To safeguard consumer rights and interests, the government passed the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (the “Act”). In replacing of the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 is the Consumer Protection Act of 2019. By allowing consumers to engage with the market directly, the Act seeks to promote the welfare of the general public. It includes all products and services provided by the public and private sectors. It is a tool in the hands of the customer to defend their rights as consumers and combat exploitation by producers, merchants, sellers, and service providers.
CONSUMER BENEFITS BY CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 2019
A key piece of legislation was introduced in 2019 called the Consumer Protection Act since it benefits customers. The Act expands the range of protection for consumer rights and interests.
- Unfair Contracts: Under Section 2(46) of the Act, a “unfair contract” is one in which the customer is required to provide an excessive security deposit in order for the contract to be performed. But, by including unfair contracts in the Act, consumers would be able to report such situations and unscrupulous enterprises would be kept under check.
- Territorial Jurisdiction: The Act empowers consumers to make complaints in any jurisdiction where the complainant resides or actively works for a living, which will help consumers get their complaints resolved when their rights have been violated.
- False and Misleading Advertising: The Act defines “false and misleading ads” and imposes severe penalties for such actions or omissions.
- Product Liability: According to this Act’s definition of the term “product liability,” it is the responsibility of the product manufacturer, service provider, or seller to make up for any damages a consumer may have suffered as a result of a defective product they purchased or a subpar service they received.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution and Mediation: The Act gives consumers the option of using mediation and other alternative dispute resolution processes to quickly and successfully resolve consumer problems.
- Electronic Complaint Filing: The Act also enables electronic complaint filing and requests for video conference hearings before the Commission. Therefore, it offers consumers a handy option for airing their complaints.
To guarantee that its residents are given the best protection possible, every nation offers a set of consumer rights. Customers have the right to the necessary information while making purchases of products and services thanks to consumer rights. Manufacturers, merchants, salespeople, and businesspeople may take advantage of customers by deception, unfair business practices, etc. even when they are aware of their obligations to the community. Consumer rights give customers protection from these unfair practices and give them the ability to exercise their rights. Under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Indian government offers consumers rights to safeguard their interests.
The Act grants six consumer rights to consumers which are given under Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which are as follows:
- Right to be Protected:
The right to protection shields consumers from being marketed to for dangerous goods and services that endanger both life and property. An electrical appliance, gas cylinder, or other product with a manufacturing flaw may endanger the consumer’s health, life, or property. Consumers have the right to demand the guarantee and quality of the goods before making a purchase under the right to be protected. Selecting an AGMARK or ISI-approved good or product is advised.
- Right to be Informed:
In order to protect consumers from unfair business practices, the right to information mandates that consumers be informed about the quantity, quality, standard, purity, potency, and price of products, goods, and services. Buyers or consumers should be given all the necessary product information by manufacturers or sellers so they can make informed purchasing decisions. The product’s label and container must contain all necessary information, according to the producers.
- Right to Choose:
Customers have the option to purchase a variety of goods, services, or both at reasonable costs because to the right to choose. A fair price is one that is competitive. Consumers cannot be coerced by vendors, retailers, or traders into buying products under a certain brand. Customers are free to select the brand that best suits their needs. The ability to choice insures that good products and services are offered to consumers at reasonable rates in event of a monopoly. It also encompasses the right to fundamental goods and services.
- Right to be Heard:
The consumer’s interests will be heard and taken into account in the proper forum thanks to the right to be heard. The customers will have the necessary tools to voice their concerns in the appropriate place, and their interests will be taken into account. In the event that a vendor engages in unfair business practices, consumers may complain in the proper forums. The relevant forums will provide them with a fair opportunity to vent their complaints. To enforce this right, they might enlist the aid of organisations created to safeguard consumers.
- Right to Redressal:
Consumers have the right to file complaints against unfair trade practices, restrictive trade practices, or dishonest consumer exploitation. It also covers the right to a just settlement of a customer’s complaints. When consumers have a justified complaint, they may file one. Also, they can seek resolutions to their issues with the assistance of numerous consumer organisations. Depending on the consumer’s complaint, compensation may take the form of cash, the repair of defective items, or the replacement of goods.
- Right to Consumer Education:
Consumers have the right to consumer education, which mandates that they are informed of their rights to prevent exploitation. The consumer has the right to get the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed purchasing decisions under this right. Customers can take action when they are aware of their rights, existing laws, and organisations set up to defend them. Also, the government has incorporated consumer education into university and school curricula.
