Ali Mohammad Tali
B.A.LLB 7th Semester Roll No: 53
The basic idea behind the consumer protection movement is protection of the right of consumers. It was President Kennedy who declared the consumers’ rights for the first time
in his message to the American Congress in March 1962.
They were the right to information, the right to choose and
the right to be heard.
Later, International Organization of Consumers’ Union
added four more rights, viz, the right to redress, the right to
consumer education, the right to healthy environment and
the right to basic needs. These rights were incorporated in
the United Nation’s Charter of Human Rights. The
Government of India also recognized these rights later.
The consumer movement exercises a considerable influence on the socio-economic environment of business. In a country like India where there is a high percentage of illiteracy among people, where people are less informed and where critical goods are always in short supply, the Government has a significant role in safeguarding the interests of consumers by promoting a climate of fair competition and preventing exploitation of consumers.
Earlier the governing principle in sale and purchase of goods was Buyer Beware. The consumer movement has changed and sellers feel now it is a question of seller bewares. The objective of
the consumer movement is to secure the interests of the consumer against all types of unfair trade practices. Consumerism as an effective and organized movement started in 1960s in the
USA. Ralph Nader has lifted consumerism into a major social force.
Consumerism may be defined as a social force within the environment designed to aid and protect the consumers by exerting legal, moral and economic pressures on business and
government. The consumer movement highlights the following four fundamental rights of consumers.
- Right to Safety:
To be protected against the marketing of goods which are hazardous to health or life?
- Right to be informed:
To be protected against fraudu-lent, deceitful or grossly misleading information, ad-vertising,
labeling or other practices and to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice.
- Right to Choose:
To be assured access to a variety of products and services at competitive prices and in those industries in which Government regulations are substituted, to be assured satisfactory quality
and service at fair price.
- Right to be heard:
To be assured that consumer interests will receive full and sympathetic consideration in the formulation of Government policy and fair and expeditious treatment in its administrative tribunals.
The following features of consumer movement are noteworthy:
- It is basically a protest movement.
- It is a mass movement in the sense that masses are the general
body of consumers.
- It is generally a non-official movement. Public and voluntary
consumers, organizations initiate the movement.
The actual world is a world of imperfect or monopolistic competition and the consumer has
only a limited amount of freedom in making purchase choices. When the consumer will be able to assert himself, ‘the take it or leave it’ nature of transactions in the Indian market will end.
As the manufacturer has the free choice to produce and sell his goods so the consumer should have the free choice to select from the range of products available. This is what is
meant by consumer’s sovereignty in the present socio-economic context.
Consumers as a class in our country are the only group of people who are so disorganized
that they are being exploited all the time by other sectors of the economy—industry, labour
- Though it is not a government-sponsored movement, it is recognized and backed up by the Government. In a laissez-faire society, consumer was a king and he was free to choose.
But the consumer sovereignty is a myth and the supposed benefit to the consumer accruing
from perfect competition has not been realized.Indian consumer is confronted with foodstuff and goods that are adulterated, substandard
and unsafe, prices that are inflated and weights and measures that perennially short-change him.
We do not agree with Prof. Samuelson when he says that business of business is business.
Business is not an island in itself. It is part and parcel of society as a whole.
Hence it should be constantly alive and alert to the responsibilities to the society. Consumer
protection movement is an attempt to make the businessmen aware of their social responsibilities.
Some legislative measures have already been taken by the Government to safeguard the
interests of the Indian consumer. There are a wide range of enactments which operate to
protect the consumer.
The Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937 constitutes the basic law for
the grading of agricultural produce. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 regulates the import,
manufacture, sale and distribution of drugs and cosmetics.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1959 aims at preventing the sale of impure foodstuff. The Essential Commodities Act, 1955, regulates the production, supply,
distribution and trade in essential commodities for the maintenance of the supplies o essential commodities and securing equitable distribution and availability at fair prices.
The Packaged Commodities (Regulation) Order, 1979, requires manufacturers to display on labels and packages the weight, contents of the product, date of manufacture, selling
price and address of the manufacturer.
Some other important Acts include the Display of Prices Order, 1973, the Drugs and Magic
Remedies (objectionable advertisement) Act, 1954, and the Cigarettes (Regulation of
Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1975.
Lately the Government has enacted the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Through this Act,
an attempt has been made to strengthen the institutional framework to protect the consumer at local, state and central level.
