History of 1986 Act :-
The consumer protection act, 1986 is one of the benevolent social legislation intended to protect the large body of consumer from exploitation. The act has come as a panacea for consumers all over the country and has assumed the shape of practically the most important legislation enacted in the country during the last few years. With the Introduction of this law, consumers now feel that they are in a position to declare “sellers be aware” where previously the consumers were at the receiving end and generally told “buyers be aware”.
Establishment of Act :-
The Act postulates establishment of Central consumer protection council and the state consumer protection councils for the purpose of spreading consumer awareness. Central council is headed by Minister Incharge of the Consumer Affairs in the central government and in the state it is the Minister Incharge of the Consumer Affairs in the State Government who heads state council. To provide cheap, speedy and simple redressal to consumer disputes, Quasi-judicial machinery is set-up at each District, State and National levels called District Forums, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and National Redressal Commission respectively. At present, there are 569 District Forums, 33 State Commission with apex body as a National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission ( NCDRC) having its office at janpath Bhawan, A wing, 5th floor, janpath, New Delhi. The District Forums are headed by the person who is or has been or eligible to be appointed as a district judge and the State Commission are headed by a person who is or has been a judge of high court. National commission was constituted in the year, 1988. It is headed by a sitting or retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The provisions of this Act cover ‘products’ as well as ‘services’. The products are those which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers. The services are of the nature of transport, telephone, electricity, constructions, banking, insurance, medical, treatment etc. The services are by and large, include those provided by professional such doctors, Engineers, Architects, Lawyers etc.
How to File a Complaint :-
A written complaint, as amended by consumer protection Act, 2002, can be filed before the District Consumer Forum (upto Rupees twenty lakhs), State commission (upto Rupees one crore), National Commission (Above Rupees One crore) in relation to a product or in respect of a service, but does not include rendering of any service free of cost or under a contract of personal service. The service can be of any description, the illustrations given above are only indicative and not exhaustive. If a consumer is not satisfied by the decision of the District Forum, he can challenge the same before the state commission and against the order of the State Commission a consumer can come to the National Commission. In order to attain the object of the Consumer Protection Act, the National Commission has been conferred with power of administrative control over all the state Commission by calling for periodical returns regarding the institution, disposal and pendency of cases. National Commission is empowered to issue instructions regarding-: 1. Adoption of uniform procedure in the hearing of the matters. 2. Prior service of copies of documents produced by one party to the opposite parties. 3. Speedy grant of copies of documents.
4. Generally over-seeing the functioning of the state Commission or the District Forums to ensure that the object and purpose of the Act are best served without in any way interfering with their quasi-judicial freedom.
Consumerism is the basic thought that “consumers need to be protected”. The fundamental questions which spring from this basic thought are: a) How consumers can be protected?
b) Consumers are protected against what?
Answer to the above question may be aptly termed with ‘consumerism’. Thus, who is a consumer? When and by whom a complaint can be made? And what are the relief’s available toconsumers? Are the aspects of ‘consumerism’. The Consumer Protection Act was enacted to provide a simple and quicker access to redressal of consumer grievance. The object of the Act is given in the preamble of Act. It says: “An Act to provide for better protection of the interest of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer’ disputes and for matters connected therewith.” The Consumer Protection Bill, 1986 sets out objects and reasons which have been mentioned under Section.6 of the Act. They are: 1. The right to be protected against the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standards and price of good to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices. 2. The right to be protected against marketing of good which are hazardous to life and property. 3. The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to variety of good at competitive prices. 4. The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. 5. The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice or unsculptuous exploitation of consumers, and. 6. The right to consumer education.
The following right have been added by the Amendment Act, 1993 and 2002 respectively. 7. The right to be protect from unfair trade practice as defined under section 36A of M.R.T.P. Act, 1969, and 8. Protection from spurious good or offering such good for sole or adopting deceptive practice in the provision of service.
* Right to Safety
It is right to be protected against the marketing of good and services which are hazardous to life and property. Traders must ensure that goods are safe for users, in case of hazardous goods, they give clear instructions as to mode of use, the risk involved in improper use of good, vital safety information is conveyed to consumers.
* Right to Information
It is right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard of price of goods or service, with a view to protect the consumer. Consumer should be instructed in the proper use of good and should be informed of the risk involved in the intended or normally foreseeable use. Vital safety norms should be conveyed to consumer against unfair trade practice.
* Right to Choose
It is a right to be assured, wherever possible, access to variety of goods at competitive prices. It can be made meaningful by ensuring access to a variety of goods and services at competitive price. Fair and effective competition in the market must be encouraged so as to provide consumers with the widest range of products and the service at the reasonable price.
* Right to Represent
It is a right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. Under the provisions of the Act every consumer has a right to file complaints and be heard in that context.
* Right to Redressal
It is a right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. This right has been ensured by establishing three-tier system of consumer FORA and by providing procedure of getting redress as well as recognizing restrictive and unfair trade practices as a ground to make a complaint.
* Right to Education
The right to consumer education is a right which ensures that consumers are informed about the practices prevalent in the market and the remedies available to them. Booklets informing citizen about their rights to services will be made available. The government should also plan to set-up monitoring agencies for this purpose.