Some of the important ways and means of consumer protection in India are as follows: 1. Lok Adalats 2. Public Interest Litigation (PIL) 3. Redressal Forums 4. Consumer Protection Councils 5. Eco-Mark Scheme 6. National Youth Award on Consumer Protection 7. Publicity Measures 8. Consumer Welfare Fund.
1. Lok Adalats:
In India, Lok Adalats (or public courts) have been constituted in various districts throughout the country to ensure a speedy, effective and economical redressal of consumers’ grievances.
The consumer (or aggrieved party) can directly approach a Lok Adalat with his grievances. At the Lok Adalat, issues are discussed on the spot and decisions are taken thereafter to provide necessary relief to the consumer. For instance, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Indian Railways, etc. hold Lok Adalats from time to time to sort out the grievances of the consumers.
2. Public Interest Litigation (PIL):
It is a means to provide legal representation to unrepresented interests or groups such as the poor, consumers, minorities; environmentalists, etc. Any individual or organisation can approach the court for remedial action against exploitation of consumers, environmental degradation, etc. in the interest of public.
Generally, people belonging to weaker sections of the society don’t have money to go to courts for redressal of complaints such as bonded labour. Any individual or organisation can directly write to the Supreme Court mentioning the urgency y of redressal of such a complaint.
It may be noted that no legal formalities are required to file a public interest litigation. A complaint could be filed even through a Post Card. If the Supreme Court is satisfied, it would take up the matter as a writ petition, i.e., an application seeking Supreme intervention to check any malpractice in public interest.
3. Redressal Forums:
Under the Consumer Protection Act, District Forums, State Commissions and National Commission have been constituted to provide for simple, economical and speedy redressal of consumer grievances.
4. Consumer Protection Councils:
As per provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 1986, Consumer Protection Councils have been set up by the Central and the State Governments. Their purpose is to protect and promote the interests of the consumers. Such councils have also been set up by the State Governments at the district level for providing protection to the consumers against the malpractices of the manufacturers and dealers.
5. Eco-Mark Scheme:
The concept of environment friendly products has gained popularity because of the fear of ecological imbalance. The Central Government has launched the ‘Eco- Mark’ scheme under which a producer can use eco-mark label with the symbol of an earthen pitcher if the products satisfy the conditions laid down regarding the production process and use of environment friendly materials.
The consumer goods included under this scheme are packaging materials, edible oils, toilet soaps, detergents etc. Eco-Mark is indicative of the fact that the product is not harmful or is least harmful to the environment in its production process and disposal of wastes. The Eco-Mark scheme encourages the consumers to consider environmental factors while buying any product.
6. National Youth Award on Consumer Protection:
The Central Government has instituted two annual awards:
(i) National Award on Consumer Protection; and
(ii) National Youth Award on Consumer Protection. The aim of these awards is to encourage the participation of youth in the field of consumer protection. Such an award has also been instituted for women to recognise outstanding work done by them in the area of consumer protection.
7. Publicity Measures:
The Government gives adequate publicity to the measures for consumer protection through print and electronic media. All India Radio and Doordarshan carry out several programs for the education of consumers. The government has also made a number of documentary films for exhibition in the cinema halls. It publishes a quarterly journal entitled Upabhokta Jagaran and has also issued several brochures on topics of interest to the consumers.
8. Consumer Welfare Fund:
The central government has created a Consumer Welfare Fund to which amounts of excess excise and custom duties which are not refundable to importers are deposited. The money from this fund is used for the welfare of consumers.
The fund is mainly utilised to perform following activities:
(a) Centralised production and distribution of literature and audio-visual material for spreading consumer literacy.
(b) Setting up centres for training and research in consumer education.
(c) Funding of community based rural awareness projects.
(d) Setting up consumer guidance bureaus to handle the complaints of consumers.
(e) Setting up consumer testing laboratories.
(f) Building up of institutional facilities for organising consumer education at district level.