October 3, 2022

Introduction to Consumer Protection Act with Amendment

This article is written by Manjeet yadav, a law student of BA LLB 2ND YEAR (at the time of article posting) at AJEENKYA DY PATIL SCHOOL OF LAW. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Consumer protection act, 1986 and Consumer Protection act (COPRA) 2019

Introduction: 

Consumer protection act, 1986 is enacted on 24th December 1986 to provide better protection of the interests of the consumers. The consumer protection act, 1986 is a social welfare legislation which was enacted as a result of widespread consumer protection movement. Consumer protection means protecting the consumer from unfair and restrictive trade practices adopted by the seller of goods and services. This act is built to empower consumer by giving them rights and redressal from unfair trade practices.

The dictum, caveat emptor (buyer beware) is a thing of the past and caveat venditor (let the seller beware) compels the seller to take responsibilities for the product and discourages seller from selling products of unreasonable quality. Prior to this enactment there was no exclusive legislation for actually safeguarding the interests of the consumers. The level of the awareness of the consumers was abysmal. The consumer protection act came as a much needed relief to the beleaguered consumer. The remedy under the act is more easily accessible alternative in addition to that already available to the aggrieved consumers by way of civil suit under the other acts. The consumer protection act, 1986 applies to all goods and services. However, no complaint can be filed for alleged deficiency in any service that is rendered free of charge or under a contract of personal service. No trader or person rendering service can seek relief under this act. The provisions of the act are compensatory in nature. It covers public, private, joint and cooperative sectors.

Objectives of the act:

  • To provide speedy and simple redressal to consumer disputes.
  • It is one of the benevolent pieces of legislation intended to protect the consumers at large from exploitation.
  • The act aims to promote and protect the rights of consumers.
  • To make provisions for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer disputes.

To set-up quasi judicial machinery for speedy and correct redressal of consumer disputes.

Rights of consumers:

Right to safety- every consumer has a right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.

Right to information- every consumer has a right to be informed about the quality, quantity, purity, standard and price of goods and services so as to protect themselves against unfair trade practices.

Right to choose from the variety of goods and services at competitive prices.

Right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.

Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices.

Every consumer has a right to consumer education consumer has a right to know about his rights as a consumer. He is entitled to obtain knowledge of all remedies available to him against the exploitation by the manufacturer and traders of goods and services.

  • Who is consumer?

Sec. 2(1) (d) of consumer protection act,1986 defines consumer. There are two types of consumer one who buy goods is other who takes services. In case of goods a consumer is any person who buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised to be paid, partly paid and partly promised to be paid, or under any system of deferred payment. A consumer also includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys goods for consideration paid or promised to pay or under any other system of deferred payment when such use s made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purposes. Similarly, person who hires or avails services are also known as consumers, it means any person who hires or avails of any services for a consideration, which has been paid or promised to be paid. A consumer includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails the services for consideration when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person but does not include a person who avails of such services for any commercial purpose.

Construction of the Act:

The consumer movement arose in many parts of due as a result of various malpractices were taken place by the sellers. There was dissatisfaction among the consumers regarding the unfair trade practices by the sellers of goods. At that time there was no legislation present in system to tackle the issues regarding the unfair trade. Consumers used to stop buying the services from the brand or search for another options in market. It was presumed that it is the responsibility of the consumer to beware while buying the products. It took many years to Indian system and around the world to built the proper legislation on the same. After the consumer movements took place it has created pressure on business firms and as well as government to correct the business conduct and work on the welfare of consumers.

 On 24th December 1986 the government of India took a major step and enacted the comprehensive legislation of consumer protection act,1986. It was later modified and the amendment came into effect on effect on March 15, 2003, vide Act 62 of 2002. Earlier the main Act was the law of torts, treated as a general custodian of social wrongs. other laws under which the consumer could see redress were the Indian Penal Code, Agriculture Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Sale of Goods Act, 1930. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is a social benefit oriented legislation and the provisions of the Act have to be constructed as broadly as possible in favor of the consumer to achieve the purpose of the enactment but without doing violence to its language. The silent features of the Act are as the Act provides for establishing three- tier consumer dispute redressal machinery at the national, state and district levels.

