Article 12: Consumer Rights

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December 23, 2018
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Article 12: Consumer Rights

Contents

  1. Consumer Rights
  2. Consumer Rights in India
  3. Consumer Responsibilities
  4. Consumer Rights Vs Responsibilities
  5. Consumer Protection Bill 2018

What is meant by consumer right?

The definition of Consumer right is ‘the right to have information about the quality, potency, quantity, purity, price and standard of goods or services’, as it may be the case, but the consumer is to be protected against any unfair practices of trade. Consumer rights are generally a reference to a body of law that pertains to things the producers of goods must do to protect customers from harm.

Consumer Rights in India

The Department of Consumer affairs administers the policies for Consumer Cooperatives, Monitoring Prices, availability of essential commodities, Consumer Movement in the country and Controlling of statutory bodies like Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS) and Weights and Measures.

Consumer Rights

1. Right to Safety

  • Means right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life and property.
  • The purchased goods and services availed of should not only meet their immediate needs, but also fulfil long term interests.

 2. Right to be Informed

  • Means right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
  • Consumer should insist on getting all the information about the product or service before making a choice or a decision.

3. Right to Choose

  • Means right to be assured, wherever possible of access to variety of goods and services at competitive price.
  • In case of monopolies, it means right to be assured of satisfactory quality and service at a fair price.

4. Right to be Heard

  • Means that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums. It also includes right to be represented in various forums formed to consider the consumer’s welfare.
  • The Consumers should form non-political and non-commercial consumer organizations which can be given representation in various committees formed by the Government and other bodies in matters relating to consumers.

  5. Right to Seek redressal

  • Means right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. It also includes right to fair settlement of the genuine grievances of the consumer.
  • Consumers must make complaint for their genuine grievances.Many a times their complaint may be of small value but its impact on the society as a whole may be very large. They can also take the help of consumer organisations in seeking redressal of their grievances. 

6. Right to Consumer Education

  • Means the right to acquire the knowledge and skill to be an informed consumer throughout life.Ignorance of consumers, particularly of rural consumers, is mainly responsible for their exploitation.
  • They should know their rights and must exercise them. Only then real consumer protection can be achieved with success.

Consumer Responsibilities

1.Ask Yourself!

  • Have you faced any problems as a consumer?
  • Have you ever complained when you have had such a problem?
  • Do you know that you could seek the assistance of a consumer group to protect your interests?

2.Be Critically Aware

  • The responsibility to be more alert and to question more – about prices, about quantity and quality of goods bought and services used.

3. Be Involved

  • The responsibility to be assertive – to ensure that you get a fair deal as a consumer. Remember, if you are passive, you are likely to be exploited.

4. Be Organized

  • The responsibility to join hands and raise voices as consumers; to fight in a collective and to develop the strength and influence to promote and protect consumer interest.

5.Practice Sustainable Consumption

  • The responsibility to be aware of the impact of your consumption on other citizens, especially the disadvantaged or powerless groups; and to consume based on needs – not wants.

6.Be Responsible to the Environment

  • The responsibility to be aware and to understand the environmental consequences of our consumption.
  • We should recognize our individual and social responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect the earth for future generations.

Consumer Rights Vs Responsibilities

Sl.No Rights Responsibility
1 Right to be heard 1. Ensure that the company has provided you the contact details of the consumer grievance handling system and are easily accessible.

2. Avoid purchase of products/services from a company which do not provide

details of the consumer grievance officers to handle consumer grievances

2 Right to Redress 1. Ignoring the loss suffered on purchase of defective goods and services and not filing complaint encourages the corrupt business man to supply low standards or defective goods and services. Therefor file a complaint even for a small loss. File only a genuine complaint.

2. Consumer must file a complaint if not satisfied with the quality of product/services.

3. Claim the penalties/compensation as provided under rules and regulations to ensure that the quality delivery system improves.

4. Study carefully all terms and conditions related to return/replacement of defective goods, refund and warranty policies.

3 Right to Safety 1. While purchasing the goods or services, Consumer must look for standard

quality mark such as ISI, Hallmark, Agmark, ISO, FSSAI , etc.

