The Consumer Protection Act is 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 .A number of laws have been enacted in India to safeguard the interest of consumers and protect them from unscrupulous and unethical practices of the businessmen. Some of these Acts are as follows:
(i) Drug Control Act, 1950
(ii) Agricultural Products (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937
(iii) Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951
(iv) Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
(v) Essential Commodities Act, 1955
(vi) The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1956
(vii) Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969
(viii) Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Essential Supplies Act, 1980
(ix) Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986
The main objectives of the Consumer Protection Act are to provide better and all-round protection to consumers and effective safeguards against different types of exploitation such as defective goods, deficient services and unfair trade practices. It also makes provisions for a simple, speedy and inexpensive machinery for redressal of consumers’ grievances.
Important Features of the Consumer Protection Act
1. The Act applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Central Government.
2. It covers all the sectors – private, public and cooperative.
3. The provisions of the Act are compensatory in nature.
4. It provides adjudicatory authorities, which are simple, speedy and less expensive.
5. It also provides for Consumer Protection Councils at the National, State and District levels.
6. 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.
Consumer Rights under the the Consumer Protection Act
Right to Safety
Means right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life and property. The purchased goods and services availed of should not only meet their immediate needs, but also fulfil long term interests.
Before purchasing, consumers should insist on the quality of the products as well as on the guarantee of the products and services. They should preferably purchase quality marked products such as ISI,AGMARK, etc
Right to be Informed
Means right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices under the Consumer Protection Act.
Consumer should insist on getting all the information about the product or service before making a choice or a decision. This will enable him to act wisely and responsibly and also enable him to desist from falling prey to high pressure selling techniques.
Right to Choose
Means right to be assured, wherever possible of access to variety of goods and services at competitive price. In case of monopolies, it means right to be assured of satisfactory quality and service at a fair price. It also includes right to basic goods and services. This is because unrestricted right of the minority to choose can mean a denial for the majority of its fair share. This right can be better exercised in a competitive market where a variety of goods are available at competitive prices
Right to be Heard
Means that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. It also includes right to be represented in various forums formed to consider the consumer’s welfare.
The Consumers should form non-political and non-commercial consumer organizations which can be given representation in various committees formed by the Government and other bodies in matters relating to consumers.
Right to Seek redressal
Means right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. It also includes right to fair settlement of the genuine grievances of the consumer.
Consumers must make complaint for their genuine grievances.Many a times their complaint may be of small value but its impact on the society as a whole may be very large. They can also take the help of consumer organisations in seeking redressal of their grievances.
Right to Consumer Education
Means the right to acquire the knowledge and skill to be an informed consumer throughout life.Ignorance of consumers, particularly of rural consumers, is mainly responsible for their exploitation. They should know their rights and must exercise them. Only then real consumer protection can be achieved with success.