CONSUMER PROTECTION IN INDIA: ISSUES AND CHALLENGE -by Sharal Sharma and Mayank Sharma
The present era is deemed as the era of consumers where they are the actual king of the market. The seller sell their goods in order to satisfy the needs of the consumers but some of the sellers uses various unfair trade practice in order to mislead the consumers by way of adulteration, false weight, malpractice, unsatisfied services etc. are some of the issues that need to be tackled and are to be addressed to protect the consumers against it. Consequently, to protect the basic consumer rights Government of India has decided to provide legal protection by making legal provision in the relevant laws to protect, aware, educate and help the consumers from exploitation. Consumer awareness is the most tenacious problem faces by the government when it comes to consumer protection. They should be aware about their rights and responsibilities and in case a product of anything misleading and unsatisfactory a complaint should be file.
“ A customer is one of the most incubment visitor on our premises; A customer is not dependent on us but, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is trying to doing us a favour by giving us an chance to do so” said by Mahatma Gandhi. We buy a variety of goods and services in our day to day life and drive satisfaction from its consumption and use. Thus, the consumers play a significant role in an economic system because it is the consumer who demands goods and services. However, in the present day, we end up being exploited, harassed and cheated by market giant very often. In order to increase their sale, the seller use various means to achieve maximum profit so that they can survive in the competitive market for a long time. Therefore, with the increased industrial revolution, globalisation and liberalisation, our wants have increased hetromorphic and this has given plenty of scope for malpractices. The present paper discusses about the consumer awareness and various issues and challenges faced by the consumers.
There are many ways by which consumers are exploited such as:-
- Adulteration of consumer goods,
- Poor quality of goods and services,
- Misleading advertisement,
- Short measure and underweight goods,
- Creation of artificial scarcity by hoarding goods.
- Charging the high rate Retail Price (MRP) fixed for the product.
Consumer, Consumer rights, Consumer protection Act.
Who are Consumer ?
According to clause (d) of section 2(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 1, defines “consumer” is any person who:
• Buys goods or hires any service,
• Uses the goods or hires any service with the approval of any buyer or service provider,
• Uses goods and services to earn a livelihood by self- employment.
Objectives of the Act
• Ensure fair, competitive and responsible markets that work for betterment of the consumers and promote ethical business.
• To promote and protect the economic interests of the consumers.
• To provide speedy remedies and justice to the consumers.
• 9To protect consumers from hazardous sell of products.
• To improve access of information that consumers require, to make informed choices according to their individual needs.
Consumer Protection Act, 1986
Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is one of the most important Act in the history of India. It provides protection and aware the consumer about their rights. It was passed by the parliament in 1986and came into force with effect from July 1, 1987. This Act extends to the whole of India includeing the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was amended in 1993 and 2003. The Act provides for the formation of Consumer Protection Council both at the centre and state level. The council has official and non- official members. The objective of these council is to protect the interest of the consumers.
According to Section 6 of the Consumer Protection Act,1986. There are six rights available to the consumers. These are:
• Right to safety- Protection from hazardous sell of goods and services.
• Right to be informed – This right is available for the information required for weighing alternatives, and protection from false and misleading labelling practices and advertisement.
• Right to choose – This right is assured the consumer, wherever possible of access to variety of goods and services at competitive price.
• Right to be heard – dissatisfaction with the product purchased then they have right to file a complaint against it.
• Right to redress – This right has been given to receive a fair settlement of disputes, including compensation for misrepresentation as well as speedy justice.
• Right to consumer education – To acquire knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services so that consumer are aware about their rights and responsibilities at the time of purchasing goods.
Consumer Awareness empowers the consumer to be aware of his/her rights. It involves educating a consumer about safety, information and the redressal option available to him. One of the most famous campaign in recent time has been the “ Jago Grahak Jago”. The campaign was launched in 2005 with the aim of imparting knowledge to the consumers. It is a precise instance of successful consumer awareness. It is the duty of the consumer to be aware while purchasing of goods and should read all the necessary details on the packaged of the products. Consumer awareness is important so that buyer can make right choice of goods and take the right decision..
There are few things that the consumers should keep in mind purchasing them. They are as follows:
• Consumer must exercise his right: The consumer must exercise their right i.e. right to safety, right to choose, etc. while purchasing any goods and services.
• Cautious Consumer/ Do not buys blindly: At the time of purchasing, consumer must get information about the quality, quantity, potency, price, purity etc. of goods and services.
• Filing of complaints: It is the responsibility of the consumer to approach the court in case of any malpractice and unfair trade practice committed by the seller.
• Consumer must be quality conscious: It is the duty of the consumer to never compromise on the quality of product. They should only buy goods with the ISI , Agmark, Woolmark, FPO etc. All these symbols are indicative of the good quality of the goods.
