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Consumer Protection Law
One significant accomplishment of the Indian consumer movement is the Consumer Protection Act. After extensive research into consumer protection laws in other nations and engagement with consumers, businesses, and industry organizations, the Act was passed in 1986. In 1993, the Act was revised to expand its application and scope and to provide the redressal system more authority.
This Act's primary goal is a more substantial level of consumer protection. The provisions of this Act are compensating in character, in contrast to current punitive or preventative laws. This implies that a customer can seek a replacement for a defective item or a refund of their purchase price. The buyer may also be entitled to compensation for any losses he or she has as a result of faulty goods. The Act aims to offer a straightforward, quick, and affordable means of resolving the complaints of consumers. The Act protects specific consumer rights.
To promote and defend these rights, it also stipulates the creation of Consumer Protection Councils at the federal, state, and local levels. It will be essential to be aware of the critical elements of this Act before attempting to explain these rights. These were −
The Act applies to all goods and services unless specially exempted by the Central Government.
It covers all sectors, whether private, public, or cooperative.
The provisions of the Act are compensatory.
Six Rights in the Consumer Protection Act
The Consumer Protection Act enshrines six rights of the consumers. These are the Right to Safety, Information, Choice, Be Heard, Redressal, and Consumer Education.
Right to Safety
The right to safety refers to the ability to avoid being marketed products and services that pose a threat to one's life, health, or property. The products (or services) must be acquired to satisfy safety requirements. Unsafe items, hidden risks associated with product functionality, and subpar services are all issues. After purchase, the customer also wants assurance about quality, dependability, performance, and the absence of dangerous chemicals.
Remember that the Right to Safety does not merely apply to the product's quality at purchase. Products should satisfy consumers' long-term demands in terms of safety. Hence, buyers should insist on both the product quality and the guarantee of the goods and services before purchasing. The concept of the right to safety has expanded to include a better quality of life.
Environmental issues impact the health and quality of life of customers. The results of careless industrialization include food, water, air, and noise pollution. Hence, corporate investment decisions must protect the quality of community life by preventing or lessening the negative consequences of air, water, and food pollution.
Right to be Informed
In order to protect consumers from unfair business practices, this right refers to the right to information about the quality, quantity, potency, performance, purity, ingredients, standard, and price of goods and services, as applicable. It also refers to the right to receive the information required to make an informed choice or decision. In other words, the customer might insist on learning everything there is to know about the good or service before choosing or deciding.
For consumers to make informed decisions and receive the most value for their money, the manufacturer or trader is responsible for giving appropriate, accurate, and current information on such crucial product attributes. Beyond preventing deceit and safeguarding against deceptive advertising, labeling, or other activities, the right to information has evolved. It is essential to arm consumers with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions and avoid becoming victims of high-pressure sales tactics.
Right to Choose
This Right refers to always having access to a wide range of items at reasonable rates. In other words, a customer has the right to purchase a product of his or her choosing and to be satisfied with some of the options accessible in terms of product quality and cost. Customers should be given access to the broadest possible choices of high-quality brand names at reasonable rates. The freedom to select suggests that there is no monopoly.
This Right involves assurance of adequate quality and service at a reasonable price when a particular product is produced by just one manufacturer or a monopoly product. Customers must be free to purchase products, exercise options, select a particular brand, and determine the amount. The causes limiting the consumer's freedom of choice include cartel movement, price-fixing agreements among significant rivals, and seller cooperation.
Poor presentation of products, the reluctance of the shopkeeper to reveal the variety and give comprehensive product information, an inadequate mix of goods, i.e., keeping just those brands which bring high profit to sellers, artificial shortage, black sand marketing are some other instances.
Right to be Heard
The customer has a right to voice his displeasure and to have his complaint considered. This is even more significant. The rights of consumers to safety, information, and choice will be rendered useless if they are denied the opportunity to be heard. The right to representation, sometimes known as the right to be heard, ensures that consumers' views are considered in the proper venues. It also involves the right to be represented in several forums established to take the welfare of consumers into account.
The right to be heard presupposes a legal system, and the government would step in to protect consumer interests. The state and nonprofit organizations are expected to offer virtual platforms to exercise this right. The social responsibility of producers necessitates the establishment of such forums in the form of complaint or customer support departments or wings.
The Government of India established a three-tier quasi-judicial framework (Consumer Forums at the District, State, and National Levels) to resolve consumer complaints and grievances by implementing the Consumer Protection Act. In addition, consumers have begun to establish non-political, non-commercial consumer organizations to represent them in committees established by the government and other authorities to address consumer issues.
Right to Seek Redressal
This right lets people complain about dishonest business practices or deceptive consumer exploitation. It also includes the consumer's right to a just resolution of legitimate complaints. Moreover, it includes the right to compensate for defective products or services. Redressal is the logical step after complaints are heard and a resolution is reached that satisfies both the buyer and the seller.
It is necessary to guarantee harmony between performance and promise, warranty compliance, good services, etc. The successful use of this right depends on the existence of legislation and complaint procedures.
Aside from the quasi-judicial procedure for redressal, manufacturers of products and suppliers of services must also have their method of redressal of grievances. Even if their genuine concern for the needs of the customers and the effectiveness of their complaint procedures may be in doubt, it is encouraging to see that certain public sector undertakings and big manufacturers establish departments for this purpose.
Right to Consumer Education
Only if the customer is informed of his rights can "consumerism" succeed. As a result, the COPRA considers the right to consumer education to be a crucial one. Consumer awareness is the understanding of a consumer's rights and obligations. A customer is required to uphold these rights and obligations. It safeguards the buyer against being taken advantage of by the product's supplier.
The right to consumer education refers to gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to make educated purchasing decisions. By exercising this right, customers are guaranteed access to the market's everyday practices and potential remedies. The media and non-governmental organizations may play a vital role in this regard.
As we have previously shown, the primary cause of their exploitation is customers' ignorance of their rights, mainly rural consumers. If consumers know their rights and options, they may feel empowered to use them freely in the fight against manufacturers' and traders' exploitation of them.
Thus, Consumer Protection Act itself includes the Right to consumer education. Government agencies and administrative bodies established following the Act must educate consumers about their rights and remedies as fully as possible. Only then can successful proper consumer protection be accomplished.
The Consumer Protection Act was passed in 1986 and revised in 1993 to expand its application and scope and provide the redressal system more authority. It protects specific consumer rights, such as the Right to Safety, Information, Choice, Be Heard, Redressal, and Consumer Education, and applies to all goods and services unless specially exempted by the Central Government. It also stipulates the creation of Consumer Protection Councils at the federal, state, and local levels.
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