Consumers Awareness: Consumer Rights And Responsibilities

    Present era is considered under the control of the consumers as their satisfaction is a must. No country in the world can ignore the interest of the consumers whether knowingly or unknowingly. Most countries have enacted consumer protection laws to protect their consumers.

    Introduction

    We can see the accelerated rate of lawmaking for consumers in developing  countries like Thailand[1], Sri Lanka[2], Mauritius[3], China[4],Nepal[5] and many others . India has also made relevant laws for the consumers. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is one of the examples which has contributed majorly in the history of socio-economic legislation to protect the Indian consumers. This act is used to advance and protect the interest of the consumers in India, it was finally materialized after an in-depth study of consumer protection laws operating in other countries and also by consulting with various representatives of consumers, trade and industrial segments of India and abroad. Consumer Council and other authoritative mechanisms are established in order to serve the interests of the consumers and mainly to settle the disputes of the consumers in India.

    The idea of consumer protection is  based on the issues that buyers face while purchasing a product in the market. The innovative advancements have increased the need of consumers and have changed the custom that we are living before. The fast mechanical advancement has  brought new developments and products into common use, which has influenced the mode and outlook of our living. The simple goods which were earlier sufficient for  our basic needs, have been replaced by complex and complicated goods. Taking into account the socio – financial changes which have occurred in the lives of the individuals, it is basic to develop a solid and wide based consumer development which achieves socio-lawful estimates important for consumer protection.

    The principle goal of the Consumer Protection Act is to guarantee the better assurance of buyers. Dissimilar to existing laws which are reformatory or preventive in nature, the arrangements of this Act are compensatory in nature. The Act is likewise proposed to give basic, rapid and reasonable redressal to the purchasers’ complaints, and alleviation of a particular sort and grant of pay any place suitable to the customer. The act was amended in 1993 both to broaden its coverage and scope, and to upgrade the forces of the redressal machinery.

     The remarkable highlights of the Act can be summarized as:

    • This Act is applied to all the goods and services.
    • All the sectors either private, public and cooperative all are covered in this act.
    • The provisions which are given in this 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 of the people;
    • 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 and unscrupulous exploitation of consumers;
    • Right to consumer education.

    There is urgent necessity on the part of the government to enforce laws which would be effective in checking the consumer frauds such as malpractices, adulteration, production of sub-standard goods etc. so that the adequate protection is given to the consumers.

    Consumerism: Conceptual Consideration

    Consumerism is used to safeguard the interest of the consumer at large. Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.

    Consumerism deals with the protection of the  consumers from every seller they exchange relationships with. The Caveat emptor principle, which says that the buyer must be careful while purchasing, is applicable. In the era of open markets, buyers and sellers met face to face, the seller exposed their products and the buyer examined them carefully, and then bought them. He would use all the care and skills in conducting the transaction. The maximum exempts the seller from the obligation to reveal the quality of the product. In addition, the personal relationship between the buyer and the seller has been one of the main factors in their relationships. Due to globalization, it is not possible for the buyer to examine the goods in advance and as many of the transactions took place by mail. Furthermore, due to the complex structure of modern goods, only the manufacturer/seller can guarantee the quality of the goods. Increasingly organized, producers/sellers become stronger and more organized, while buyers remain weak and disorganized. In the era of revolutionized information technology and with the emergence of e-commerce innovations, consumers are largely private. Consequently, the buyer is deceived, cheated and deceived day after day.

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    Consumer Protection Act, 1986

    It can be mentioned from the outset that anyone interested in the task of the consumer protection movement must be well versed in various laws and not just the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. They must have knowledge of laws related to contracts, grievances and railways., Telegraphs, Telephones, Posts, Air travel, Insurance, Electricity, Water, Housing, Medicine, Banking, Finance, Engineering, Motor vehicles, Hotel industry, Entertainment, Cooperative societies, Tourism agencies, Sales tax, Central tax, Limitation, Transportation, etc. There is no limit to topics, which can be brought before a Consumer Forum / Commission to make a decision. In addition, you should also have a good understanding of laws related to unfair business practices and restrictive business practices. In India, several laws were enacted to protect consumers against different forms of exploitation.[6]

    The Objectives of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in India are-

    • To avoid practices that have adverse effects on competition;
    • Promote and maintain competition in the markets;
    • To protect the interests of consumers
    • To guarantee the freedom of trade of other market participants, in India

    The main focus of the Law is in the following areas:

    • Prohibition of anti-competitive agreements;
    • Prohibition against abuse of a dominant position;
    • Regulation of combinations;
    • Defense of competition policy.