 The concept of strict liability and a duty of reasonable care is also engrained in the Act. The Act has been amended number of times, first it was amended in 1991, thereafter in 1993. It was again overhauled in 2002. Later on, all Act is changed and made COPRA (Consumer Protection Act) 2019.

Consumer Protection Act, 2019:

Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is replaced by Consumer Protection Act, 2019. This Act is implemented to whole India including Jammu & Kashmir. The basic aim of the act is to save the rights of consumers by establishing authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumer disputes. It covers E-commerce transactions and tele-shopping. Consumer complaint can be filed at a place where complaint resides or works. E-filling of complaint is included. Hearing of cases can be done online by video conferencing.  There has been tremendous and paramount change in the pecuniary jurisdiction of the courts handling consumer disputes. In the wake of the new act, District forums can conduct cases in which value of goods and services amounting (up to 1 crore), state commission (from 1 crore to 10 crore) and national commission (above 10 crore). Central consumer protection authority (CCPA) has been established. This authority can investigate the matters, recall the product or withdrawal of services and file cases at different forums. Consumer can get compensation for any harm after the use of any product or service from the seller. Mediation centers has been established for dispute resolution with all forums. Court can refer settlement through mediation. The said act allows consumers to institute the complaint from where they reside or work for gain. This has provided the consumers with great relief as earlier the complaint was filed only where the cause of action arose. This move is considered apposite after looking at the rising e-commerce, where service provider could be located anywhere. 

Product liability:

The significant addition to 2019 act is the provision for product liability whereby the manufacturers or service providers have been made responsible to compensate the consumer for any harm, injury, the loss suffered due to defective product, or deficiency in the services. this also includes e-commerce within its ambit and even the cannot escape the wrath of the act as now the product liability has been extended to the service providers and not just limited to the manufactures.

The central regulator, central consumer protection authority (CCPA)has been created by the act which would address issues related to consumer rights, unfair trade practices or misleading advertisements and would provide the consumers with effective redressal of the dispute and protect, promote and enforce the right of the consumers as a class.

According to Ram Vilas Paswan, the union minister for consumers affairs, food and public distribution says CCPA will be empowered to conduct the investigations into violations of consumers rights and institute complaints/prosecution, order recalls of unsafe goods and services, order discontinuance of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, impose penalties on manufacturers/ endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements. 

The landmark case of- Sehgal School of Competition v. Dalbir Singh. To seek admission in a medical coaching center, the petitioner, in this case, was made to deposit a lump sum fee for two years within the first six months. When the petitioner left the course midway on account of deficiency in the service, the coaching center refused to refund the remaining amount. The State Tribunal, following the view of the apex court and the National Commission, held that no educational institute shall collect lump sum fee for the duration of the entire course and if one does, such extra fee should be returned in case the student drops out due to deficiency. The court was also of the opinion that additional compensation should be granted for the mental agony caused due to approaching the legal forum. However, since such was not asked in the petition, it could not be granted.

Conclusion:

Consumer Protection Act is of special significance to all of us as we are consumers. There is the need for both the providers and consumers to co-exist and fight against the adulteration and malpractices. If both will follow their duties with due care and honesty there is no need to go to courts for the redressal. It is not that only be done by the enactment of different law on consumer protection, consumers need to be aware as well about their rights and powers. Consumers are allowed to protect products and services that are hazardous to their lives and property from marketing cost fixes. The right to obtain information on quantity, consistency, purity, strength and quality of products and services is the rights of the consumers. Many consumers still faces problems related to the redressal and court proceeding. The consumer redressal process is becoming cumbersome, expensive and time consuming. Many times, consumers are required to engage a lawyer. These cases require time for filling and attending the court proceedings, etc. In most purchases, cash memo are not issued, hence evidence is not easy to gather. The enactment of 2019 is comparatively new and its effectiveness is yet to be critically assessed. This act is constructive step which would bear fruit in future. The act includes various new concepts people will took time to learn the implementation in the country for satisfactory result. In the new generation of technology, the steps like, e- filling of complaints, case hearing through video conferencing will help people to save time and money as well. But at last no law can change the world until it is implemented effectively.

References:

The Law of Torts by Ratanlal & Dhirajlal