2. Redressal Machinery
3. Important Case Laws
Consumer Protection Act, 1986
Introduction & Definitions
A consumer is a user of goods and services. Any person paying for goods and services which he uses is entitled to expect that the goods and services are of a nature and quality promised to him by the seller.
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 and advertisements which they do not intend to fulfill. This leaves the consumer in a difficult position with very few avenues for redressal. The onset on intense competition also made producers aware of the benefits of customer satisfaction and hence by and large, the principle of " consumer is king" is now accepted.
The need to recognise 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 Sale of Goods Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act, the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act, the Indian Standards Institution (Certification Marks) Act, the 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 required the consumer to initiate action by way of a civil suit which involved lengthy legal process proving to be too expensive and time consuming for lay consumers. Therefore, the need for a more simpler and quicker access to redressal to consumer grievances was felt and accordingly, it lead to the legislation of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Objects of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986
The preamble to the Act states that the Act is legislated to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer's disputes and for matters connected therewith.
The basic rights of consumers as per the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) are
1. the right to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property
2. the 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
3. the right to be assured, wherever possible, access to variety of goods and services at competitive prices
4. the right to be heard and be assured that consumers' interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums
5. the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers
6. the right to consumer education
The CPA extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir and applies to all goods and services unless otherwise notified by the Central Government.
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 definations.
Complainant means :-
1. A consumer; or
2. Any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or under any other law for the time being in force; or
3. The Central Government or any State Government, who or which makes a complaint; or
4. One or more consumers where there are numerous consumers having the same interest
Complaint means any allegation in writing made by a complainant that :-
1. an unfair trade practice or a restricted trade practice has been adopted by...