    The legislative intent of this law is to eliminate all obstacles to promote competition between commercial areas of national or foreign origin. The Consumer Protection Act of 1986 was enacted with the aim of better protecting consumer interests and establishing consumer councils and other authorities to resolve consumer disputes. In fact, this is a very unique and highly advanced piece of social legislation. The provisions of this law are designed to provide consumers with effective and efficient guarantees against various types of exploitation and unfair business. Unlike other laws, which are basically punitive or preventive, the provisions of the law are balanced. We have consumer protection laws in our country that provide consumers with more effective protection. The Consumer Protection Law has been in force for about 18 years. A number of glitches and malfunctions have arisen in the law, that is the reason due to which it has been amended thrice to make room for further improvement. Still, it is a practical weapon for consumers to secure the responsibility of commodity producers and service providers.[7]

    The law applies to all goods and services, unless this is expressly excluded from the central government.

    1. It covers all sectors: private, public and cooperative.
    2. The provisions of the law are compensatory in nature.
    3. Offers law enforcement agencies that are simple, fast, and inexpensive.
    4. It also provides consumer protection advice.

    National, State and District levels

    The provisions of this law are added to and do not differ from the provisions of another law at this time. The purpose of these councils is to help governments to adopt and review strategies to promote and protect consumer rights. The composition of these consumer councils is broad. Members of these councils are citizens and organizations representing various interest groups that have an impact on the protection of consumer rights. It should be added that consumer councils must be formed on a public-private partnership basis to improve feedback and therefore review consumer protection policies. 

    The primary point of these councils is to advance and secure the rights and interests of consumers in the public arena. It likewise gives three-level judicial authorities to consumers for their dispute resolution, to be specific namely district, state, and national. They are known as district forums, state commissions, and national commissions. The district forum comprises the president and two individuals (one part is a woman). Each district forum member stays in office for a time of five years or up to the age of 65, whichever is prior, and can be reappointed. Graduation is presently the base capability for a part. The State Commission is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. The retired Supreme Court judge seats the National Commission. The district forum can decide the issue up to Rs. 20 lakhs, state commission to a crore and national commission to Rs. one crore and more. The procedures before these judicial authorities are regulated according to the principles of natural justice.Presently, the state commissions and the national commission have begun to sit on switchboards. Nonetheless, it ought to be noticed that there are a few opportunities for presidents and forum members across the country. The complaints submitted should now be joined by the measure of the charge and paid in the recommended way.

    Appeal Procedure

    The National Commission, State Commissions, and district forum must settle the complaint however much as could reasonably be expected inside a quarter of a year from the date of notification to the next gathering if the complaint doesn’t need investigation or assessment of the benefits, and within five months when it requires an examination or review of advantages. Complaints are permissible within 30 days against the request for the district forum in the State Commission and against the request for the State Commission in the National Commission. The Supreme Court can appeal the request for the National Commission within 30 days. The Supreme Court can’t engage an individual who, under a request for the National Commission, must compensate a sum except if that individual has stored half of that sum or 50,000 rupees, whichever is required is lower. The deposit of 35000/ – and 25000/ – is additionally required on account of legitimate cures before the National Commission and the State Commission. Different reports and remarks from the central government show that numerous consumer forums don’t have satisfactory lodging, framework and staff. In many state commissions and district forums, vacancies have not been filled by presidents/individuals, which detrimentally affects the outcome of cases. It ought to be recollected that consumer certainty eventually relies upon the fruitful activity of consumer commissions/discussions. Thus, it is of extreme significance that these agencies should work successfully, efficiently and without interference. 

    Conclusion

    The efficient and effective consumer protection program is of particular importance to all of us, as we are all consumers. Even a manufacturer or a provider of a service is a consumer of other goods or services. When both manufacturers / suppliers and consumers recognize the need to live together, adulterated products, wrong goods and other service deficiencies are a thing of the past. Active participation and involvement of all sectors, i.e.  Central and state governments, educational institutions, NGOs, print and electronic media, as well as acceptance and compliance with a voluntary code of conduct by trade and industry and the letter of citizenship of the service is required. Suppliers must ensure that consumers receive their fair share. The need of the hour is a total commitment to the consumer’s cause and a social response to the consumer’s needs. However, this should go harmoniously so that our society becomes a better place for all of us. Sensitize consumers so that they understand their responsibility as consumers. The consumer must organize together to develop strength and influence, to promote and protect their own interests. The government should set and implement stricter punishment rules so that manufacturers and retailers think twice before using fraudulent practices. A campaign should be launched to involve every single consumer so that they become more aware of their rights and obligations. The government and other consumer agencies should make efforts towards the district forum’s propaganda and public relations, consumer and state justice systems to raise awareness among consumers of the mechanisms of their increased involvement and search for complaints. The redressal process should be more logical and easy to understand for a large number of consumers. Additional mechanisms should be employed so that complaints are be processed and rejected quickly.

    References

    [1] Consumer Protection Act, 1979 of (Thailand).

    [2] Consumer Protection Act, 1979 (Sri Lanka)

    [3] Consumer Protection Law, 1991 (Mauritius).

    [4] Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, 1993 (China).

    [5] Law on Consumer Protection, 1998 (Nepal).


    BY AKSHITA BANSAL | UPES, DEHRADUN

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