Consumer Protection in India: Importance, Definition and Government’s Role in Consumer Protection

Importance of Consumer Protection:

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986:

The C.P.A. was passed by the Parliament in 1986 and it came into force from 1987. Its purpose is to protect consumers against defective goods, unsatisfactory services, unfair trade practices, etc.

The Act provides for three tier machinery consisting of District Forum, State Commission and National Commission within a given time frame for disposal of cases. It also provides for the formation of consumer protection councils in every state.

The consumers can file their complaints at the appropriate forum for quick redressal. The complaint may relate to defective refrigerator or T.V. set, non-functional telephone, lack of due car? In medical treatment and so on. It can be filed against the manufacturer, selling organisation or the person who provides the goods and services for a price. Any service or product given free of change is not covered by the Act.

What is Consumer Protection?

Consumer protection implies assurance against anti-consumer trade practices by the producers or traders. Anti-consumer trade practices include adulteration, sub-standard quality, fractional weights and measures, overcharging, misleading, claims in advertisements, etc. Naturally, curbing such practices through legislative and other measures and taking action against the procedures and traders indulging in such practices is the essence of consumer protection.

Rationale of Consumer Protection:

The government policy of economic liberalisation since 1991 has brought welcome changes for the consumers. Entry of private sector including multinational corporations into the production of goods and services has turned sellers’ market into buyers’ market in many areas. The buyer, for example, has now a wide choice in goods like two-wheelers, cars, refrigerators, T.V., cell phones, computers, etc.

But still, the consumer can’t be considered free from the malpractices of the dishonest producers and traders. The rationale of consumer protection lies in the need of saving the consumer from the unfair trade practices and exploitation by the producers and traders.

Some of the unfair practices that justify government’s role in consumer protection are as follows:

(i) The traders may sell goods that do not conform to the claimed standards of quality, size, weight, design, etc.

(ii) The traders may supply inferior or duplicate products to the consumers.

(iii) The goods supplied to the consumers may not be safe for human consumption or use.

(iv) The producers may advertise a low price for the goods on offer. But when one goes to purchase the goods, he ends up paying more than the advertised price because it did not include the price of accessories or other things that are necessary to use the goods.

(v) The consumers may find goods weighing less than the ‘quantity printed on the package. Producers escape responsibility by claiming that the package indeed contained the printed quantity at the time of packing and the loss could be in transit.

(vi) The producers may cause ecological and environmental hazards for the consumers and society by causing water, air and noise pollution.

(vii) Some producers promote goods that are injurious to public health through surrogate advertising. For instance advertisement of a Soda brand may be carried out to promote the sale of liquor with the same brand name.

The consumer seeks protection, advice and information when his rights are adversely affected. The shift from buyer beware to seller beware has increased the role of Government in promoting the consumer’s right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, the right to be heard, the right to redressal and the right to represent.