There are various institutional factors which are responsible for growing concern for the consumer protection in India. To begin with, the Government is anxious to protect the
vulnerable sectors of the community through schemes like streamlining the public distribution system.
Owing to inflation, different anti-social elements have appeared in the market place for exploiting the poor consumers through unfair trade practices like adulteration, underweight,
substandard products of goods in short supply.
Hence the Government has come forward to protect the consumers through the Maintenance of
Internal Security Act, MRTP Act, 1969 and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Secondly, the Indian traders did not bother about consumers because there had been a
sellers’ market. Today the market environment for most products has changed. Now it is a buyers’ market.
Unless the consumers are protected against dishonest and unethical business practices, the
long-run business interest will suffer. Now the business community is becoming aware of the social responsibility towards customers.
Thirdly, the consumers are becoming more and more conscious of their rights and legitimate demands.
The present day consumers are not ignorant of the market environment. They are conscious
of customers’ rights and to protect their interest, they form organizations like Consumer
Co-operative and Consumers’ Councils.
Lastly, the consumer burden imposed by the Government is on the increase. On the pretext of fiscal discipline, the tax burdens are increased every year. It has almost become a practice to
announce pre-budget hike in administered prices like petro-products, railway fares and post and telegraph rates. It is quite natural that there will be consumers’ resistance to these additional burdens.
In India consumerism is still in its infancy although the consumers suffer from exaggerated
advertisements, impure quality of products, underweight’s, high prices and artificial scarcity
of many essential articles. There are many hindrances to the growth of a strong consumer movement in India.
First, there is lack of leadership and management. In India, there is no Ralph Nader who can give a dynamic leadership to this movement.
Secondly, the majority of the people are illiterate. They lack consumer education and do not have the necessary consciousness to organize themselves.
Thirdly, India is a vast country and it is very difficult to have quick, effective and regular communication among different parts of the country. Different languages and different
customs of different regions hamper the growth of the movement.
Fourthly, to organize the consumer movement throughout the country needs huge financial
Though some consumer organizations have been set up in different parts of the country, the
movement has yet to gather sufficient strength to become a living force to reckon with.resources. Lack of financial resources is a handicap to the growth of the movement.
Lastly, the attitude of the people is not favorable to the growth of a consumer movement in
India. There is a tendency among the people to look to the ‘Government for protection and
assistance rather than to stand on their own legs and put up resistances. Till recently, apart from the legal measures, the main planks for protecting consumers have
been the public distribution system and consumer co-operative movement. Public distribution system started during the Second World War and it is now in operation in the
case of consumer goods. It covers food grains, sugar, kerosene and controlled cloth.
The fifth Plan proposed to expand the coverage to include pulses and edible oil. It was intended to keep prices in check and to ensure equitable distribution of scarce but basic
foods. The system also helped to check hoarding and black marketing.
The public distribution system does not necessarily improve the distribution of income but
it helps to prevent deterioration in distribution in inflationary conditions. Shortages of essential goods as well as inflation can be highly regressive if a public
distribution system does not prevent serious cuts in the consumption of the poor.
Though the prices of essential items such as cereals bought from the fair price shops havebeen lower than prices in the open market, but the quality is substandard and the quantity
insufficient. The poor are often unable to buy their requirements from the fair price shops
because they do not have cash in hand.
They usually go to private traders who provide credit facility even if it means actually paying a much higher price. Since most of the unfair trade practices are due to shortage in supply, what is needed is a
rapid increase in production of all varieties of consumer goods and quality, price and
distribution would take care of them.
The National Consumer Protection Council under the Chairmanship of the Union Minister
of Civil Supplies and Co-operation has been established to promote and develop consumer
movement throughout the country.
The Council will inform itself fully about Consumers’ problems, collect and disseminate
information relating to consumer matters, assist the state-governments in development of
consumer movement, examine consumer grievances and initiate remedial action and promote
equitable distribution of mass consumption commodities at fair prices.
Object of consumer protection law in India
The principal objective of the Consumer Protection Act is to grant shield for the improved safeguard to consumers. Unlike prevailing laws, which are disciplinary or precautionary in
nature, the provisions of this Act are compensatory in nature. The act is aimed to afford simple,
quick and economical redressal to the consumers’ grievances, and reliefs of a particular nature
and award of damages wherever appropriate to the consumer.
The Consumer Protection Act has been revised in 1993 both to extend its coverage and scope and to augment the powers of the redressal.