2. Do not buy any spurious/ fake/duplicate/ hazardous products

4 Right to Consumer Education/ Right to be Informed 1. Do not get carried away by advertisements only or believe on the words of the seller. Consumer must look market reviews/feedback. Similarly inform offers if product and services of companies are of substandard.

2. Consumer must insist on getting complete information on the quality, quantity, utility, price etc. of the product or services.

3. Ask for complete contact details of the consumer grievance mechanism of the company the consumer wish to buy from

5 Right to Choose 1. Access the information available on various alternatives available for the product and services under purchase consideration.

2. Compare specifications, competition and fair prices of the goods and services before finalizing on the purchase

3. Study various feedbacks/reviews of the products/services

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Consumer Protection Bill

Context

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 enforces rights of consumers, and provides for redressal of complaints at the district, state and national level.
  • The Act also recognises offences such as unfair trade practices, which include providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of a good or service, and misleading advertisements.

Highlights of the New Bill, 2018

  • This Bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.  
  • The Bill enforces consumer rights, and provides a mechanism for redressal of complaints regarding defect in goods and deficiency in services.
  • Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions will be set up at the District, State and National levels for adjudicating consumer complaints.  Appeals from the District and State Commissions will be heard at the next level and from the National Commission by the Supreme Court.
  • The Bill sets up a Central Consumer Protection Authority to promote, protect and enforce consumer rights as a class.  It can issue safety notices for goods and services, order refunds, recall goods and rule against misleading advertisements.
  • If a consumer suffers an injury from a defect in a good or a deficiency in service, he may file a claim of product liability against the manufacturer, the seller, or the service provider.
  • The Bill defines contracts as ‘unfair’ if they significantly affect the rights of consumers.  It also defines unfair and restrictive trade practices.
  • The Bill establishes Consumer Protection Councils at the district, state and national levels to render advice on consumer protection.

Key Features

  1. Consumer Complaints:
  • The Bill sets up Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions (consumer courts) to hear complaints on matters like:

(i) defect in goods or deficiency in services;

(ii) unfair or restrictive trade practices;

(iii) excessive pricing;

(iv) knowingly selling goods or providing services that do not meet safety norms; and

(v) product liability. Such complaints can be filed electronically and from where the complainant resides or works.

  • These Commissions will be set up at District, State and National level. In case of unfair contracts, the State Commissions will hear complaints where the value is up to Rs 10 crore, and National Commissions will hear complaints above that value.  
  • Appeals from the District Commissions will be heard by the State Commission, and from the State Commission by the National Commission. Appeals from the National Commission will be heard by the Supreme Court.
  • The Commissions will attempt to dispose a complaint within three months, if the complaint does not require analysis or testing of commodities. If analysis and testing is required, the complaint will be disposed within a period of five months.
  • The District Commissions will consist of a President and at least two members. The State and National Commissions will consist of a President and at least four members.
  • The Commissions may refer a matter for mediation if the parties consent to settle their dispute in this manner.

2. Other Bodies established under the Bill

  1. Central Consumer Protection Authority: The Bill sets up the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect, and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.  
  • It will be headed by a Chief Commissioner and comprise other Commissioners.  It will have an investigation arm headed by a Director General.
  • It may:

(i) issue safety notices;

(ii) pass orders to recall goods, prevent unfair and restrictive trade practices;

(iii) reimburse purchase price paid; and

(iv) impose penalties for false and misleading advertisements.  

  • It may also file complaints before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions
  1. Consumer Protection Councils:
  • The Bill sets up Consumer Protection Councils (CPCs) at the district, state, and national levels as advisory bodies.  
  • The Councils will advise on promotion and protection of consumer rights.  Under the Bill, the Central and State Council will be headed by the Minister-in-charge of Consumer Affairs at the central and state level, respectively.
  • The District Council will be headed by the District Collector.
  1. Product Liability
  • The Bill allows a person to make a claim of product liability against a manufacturer, seller, or service provider for any defect in a product or deficiency in a service.
  • Claim for compensation may be made for any harm caused, including:

(i) property damage;

(ii) personal injury, illness, or death; and

(iii) mental agony or emotional harm accompanying these conditions.

