The consumer protection Act, 1986 is a milestone in the history of socio-economic legislation in the country. It is one of the most progressive and comprehensive pieces of legislations enacted for the protection of consumers. It was enacted after in-depth study of consumer protection laws in a number of countries and in consultation with representatives of consumers, trade and industry and extensive discussions within the Government.
The main objective of the act is to provide for the better protection of consumers. Unlike existing laws, which are punitive or preventive in nature, the provisions of this Act are compensatory in nature. The act is intended to provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to the consumers’ grievances, and relief’s of a specific nature and award of compensation wherever appropriate to the consumer. The act has been amended in 1993 both to extend its coverage and scope and to enhance the powers of the redressal machinery.
The salient features of the Act are summed up as under:
- The Act applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Central Government.
- It covers all the sectors whether private, public or cooperative.
- The provisions of the Act are compensatory in nature.
It enshrines the following rights of consumers:
- Right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life and property.
- Right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;
- Right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices;
- Right to be heard and to be assured that consumers’ interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums;
- Right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
- Right to consumer education
- The Act envisages establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Central and State levels, whose main objects will be to promote and protect the rights of the consumers.
- To provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal of consumer grievances, the Act envisages a three- tier quasi-judicial machinery at the National, State and District levels.
- National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission – known as “National Commission”.
- Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions known as “State Commission.
- Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums- known as “District Forum.
- 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.
Certain terms used in the Consumer Protection Act of 1986
a) Consumer – A consumer is one who purchases the commodities not for trading but for self consumption. The definition of consumer given in Section 2(1) (d) of the act lays down the following points of a consumer:-
A consumer is:-
- Any person who buys or hires/avails any service or goods for a consideration.
- Any user of the goods who may not have purchased it but uses it with the approval of the person who has purchased the goods for consideration.
- Any person who is a beneficiary of such services with the consent of the original consumer.
- Consideration for the goods is an important factor. Such consideration must have actually been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised.
- The intention of he present purchasing it should be consumption and not sale.
b) Dispute – Consumer dispute has been covered under section 2(1)(e).Any consumer has a right to seek remedy or file a complaint against the manufacturer or trader in case of any dispute between the two.
According to section 2(1) (e), consumer dispute is a dispute where the person against whom a complaint has been made and he denies the allegations contained in such complaint.
c) Deficiency – Section 2(1)(g), of the Act defines a deficiency as, “deficiency means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service.
For making any complaint in respect of a service or service rendered, a complaint has to prove that services suffer from deficiency. The consumer has been given protection under this act from any kind of incompetence, negligence, etc. and those responsible for deficiency are punished according to the provisions of the Act.
d) Restrictive Trade Practice and Unfair Trade Practice – A consumer has a free right to purchase any kind of good according to his needs in order to get maximum satisfaction. According to section 2(1) (nn), a Restrictive trade Practice, refers to any practice that requires a consumer to buy, hire or avail any goods or services prior to buying, hiring or availing any other goods or services.
The consumer protection act of 1986 provides for better protection of the interests of consumers and also has provisions to protect their interests from Unfair trade practices. Section 2(1)(r) states that an ‘unfair trade practice’ means a trade practice which for the purpose of prompting sale, use or supply of any goods of for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair methods or practice, which may include the following.
1. The practice of making on oral or written statement which:-
- Falsely represents that the goods are of a particular standard quality, quantity, style, etc.
- Falsely represents the quality, quantity or grade of services.
- Falsely represents and old, re-built, renovated goods as new goods.
- Representing that the goods have certain characteristics, uses, accessories, etc which they may not actually have
- Representing that the seller has a sponsorship or approval which is false
- Assuring of life of goods or giving a guarantee thereof without proper checking
- Making a false representation which might seem to be a promise to replace, maintain or repair an article
- Misleading regarding the price
- Giving misleading facts about goods or other traders
2. Permits the publication of any advertisement in any newspaper or magazine for sale at a bargaining price in reference to ordinary price or other product brand.
3. Permitting the offers of gifts or other items with the intention of charging the amount from the transaction, partly or as a whole.
4. Permits the sale or supply of goods or services which do not comply with the general standards set.
5. Boarding or destructing the goods or refusing to sell goods with a view to raise the prices.