Rights of Consumer as Per the Consumer Protection Act 1986
The fundamental rights of consumers as per the Consumer Protection Act are:
1. Right to be shielded against promotion of goods and services which are risky to life and property
2.Right to be conversant regarding the wholesomeness, standard ,quality, quantity, potency, and value of goods, or services so as to shield the buyer against unfair trade practices
3. Right to be ensured, access to range of goods and services at viable prices wherever possible
4. Right to be informed and be ensured that consumers’ benefit will be given due
consideration at appropriate level
5. Right to search for redressal against unjust trade practices or restraining trade
practices or deceitful exploitation of consumers.
6. Right to consumer education.
Authorities under Consumer Protection ACT 1986: District Forum
this forum has power to solve the problems of consumers up to Rs. 500000 at district level.
State govt. has power to make suitable numbers of district forum for protecting the rights of
This forum can be made by district judge and other experienced persons in the field of law and commerce.
Consumer can also appeal to state commission against the decisions of district forum. State
commission has power to solve the problems of consumers from Rs. 500000 to Rs. 2000000.
This commission can be made by state high court judges and 2 experts in the field of commerce
National commission has power to solve all consumers’ disputes and problems more than 2000000 Rs. The chairperson of this commission will be the retired Supreme Court judges
and other 4 experts in the field of commerce and laws and industry. Out of four, it is necessary to include one lady member in the four expert teams.
The remedies available to consumers under this Act are as follows:
(a) Removal of Defects:
If after proper testing the product proves to be defective, then the ‘remove its defects’ order
can be passed by the authority concerned.
(b) Replacement of Goods:
Orders can be passed to replace the defective product by a new non-defective product of
the same type.
(c) Refund of Price;
Orders can be passed to refund the price paid by the complainant for the product.
(d) Award of Compensation:
If because of the negligence of the seller a consumer suffers physical or any other loss, then
compensation for that loss can be demanded for.
(e) Removal of Deficiency in Service:
If there is any deficiency in delivery of service, then orders can be passed to remove that deficiency. For instance, if an insurance company makes unnecessary delay in giving final touch to the claim, then under this Act orders can be passed to immediately finalise the claim.
(f) Discontinuance of Unfair/Restrictive Trade Practice:
If a complaint is filed against unfair/restrictive trade practice, then under the Act that practice
can be banned with immediate effect. For instance, if a gas company makes it compulsory for a
consumer to buy gas stove with the gas connection, then this type of restrictive trade practice
can be checked with immediate effect.
(g) Stopping the Sale of Hazardous Goods:
Products which can prove hazardous for life, their sale can be stopped.
(h) Withdrawal of Hazardous Goods from the Market:
On seeing the serious adverse effects of hazardous goods on the consumers, such goods can
be withdrawn from the market. The objective of doing so that such products should not be offered for sale.
(i) Payment of Adequate Cost:
In the end, there is a provision in this Act that the trader should pay adequate cost to the
victim concerned. How to file complaint under Consumer Protection Act 1986 and Amendment Act 2002, who can file complaint? Consumer complaints are increasing day by day either due to the deficiency in providing services
or selling defective goods. Many of the traders have only one intention to just earn money by selling goods of any brand and they won’t listen to the customer after selling the product. Especially
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30in computer products the sellers are adopting different methods to earn profit. If the customer is
not aware about the full configuration of the project, they may get inferior quality goods of
lower grade items. After sales the trader will turn down the request of customer by showing one
or another reason. Such practice is there in sale and service of many other products. The customers
try once or twice to get solution and they may ignore it due to the complications in litigation and
proceedings. It is the right of the consumer to get right product for the money they spent. Consumer
Protection Act was passed with an intention to protect the interest of consumers. Any consumer
can approach the forum to seek justice. Procedures in the Consumer forum is time bound and in
normal case the complainant will get relief in short period.
Legal provisions in the Consumer Protection Act regarding manner of making
complaint, the person who can file complaint, Fee for filing complaint, procedure on
admission of complaint, findings of the forum and Order by forum as under:
Who can file a Complaint – Section 12(1) of Consumer Protection Act
A Complaint in relation to any goods sold or delivered or agreed to be sold or delivered
or any service provided or agreed to be provided may be filed with a District Forum by any of the following:
(a) Consumer to whom such goods are sold or delivered or agreed to be sold
or delivered or such services provided or agreed to be provided;
(b) Any recognized consumer association. Such an association can make a complaint even though the consumer concerned is not its member;
(c) The complaint may also be filed by one or more consumers, where there
are numerous consumers having the same interest, on behalf of, or for the benefit of
all the consumers so interested, with the permission of the District forum;
(d) The complaint may also be filed by the central or the State Government
For the purpose of the aforesaid provision, “recognized consumer association” means
any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or any other law for the time being in force.