  1. Unfair contracts
  • A contract is said to be unfair if it causes significant change in the rights of the consumer, which include the following:

(i) requiring excessive security deposits;

(ii) imposing a disproportionate penalty for a breach in contract;

(iii) refusing to accept early repayment of debts;

(iv) terminating the contract without reasonable cause;

(v) transferring a contract to a third party to the detriment of the consumer without his consent; or

(vi) imposing unreasonable charge or obligations which put the consumer at a disadvantage.

  • The State and National Commissions may determine if the terms of a contract are unfair and declare such terms to be null and void.
  1. Unfair and restrictive trade practices
  • An unfair trade practice includes:

(i) making a false statement regarding the quality or standard of a good or service;

(ii) selling of goods not complying with standards;

(iii) manufacture of spurious goods;

(iv) non-issuance of a receipt for a good or service sold;

(v) refusing to withdraw or refund goods or services within 30 days; or

(vi) disclosing personal information provided by a consumer to any other person.

  • A restrictive trade practice is one that imposes unjustified costs or restrictions on consumers, including:

(i) delays in supply that lead to increase in price; and

(ii) requiring purchase of certain goods or services as a condition for procuring any other goods or services.

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Comparison of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

Provision 1986 Act 2018 Bill
Ambit of law
  • All goods and services for consideration.
  • Free and personal services are excluded.
  • All goods and services, including telecom and housing construction, and all modes of transactions (online, teleshopping, etc.) for consideration.
  • Free and personal services are excluded.
Unfair trade practices*
  • Includes six types of such practices, like false representation, misleading advertisements.
  • Adds three types of practices to the list, namely: (i) failure to issue a bill or receipt; (ii) refusal to accept a good returned within 30 days; and (iii) disclosure of personal information given in confidence, unless required by law or in public interest.
  • Contests/ lotteries may be notified as not falling under the ambit of unfair trade practices.
Product liability
  • No provision.
  • Claim for product liability can be made against manufacturer, service provider, and seller.
  • Compensation can be obtained by proving one of the several specified conditions in the Bill.
Unfair contracts
  • No provision.
  • Defined as contracts that cause significant change in consumer rights.
  • Lists six contract terms which may be held as unfair.
Central Protection

Councils (CPCs)

  • CPCs promote and protect the rights of consumers.
  • CPCs established at the district, state, and national level.
  • Makes CPCs advisory bodies for promotion and protection of consumer rights.
  • Establishes CPCs at the district, state and national level.
Regulator
  • No provision.
  • Establishes the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect, and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.
  • CCPA may: (i) issue safety notices; (ii) pass orders to recall goods, prevent unfair practices, and reimburse purchase price paid; and (iii) impose penalties for false and misleading advertisements.
Pecuniary jurisdiction

of Commissions

  • District:  Up to Rs 20 lakh.
  • State:  Between Rs 20 lakh and up to Rs one crore.
  • National:  Above Rs one crore.
  • District:  Up to Rs one crore.
  • State:  Between Rs one crore and up to Rs 10 crore.
  • National:  Above Rs 10 crore.
Composition of

Commissions

  • District:  Headed by current or former District Judge and two members.
  • State:  Headed by a current or former High Court Judge and at least two members.
  • National:  Headed by a current or former Supreme Court Judge and at least four members.
  • District:  Headed by a President and at least two members.
  • State:  Headed by a President and at least four members.
  • National:  Headed by a President and at least four members.
Appointment
  • Selection Committee (comprising a judicial member and other officials) will recommend members on the Commissions.
  • No provision for Selection Committee.  Central government will appoint through notification.
Alternate dispute

redressal mechanism

  • No provision.
  • Mediation cells will be attached to the District, State, and National Commissions.
Penalties
  • If a person does not comply with orders of the Commissions, he may face imprisonment between one month and three years or fine between Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000, or both.
  • If a person does not comply with orders of the Commissions, he may face imprisonment up to three years, or a fine not less than Rs 25,000 extendable to Rs one lakh, or both.
E-commerce
  • No provision.
  • Defines direct selling, e-commerce and electronic service provider.
  • The central government may prescribe rules for preventing unfair trade practices in e-commerce and direct selling.

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