement of disputes. The costs involved in this settlement are low and the disputes are settled in an amicable manner.
What are the consumer associations in India?
There are numerous consumer associations in India, across all the states of the country. Two of the most renowned consumer associations are Consumers Association of India and Consumer Guidance Society of India.
1986 AIR 63.
AIR 1991 MP 121.
(1991) 2 CPJ 644.
ILR 2003 KAR 4255
(199l)2 C.P.J. 586(N.C.)
 2003 VIIIAD Delhi 228.
AIR 1998 Delhi 126.
Retrieved from <https://nalsa.gov.in> as visited on 17:42 of 08/07/2018.