- On April 9, 1985, the General Assembly of the United Nations, by Consumer Protection Resolution No. 39/248, adopted the guidelines to provide a framework for Governments, particularly those of developing countries, to use in elaborating and strengthening consumer protection policies and legislation.
- The objectives of the said guidelines include assisting countries in achieving or maintaining adequate protection for their population as consumers and encouraging high levels of ethical conduct for those engaged in the production and distribution of goods and services to the consumers.
- The legitimate needs which the guidelines are intended to meet include the protection of consumers from hazards to their health and safety and availability of effective consumer redress.
- Keeping in view the said guidelines, the Act was enacted by Parliament to provide for the better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumers councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith.
The Frame work of redress forums under the Act
The Act sets up a three-tier structure for the redressal of consumer grievances.
- At the lowest level, i.e., the District level, is the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum known as `the District Forum’;
- at the next higher level, i.e., the State level, is the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission known as `the State Commission’ and
- at the highest level is the National Commission. [Section 9].
Basis of Jurisdiction
The jurisdiction of these three Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies is based on the pecuniary limit of the claim made by the complainant.
- An appeal to the State Commission against an order made by the District Forum [Section 15] and
- an appeal lies to the National Commission against an order made by the State Commission on a complaint filed before it or in an appeal against the order passed by the District Forum. [Section 19].
- The State Commission can exercise revisional powers on grounds similar to those contained in Section 115 CPC in relation to a consumer dispute pending before or decided by a District Forum [Section 17(b)] and
- the National Commission has similar revisional jurisdiction in respect of a consumer dispute pending before or decided by a State Commission. [Section 21(b)].
Appeal to supreme court
Further, there is a provision for appeal to supreme Court from an order made by the National Commission on a complaint or on an appeal against the order of a State Commission. [Section 23].
Framework for Protection of Consumer Rights
By virtue of the definition of complainant in Section 2(1)(c), the Act affords protection to the consumer against
- unfair trade practice or a restrictive trade practice adopted by any trader,
- defect in the goods bought or agreed to be bought by the consumer,
- deficiency in the service hired or availed of or agreed to be hired or availed of by the consumer,
- charging by a trader price in excess of the price fixed by or under any law for the time being in force or
- displayed on the goods or any package containing such goods and offering for sale to public, goods which will be hazardous to life and safety when used, in contravention of the provisions of any law for the time being in force requiring traders to display information in regard to the contents, manner and effect of use of such goods.
Who can file complaint?
The expression “complainant”, as defined in Section 2(1)(b), is comprehensive to enable the
- consumer as well as any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or under any other law for the time being in force, or
- the Central Government or any State Government or
- one or more consumers where there are numerous consumers having the same interest,
to file a complaint before the appropriate Consumer Disputes Redressal Agency and the consumer dispute raised in such complaint is settled by the said agency in accordance with the procedure laid down in Section 13 of the Act which prescribes that the District Forum [as well as the State Commission and the National Commission] shall have the same power as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure in respect of
- summoning and enforcing attendance of any defendant or witness and examining the witness on oath;
- discovery and production of any document or other material object producible as evidence;
- the reception of evidence on affidavits;
- the requisitioning of the report of the concerned analysis or test from the appropriate laboratory or from any other relevant source;
- issuing of any commission for the examination of any witness;
- and any other matter which may be prescribed.
Nature of Reliefs
Section 14 makes provisions for the nature of reliefs that can be granted to the complainant on such a complaint. The provisions of the Act are in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force. [Section 3].