The earlier principle of “Caveat Emptor” or “let the buyer beware” which was prevalent has given way to the principle of “consumer is king”. The origins of this principle lie in the fact that in today’s mass production economy, where there is little contact between the producer and consumer, often sellers make exaggerated claims through advertisements, which they do not intend to fulfill. This leaves the consumer in a difficult position with very few opportunities for redressal. The need to recognize and enforce the rights of consumers is being understood and several laws have been made for this purpose. In India, we have the Indian Contract Act, the Sales of Goods Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act, the agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act, Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, etc, which to some extent protect consumer interests. However, these laws require the consumer to initiate action by way of a civil suit, which involves lengthy legal process proving to be too expensive and time consuming for lay consumers. Therefore, the need for a simpler and quicker redressal to consumer grievances was felt and accordingly, it led to the legislation of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
2. Extend and Coverage of the Act
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 cooperatives. • The provisions of the Act are compensatory in nature.
3. Object of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986
The main objectives of the Act are:
i. To provide better protection to consumers. Unlike existing laws, which are punitive or preventive in nature?
ii. The Act is intended to provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to consumer’s grievances, and award compensation wherever appropriate to the consumer.
iii. The Act has been amended in 1993 and in 1999 both to extend its coverage and scope and to enhance the powers of redressal machinery.
iv. To promote voluntary consumer movements and to safeguard the interests of consumers.
4. Rights of Consumers
The basic rights of consumers as per the Consumer Protection Act are;
i. The right to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
ii. The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services at competitive prices.
iii. The right to be heard and be assured that consumers’ interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
iv. The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitations of consumers, and
v. The right to be assured wherever possible, access to variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
vi. The right to consumer education.
The act envisages establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Central and State levels, whose main objects will b to promote and protect the rights of the consumers. The CPA extends to the whole of India expect the State of Jammu and Kashmir and applies to all the goods and services unless and otherwise notified by the Central Government.
5. Definitions of Important Terms
Before studying the provisions of the CPA, it is necessary to understand the terms used in the Act. Let us understand some of the more important definitions.
a. Complaint Means
• A consumer; or
• 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 state government, who or which makes a complaint against the suppliers of goods or services.
b. Goods mean goods as defined in the Sale of...