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Consumer Law: Meaning and Significance
Alisha bought a very basic phone for her brother Mohan. He was going to the nearby big city for a job, so she wanted to keep in touch with him on the phone. Mohan was very delighted to receive the phone as a birthday present, but this happiness did not last for many days. Just as he reached the city, his phone stopped working, and he had to use another phone to talk to his family.
Each one of us is a consumer in one way or another. It is important for us to be aware and informed consumers of the goods and services available to us in the market. The above case is just one of the examples of the many problems that consumers face after purchase, use, and consumption of goods and services. But, very few consumers are aware of their rights given to them by the Consumer Protection Act 2019. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has replaced the Act 1986 and seeks to widen its scope in addressing consumer concerns
What is the meaning of Consumer under Consumer Law?
A consumer is generally understood as a person who uses or consumes goods or avails of any service. Under section 2 (i) (d) of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, a "consumer" is a person who buys any goods or avails services for a consideration that has been paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any scheme of deferred payment. It includes any user of such goods or beneficiary of services if such use is made with the approval of the buyer. It applies to both offline and online transactions made through electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling, or multilevel marketing. However, any person who obtains goods or avails services for resale or commercial purposes is not treated as a consumer and is outside the scope of the Consumer Protection Act 2019.
Rights of Consumers
The basic rights of consumers that are sought to be promoted and protected are −
The right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services that are hazardous to life and property;
The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, or services so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;
The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices;
The right to be heard and to be assured that consumers' interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums;
The right to seek redress against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
The right to consumer education.
Evolution of Consumer Law in India
Earlier, the doctrine of “caveat emptor” that is “Buyer should be aware” before buying a product, and that once goods are sold, the seller is under ‘no liability’ if the consumer had not checked them before buying. This was prevalent in India. So the buyer had to be very cautious before buying a product. Although there were some laws to protect the consumer’s rights, like those given below, they were not adequate.
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act
The Essential Commodities Act
The MRTP Act
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, was a very unique and highly progressive piece of legislation and is called the ‘Magna Carta’ of Indian Consumers.
Significance of Consumer Law
Consumer law safeguard the interests of the consumers. It adopts measures to protect consumers from unethical malpractices by businesses and provide a swift redressal of their grievances with regard to −
Sale of adulterated goods, such as by adding inferior substances to the product being sold.
Sale of counterfeit goods, such as selling a product of lesser value than the real product.
Sale of sub-standard goods, such as products that do not meet the prescribed quality standards.
Sale of duplicate goods.
Black marketing and hoarding that eventually leads to scarcity of the product and well as a rise in the price of the same.
Overcharging a product, i.e., charging a product above its maximum retail price.
Need for Consumer Law
The need for consumer law arises from the need to protect consumers from loss, injury, or other prevailing malpractices and to ensure −
Physical safety of a consumer.
Access to information.
Corporate social responsibility to provide quality and quantity of goods at fair prices.
Social justice and trusteeship.
Survival and growth of businesses.
Legal Protection to Consumers
The Indian legal framework consists of a number of legislations that provide protection to consumers. These include −
The above mentioned are some of the laws or mechanism functioning and fulfilling the objective of consumer protection in India and these are not an exhaustive list and there are many other acts which echo the thoughts of consumer protection and consumer interest.
It can be concluded that Consumers’ interest and protection of their interest is extremely important in an Indian economy and this can be clearly illustrated by the variety of laws that are in existence and are propagating ideas of consumer interest.
And thus, it can be said and concluded that consumer rights, interests, and their protection are not just important with respect to doing justice for the wrong or loss caused to them but also with respect to the growth of a developing economy like India where the growth is required to be a sustainable and qualitative growth which further can accelerate the economic growth of the country. In this respect, it is consumers or customers who play a pivotal role as they are the first to experience the nature of goods or services and by virtue of being daily users of goods or services can easily experience the nature of them and determine the future of whether these goods or services will be able to stand the test of time and continue contributing to the national GDP or the growth of the economy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Who is a consumer?
Ans: A consumer is a person or group who pays to use the goods or services produced by a seller to satisfy his wants.
Q2. What information one should check before buying packed medicines?
Ans: While buying medicines, one should check the information like directions for proper use, information related to its side effects, risks associated with its usage, manufacturing date and expiry date.
Q3. How does right to safety help consumers?
Ans: "Right to safety" means that we as consumers have the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and delivery of services that are hazardous to life and property. Producers and manufacturers should adhere to safety norms while manufacturing goods. There are many goods and services that we purchase that require special attention to safety. For example, pressure cookers have a safety valve that, if defective, can cause a serious accident. The manufacturers should ensure high standards, and the consumers should read all the instructions given on the box of the pressure cooker.
Q4. How does the "right to be informed" help consumers?
Ans: According to this principle, every consumer has the right to be informed about the particulars of the goods and services that they purchase. It is mandatory for the producers to provide complete information regarding their ingredients, date of manufacture, expiration date, etc. to the consumers.
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