IMPORTANCE OF CONSUMER RIGHTS
Many consumers lament the polluted or subpar items, goods, or services they receive after paying full price. Consumers’ health may be harmed by such products. Therefore, the government places a high priority on protecting consumers. In order to protect their interests, the government has acknowledged specific consumer rights.
The Act grants specific consumer rights to persons in order to prevent manufacturers or sellers from defrauding them and to safeguard consumers against fraud or exploitation. To avoid loss or harm, consumers must take steps to purchase the proper things at the right price. Knowing your rights as a consumer is crucial for enforcing them and obtaining the proper redress or compensation. Under the Act, consumers can submit complaints and be paid for getting contaminated or poor products. Speaking out about shortcomings in services and goods is encouraged and protected. When producers, sellers, and traders participate in illegal trade, it safeguards consumers.
Consumers have obligations to other consumers and members of society, and they should support them in their efforts to combat unfair business practices and raise public knowledge of consumer rights. Several initiatives have been taken by both government and non-government organisations to safeguard consumer interests. Only when consumers are aware of their obligations and take steps to protect their interests will these efforts be fruitful and able to end the exploitation of consumers. The consumers’ responsibilities are not expressly mentioned in the Act but they can be derived from its objectives of it which are as follows:
- Responsibility to be Aware:
Before buying goods and services, customers should consider their safety and quality. Users must obtain information about the product’s pricing, quality, standard, and other factors rather than blindly trusting the seller.
- Responsibility to Think Independently:
Consumers ought to be aware of their needs and wants. People must exercise judgement and refuse to accept a product or service’s quality or standard at face value. Individuals must exercise independence in their decision-making and avoid succumbing to vendor pressure when purchasing goods.
- Responsibility to Speak Out:
Even when the loss is minimal, consumers should air their grievances and report contaminated or subpar goods. When customers remain silent about the harm they experienced and do not lodge a complaint, businessmen are encouraged to engage in unfair trade practices and produce inadequate products.
- Responsibility to Complain:
When consumers are unhappy with the products or services, it is their duty to complain to the manufacturers or sellers. Consumer rights can only be enforced when consumers take responsibility and utilise them.
- Responsibility to be an Ethical Consumer:
Customers must act morally and fairly, refraining from accusing sellers or producers of fraud for purely private motives. They shouldn’t use dishonest tactics themselves. Any illicit trading, stockpiling, black marketing, etc., should be discouraged.
- Responsibility to be Quality Conscious:
When consumers stop compromising on the quality of items, the issues of duplication, adulteration, and inferior products can be solved. As a result, customers should be aware of a product’s quality and search for goods bearing the Agmark, ISI mark, etc.
In order to defend and uphold consumer rights, the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 calls for the creation of Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, also known as Consumer Tribunals or Consumer Forums. For prompt resolution of consumer complaints, the Act calls for the establishment of redressal organisations at the district, state, and national levels.
In cases where the cost of the products or services is less than Rs. 1 crore (Section 34 Consumer Protection Act, 2019), the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, also known as the District Commission, handles the complaints. The State Commission handles complaints where the cost of the products or services is greater than Rs. 1 crore but less than Rs. 10 crore as well as appeals from decisions made by the District Commission (Section 47 Consumer Protection Act, 2019). When the cost of the products and services exceeds Rs. 10 crore, the National Commission takes complaints into consideration (Section 58 Consumer Protection Act, 2019).
When a complaint is submitted to the District Commission, the Commission will provide consumers and sellers, manufacturers, and companies a chance to be heard, gather their testimony and then issue an order or judgement. When there is a product problem, the Consumer Redressal Commissions may offer the following compensation to consumers:
- Issue a refund of the purchase price;
- Pay compensation (cash) for costs, damages, or inconveniences;
- Withdraw the sale of the products or goods entirely;
- Discontinue or not repeat unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices;
- Issue the correct advertisement in place of the earlier misrepresented advertisement.
The government has implemented a number of initiatives to raise consumer knowledge and enable consumers to exercise their legal rights. Consumers have certain rights under the Consumer Protection Act, which shields them from deceptive business practices and financial losses brought on by the selling of adulterated, subpar, or defective goods. To stop manufacturers or sellers from defrauding the public, consumers must uphold their rights and take charge of submitting complaints against them.