Manner of making complaint – Section 12 of Consumer Protection Act
Section 12 has been substituted by the consumer protection (Amendment) Act, 2002. There
are some important changes in the substituted provision. The provisions are:
Complaints to be accompanies by court fee- Section 12(2) of the Consumer Protection
ActEvery complaint to be filed under Consumer Protection Act shall be accompanies
with such amount of fee and payable in such manner as may be prescribed as per the
amendment Act of 2002.Admissibility of Complaint – Section 12(3) of the Consumer
Protection (Amendment) Act 2002Provision with regard to the admissibility of
(i) On receipt of the complaint, the District forum may allow the complaint to be proceeded
with or rejected. Before rejecting the complaint, the complainant has to be provided with
an opportunity to explain his case.
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31(ii) The admissibility of the complaint shall ordinarily be decided within 21 days from the
date on which the complaint was received.
(iii) After the complaint is admitted, it shall be proceeded with in accordance with the
provisions of this Act. The complaint shall be heard by the District Forum which has admitted
the same and shall not be transferred to any other forum or court etc
Procedure on admission of Complaint – Section 13 of Consumer Protection (Amendment)
Act 2002 .
The procedure for admission of complaint under the Act is:
(1) The District Forum shall refer a copy of the admitted
complaint within 21 dayss from the date of admission to the
opposite party, directing him to give his version of the case
within 30 days or such extended period not exceeding 15 days
as may be granted by the District Forum.
(2) After giving due opportunity to the opposite party to
represent his case, the District Forum shall proceed to settle
If the opposite party omits or fails to represent his case within the given time the
District Forum can pass ex parte order.
(4) Every complaint shall be heard as expeditiously as possible. An Endeavour shall be
made to decided the complaint within 3 months from the date of receipt of notice by the
opposite party where the goods do not require any testing, and within 5 months, where any
testing or analysis of the goods is needed.
(5) No adjournments shall be ordinarily allowed unless sufficient cause is shown and
reason for adjournment has been recorded in writing by the forum.
(6) The new sub-section (3-B) to Section 13 enable the District Forum to pass interim order,
as may be deemed just and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.
(7) Substitution of the representation on the death of a party- The sub-section (7) to
Section 13 states that in the event of death of a complainant who is a consumer or of the
opposite party provides for substitution of the parties by their legal representatives according
to the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code.
Findings of the District Forum –Section 14 of the Consumer Protection (Amendment)
If after conducting the proceedings under Section 13, the District Forum is satisfied that
the goods complained against suffer from any of the defects specified in the complaint, or
that any of the allegations contained in the complaint about the services are provided, it
shall order the opposite party to do one or more of the following things, stated in Section 14(1) Namely:
(a) To remove the defect pointed out by the appropriate laboratory from the goods in question;
(b) To replace the goods with new goods or similar description this shall be free from any
(c) To return to the complainant the price or as the case may be the charges paid by the
(d) To pay such amount as may be awarded by it as compensation to the consumer for any
loss or injury suffered by the consumer due to the negligence of the opposite party;
Provided that the District Forum shall have the power to grant punitive damages in such
circumstances as it deems fit;
(e)to remove the defects in the goods or deficiencies in the services in question;
(f) to discontinue the unfair trade practice or the restrictive trade practice or not to
(g) not to offer the hazardous goods for sale;
(h) to withdraw the hazardous goods from being offered for sale;
(j) when the injury has been suffered by a large number of consumers, who are not identifiable conveniently, the opposite party may be required to pay such sum as may be
determined by the Forum;
(i) to cease manufacture of hazardous goods and to desist from offering services which
are hazardous in nature;
(k) to issue corrective advertisement to neutralize the effect of any misleading advertisement;
(l) to provide for adequate costs to parties Ex Parte Order
If the opposite party fails to appear and contest, the District Forum may proceed and pass
an ex parte Order. If sufficient cause is shown for not appearing in the case, an ex parte order may be set aside.