• Beware of False Advertisement: It is the responsibility of the consumer not to blindly rely on advertisement. They should recognise the truth of the advertisement.
• Do not forget to get receipt or invoice bill: One should always get a receipt or bill for the things purchased.
Where to file a complaint ?
The Consumer Protection Act,1986 has provided the provision for a three-tier adjudication system known as “Consumer Court”.
• District Forum : These forum are set by the district of the state concerned in each district. In this, the complaining party should not make a complaining party should not make a complaint more than 20 lakhs and once the complaint is filed , the goods is sent in laboratory for testing and if they found defective the accused party should compensate. If the party is not satisfied can make an appeal with the state commission within 30 days.
• State Commission: This is set by each state and involved complaints should be at least 20 lakhs and exceed not more than 1 crore. The goods are forward for testing in labs and if any kind of defect is found in the goods, then consumer can ask for replacement or compensation. If party not satisfied can make an appeal within 30 days in front of National Commission.
• National Commission: The National consumer shall have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint valued more than 1 crore. If aggrieved party is not satisfied with the judgment than they can file a complaint in Supreme Court within 30 days.
Problems faced by Consumers in the market
In present scenario, a lot of efforts have made by the government for the welfare of the consumer by launching different schemes. In spite of this, the exploitation of consumer has not come to an end, and they are being constantly exploited by the different means of unfair trade practice.
• Lack of Knowledge
• Malpractice by suppliers
• Wrong Weight & Measures
• Poor after sale- service
• Problem of Duplicate goods
• Problem of delivery goods
• Unethical Advertising
• Irregular supply
• No proper return for money
All are consumers in one form or another. The consumer are deserved to get what he pays for in true quantity and real quantity. There is no doubt that the legal system in India provides some remedies for the consumers problem. Equality before the law is not only a constitutional right but it is an essential element for making a state into just and welfare state.
Relief available to the consumers
Consumer Courts may grant one or more of the following relief:
(a) Repair of defective goods;
(b) Replacement of defective goods;
(c) Refund of price paid for the defective goods or services;
(d) Removal of deficiency in services;
(e) Refund of extra money charged;
(f) Award of compensation;
(g) Withdrawal of goods hazardous to life and safety;
(h) Payment of adequate cost;
(i) Discontinuance of Unfair/ Restrictive Trade Practice.
1.New India Assurance Co. Ltd. V. Hilli Multipurpose Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd. (2013): In this case, the issue that came up before the Court pertained with the period within which the opposite party has to give his version to the District Forum in chasing of a complaint, which is filled under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act. According to the statutory provision the opposite party is given 30 day time for giving his version and the said periods for giving and filing the version can be extended by the District Forum, dealt with consumer laws, but the extension shall not exceed 15 days. Hereby, an upper limit of 45 days has been imposed under this Act for filing version of the opposite party.
2.Manjeet Singh v. National Insurance Co. Ltd.& Anr.( 2017): In this recent case, decided by two judge bench of the Supreme Court, the Court has further expanded the scope and ambit of protecting consumers under Insurance claims by holding that an insurance company cannot reject motor vehicle claim on the ground that giving lift to passengers which was later stolen by them did not tantamount to fundamental breach of terms of policy.
3. National Insurance Company Ltd. V. Hindustan Safety Glass Works Ltd. & Anr. (2018) : In this case, the Insurance Company refused to compensate the Respondent on account of damage caused due to heavy rain during the mentioned period. The Insurance Company accept denied relief to the insured on account of the conditions specify in the policy which stated that National Insurance would not be liable for any loss or damage of 12 months after the event, which caused certain loss or damage to the insured unless the claim is the subject matter of a pending action or arbitration.
The Consumer Protection Act has create great expectation amongst the masses for redressal of their grievance but the enforcement of the Act is very low. Businessman make every possible efforts to achieve maximum profit and use various means of unfair trade practice to survive in the competitive market. It is not ethically wrong but morally as well. It is the duty of businessman to serve the society without any kind of exploitation.
Making consumer aware about their rights and taking consumer movement to the rural and remote areas is the most important problem and a challenge before the consumer organisation. Though the Government appears to be serious of this issue, much however depends upon the consumer organisation. They have still to cover a huge distance so far to taking the movement to rural areas is concerned.
It can be concluded that the very few consumers are fully aware about their rights, responsibilities and the existing laws. Hence, it is very necessary to educate them about the rights and responsibilities as consumers in order to make them rational and aware buyers. Government should make and implement rules of punishment more harsh, so that manufacturers and shopkeeper think twice while adopting any fraudulent practice.