This Article is written by Yamini Pokhriyal (pursuing LLB from Bharati Vidyapeeth University)
Table of Contents
The need for consumer protection is growing day by day with the growth in the economy. The consumers are the end-users of the product. A consumer is defined as the one who buys goods or avail services for consideration for his use. It does not include a person who buys a product or service for further sale. In India, consumer rights were protected under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 before the Act was replaced by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced by the Government of India on August 9, 2019, which replaces the earlier Act of 1986. The new Act of 2019 provides several new rights to consumers in India to strengthen the protection given to them. It provides enhanced protection to the consumers taking into consideration the booming e-commerce industry and the modern methods of providing goods and services.
According to the preamble, the Act provides for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of disputes and matters connected therewith. The three-tier quasi-judicial redressal machinery has been provided by the Act at the district, state, and national levels known as Consumer Dispute Redressal Agencies. The term consumer right means having information about the product such as quality, quantity, purity, price, and standard of that product. A person buying a product and paying consideration in respect of that product has a right to know and to get information about that product. Therefore, the customers need to know about various rights and remedies available to them under consumer protection laws. In India, despite from Consumer Protection Act, there are various other Acts which intended to protect the consumers against different forms of exploitation such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860; the Indian Contract Act, 1872; Drugs Control Act, 1950; Indian Standards Institution (certification marks) Act, 1952; Prevention of Food Adulteration Act,1954; Essential Commodities Act, 1955; Essential Commodities (special provisions) Act, 1981; Standard of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985; Sale of Goods Act, 1930; and Competition Act, 2002.[i]
EXISTING RIGHTS OF CONSUMERS IN INDIA
The following are the rights that are available to the consumers in India under the previous act of consumer protection.
- Right to safety: This means that consumers have the right to be protected against hazardous and adulterated products. The consumer has the right to be protected against the marketing of products that are hazardous to life and property. The life of the consumer should not be risked. The purchased products should not only meet their immediate needs but also fulfill long-term interests. Consumers should insist on the quality of the products and the guarantee of the products and services before purchasing such products or services. Consumers should purchase quality-marked products such as ISI, AGMARK, etc.[ii] In the famous case of Donoghue v Stevenson (1932) AC 562 HOUSE OF LORDS, the complainant contended that her friend brought a bottle of ginger beer for her and while pouring that beer into the glass she found a decomposed snail emerged from the bottle. Mrs. Donoghue suffered a personal injury as a result. She claimed against the manufacturer of the ginger beer. Her claim was successful. The decision of the court established that a manufacturer of a product owed a consumer a duty of care.
- Right to choose: There is high competition in the marketplace due to which varieties of products are available in the market. Therefore, every consumer has a right to choose among these varieties at competitive prices. Consumers have the right to buy the product or avail of service of their own choice as per their needs and desires. As per the Consumer Protection Act, the Right to Choose means ‘The Right to be assured and to have access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.’
- Right to be informed: This is another right available the Consumer Protection Act. Consumers have the right to get all the information about the product. Factors such as quality of a product, its quantity, ingredients used in the product, its price, and standard all are the information necessary for a consumer. Such information about the product must be printed on the label of the product and in the case of services the consumers have the right to get all the necessary information from the service provider.
- Right to seek redressal: The consumers havethe right to seek redressal of their grievance. They have the right to file a complaint against the seller of the products or service provider. The Act provides for consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of disputes and matters connected therewith. The three-tier quasi-judicial redressal machinery has been provided by the Act at the district, state, and national levels known as Consumer Dispute Redressal Agencies.
- Right to be heard: The consumers have the right to be represented in various consumer forums. They have the right to approach the consumer forums and raise their voice. As per the Consumer Protection Act the right to be heard means that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. These days there are various websites such as CONSUMERDADDY.COM, where consumers can upload their criticisms as well as can file complaints.
- Right to consumer education: It is the right of every Indian citizen to have education on matters of consumer’s protection and to know about their rights and liabilities as a consumer. They should know about the rights and remedies available under consumer protection.
JAGO GRAHAK JAGO COMPAIGN
JagoGrahakJago is an initiative taken by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, and Public Distribution, Government of India to create awareness among consumers. The government through print media advertisements, audio campaigns, and video campaigns for consumer education creates awareness among illiterate consumers about rights and remedies available to them. This initiative will help Indian consumers to know about their rights and to raise a voice against unfair trade practices.[iii]
NEW RIGHTS OF CONSUMERS UNDER CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 2019
The following rights have been added in addition to the above six rights of the consumers:[iv]
- Right to file a consumer complaint anywhere: According to the new Consumer Protection law, a consumer can file a complaint with the District Forum or State Commission from anywhere, home, office, or any other place. There is no requirement for a complaint to be filed from a place where the product was purchased or where the seller of the product has his registered office. Also, the complaint can be filed through an electronic platform which will reduce the chances of consumer harassment.
- Right to seek compensation under product liability: In case of any defective product, the complainant can file a complaint against the manufacturer or seller of the product for any loss caused to him because of that defective product. The e-commerce business also comes under the ambit of this provision.
- Right to protect consumers as a class: As per the new Consumer Protection law, a class action suit can be filed by a group of consumers against a particular manufacturer or seller of the products. The class here refers to the group of consumers having the same interest or same kind of grievance against the manufacturer or seller of the product. The complaint can be filed in writing or electronic mode to the district collector or the commissioner of regional for a class suit.
- Right to seek a hearing using video conferencing: The consumers can forward an application to the commission for hearing through video conference, the commission may allow for such hearing.
- Right to know the reason for complaint rejection: Consumers have the right to know the reason why their complaint is rejected. The commission cannot reject the complaint without hearing it. Also, the commission has to admit or reject a complaint within 21 days from the date it was filed before the commission.
WHO CAN FILE A COMPLAINT?
Any of the following can file a complaint in a consumer forum against the manufacturer or seller of a product or service provider:
- Any consumer who has purchased goods or services
- Legal heirs of a consumer
- Relative of a consumer
- A group of consumers with a mutual interest
- Central or state government
- A registered volunteered organization
There are numerous consumers of goods or services in our country who are unaware of the rights available to them under Consumer Protection laws. The Consumer Protection Act provides various rights and remedies to the consumers to protect them from unfair trade practices such as adulteration of food, hoarding, mixing, low-quality products, charging higher prices, etc. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has taken many initiatives such as campaigns and advertisements through media to create awareness among consumers. There are various strong and clear laws in our country to protect consumer rights. These rights are not only available to individuals but a firm, HUF’s, and companies also have the right to exercise their consumer rights.