Nestle India v. The Food Safety and Standards Authority:
The issue of Maggie Instant Noodles in Uttar Pradesh was caused by the presence of lead above the allowable limit of 2.5 ppm, misleading labelling, and mislabeled products. The Consumer Protection Act of 1986, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954, the Food Safety and Standard Act of 2006, and the Competition Act of 2002 were relevant to the case. The FSSAI never provided an explanation for how the infractions were allowed to occur on such a wide scale, and Nestle never disclosed the list of contraband items. The matter took a turn when the FSSAI asserted that it had just issued a show-cause notice and had never actually banned Nestle’s instant noodles. The company has experienced a significant financial loss for the first time in seventeen years as a result of the ban.
Shri Apurba Konar v. Kolkata and Others:
The opposing party in this case had to leave for Katwa Junction to catch a train, but when he got to the station, he discovered that platform 2 was where he needed to board the train. He attempted to cross the tracks, but his right leg became stuck between a boulder and the train track, causing him to fall and sustain a crack in his leg. He filed a complaint with the Calcutta Disputes Redressal Commission, requesting Rs. 3 lakhs in compensation, Rs. 18,900 for medical treatment costs, Rs. 2,000 towards litigation fees, and Rs. 1 lakh towards compensation. The District Forum approved the assurance, but the Railway Authority argued that the claim did not fall under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act and should instead be appealed to the Railway Tribunal. The court dismissed the claims and revoked the decisions made by the State Commission and District Forum, providing a clear understanding of the court’s jurisdiction and the consequences of filing a complaint with the incorrect body.
National Insurance Company Ltd. v Hindustan Safety Glass Works Ltd:
The Honorable Supreme Court ruled that when there is a dispute involving a customer, the court must take a compelling stance in favour of the consumer’s rights primarily because they are the ones who suffer when compared to the provider of goods or services. Hindustan Safety Glass Works Ltd., the respondent, had two policies with the appellant National Insurance Company for a year starting on August 29, 1990. On August 6, 1992, severe rains caused rainwater to accumulate both inside and outside the factory, causing a significant loss. The National Insurance appointed NT Kothari as the surveyor, but he presented a report suggesting a loss of Rs. 24 lakh. The insured decreased the damage to roughly Rs. 26 lakh, but the National Insurance received nothing. The Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the spirit of the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, which prohibits the interpretation of the Act’s practical limitation provisions in a way that disadvantages consumers or deprives them of their legal rights.
M. K. Gupta v. Lucknow Development Authority:
M.K. Gupta had reserved a flat with the Lucknow Development Authority, but due to a variety of circumstances, the delivery of the flat was delayed. He filed a complaint with the relevant consumer forum, arguing that building activities did not fall under the umbrella of services. The court ruled that the term “consumer” has a broad definition and can refer to a wide range of entities, including businesses, stores, and other establishments. The primary clause, the inclusive clause, and the exclusive clause are the three sections that make up the definition of service, which covers a variety of consumer-accessible services. The act of constructing houses comes under the clause of providing services since it includes various activities like allotting houses, building sites, constructing houses etc. and in return, the builder gets the appropriate monetary benefit. Therefore, anybody who applies for the allocation of a building or an apartment and enters into a contract with any authority, builder, or contractor becomes a potential user and has his transaction covered under the category of “Service of any Description”.
National Seeds Corporation v. M. Madhusudan Reddy:
The Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act must be interpreted in conjunction with all other provisions and not as a negation of any currently in effect laws. The appellant should have sought arbitration under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, and the District Forum lacked the authority to hear the issue. The court denied the appellant’s appeal and ordered them to pay the respondents Rs 25,000 in costs.
Governments must step in to defend consumers’ interests when the prevalence of deceptive practices and market irregularities increases by recognising and upholding their rights under a number of legal instruments, including consumer protection legislation. The objective of developing a law that seeks to protect consumers and their movement in the market will be more successfully achieved with the combined participation of buyers, sellers, the government, and other state actors.
The updated Consumer Protection Act of 2019 provides consumers with a wide range of advantages and rights to safeguard them against unfair business practices, false or misleading advertising, etc. The Act gives customers the option to use mediation and other alternative dispute resolution processes so that the parties can choose a quick and efficient resolution of their issues. The Act’s inclusion of e-complaints and e-consumers shows that certain members of the legislature were forward-thinking. Additionally, the Act added new concepts like “product responsibility” and “unfair contracts,” broadening the extent of protection for consumers’ rights and enabling them to complain when those rights have been infringed. By including the requirements in this, the 1986 Consumer Protection Act’s gaps are filled. The Act’s passage was crucial because it expanded the scope of the nation’s consumer rights protections.