PROTECT YOUR CONSUMER RIGHTS
The Consumer Protection Act is an alternative and cheapest remedy already available to the aggrieved persons/consumers by way of civil suit. In the complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act, a consumer is not required to pay any court fees or even process fee.
Every person is a consumer in one way or other. India is a country having potential for hundred of crore consumers. Inspite of being one of the largest consumer country in the World, there was no direct Act in India to protect the interest of the consumers till the year 1986. In 1986, India witnessed a great development in the field of consumer protection, when Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted and finally in the year 1987 it was notified, which led to new era of consumer protection in India..
However, it will be wrong to presume that till 1986, there were no laws in India to protect the interest of the consumers. A number of laws were passed during the British regime concerning consumer interests such as – the Indian Contract Act of 1872, the Sale of Goods Act of 1930, the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, the Usurious Loans Act of 1918, and the Agriculture Procedure (Grading and Marketing Act) of 1937. For a period of long years, the Sale of Goods Act of 1930 [SGA] was the exclusive source of consumer protection in India. After independence, the Indian Government further enacted a number of legislation towards the consumer protection, which includes – the Essential Commodities Act of 1955, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954 and the Standard of Weights and Measures Act of 1976. However, the Indian consumer society experienced a revolution with the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, which was specifically designed to protect consumer interests. The CPA was passed with avowed objectives. It is intended to provide justice which is “less formal, less paper work, less delay and less expense”. The CPA has received wide recognition in India as poor man’s legislation, ensuring easy access to justice.
The CPA simply gives a new dimension to rights that have been recognized and protected since the ancient period. Two and half decades of experience with the operation of the CPA shows its popular acceptance and the legal preference of injured consumers to enforce their rights under it. The CPA commands the consumer’s support because of its cost-effectiveness and user-friendliness. In fact, the CPA creates a sense of legal awareness among the public and at the same time, brings disinterest to approach traditional courts, especially on consumer matters. It has changed the legal mindset of the public and made them think first of their remedies under the CPA, regardless of the nature of their case. The way in which the consumer fora are flooded with cases and the mode in which these cases are being disposed off creates an impression of “judicial populism” in India in the arena of consumer justice.
The greatness of the Consumer Protection Act lies in its flexible legal framework, wider jurisdiction and inexpensive justice. Any consumer can find in the CPA a mixture of principles of torts and contracts. Frankly speaking, the CPA liberalizes the strict traditional rule of standing and empowers consumers to proceed under the CPA. Consumer groups, the central or any state government are all empowered to lodge complaints under the CPA. This liberalization shows the care that has been taken to represent and fight for the cause of weak, indifferent and illiterate consumers. The novelty of the CPA is the inclusion of both goods and services within its ambit. The consumer can bring suit for defective products as well as for deficiency of services. In the event of any deficiency, all services, whether provided by the government or private companies, can be questioned under the CPA. The CPA also liberalized rigid procedural requirements and introduced simple and easy methods of access to justice. To proceed under the CPA, the consumer need only pay a nominal fee and need not send any legal or lawyer notices to the opposite party. A simple letter addressed to the consumer forum draws enough attention to initiate legal action. Another major procedural flexibility is the option the consumer has to engage a lawyer. If the consumer prefers, he can represent himself. The simple measures of action drive consumers to avail themselves of the benefits of the CPA.
The CPA initiated a legal revolution by ushering in the era of consumers and developing a new legal culture among the masses to take recourse under the CPA regardless of their grievance. A written complaint, as amended by Consumer Protection (Amendment) 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.
The Consumer Protection Act is an alternative and cheapest remedy already available to the aggrieved persons/consumers by way of civil suit. In the complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act, a consumer is not
required to pay any court fees or even process fee.
Proceedings are summary in nature and endeavour is made to grant relief to the parties in the quickest possible time keeping in mind the spirit of the Act, which provides for disposal of the cases within possible time schedule prescribed under the Act.
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.
Consumer protection is always a matter of great concern. With easy access to justice, the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 has brought a legal revolution to India as a result of its cost-effective mechanisms and popular support. It is the result of this revolutionary legislation that as on day more than ten lakhs cases have been filed in different consumer courts across the country and lakhs of consumers have achieved success through consumer courts. Now every consumer is armed with a beneficiary legislation, therefore, it is the moral duty of each and every consumer to protect not only his/her interest, but to educate other consumers about their right and to teach a lesson to those who wants to exploite consumer.