A consumer is considered the real king of the market. The consumer is the one who buys the products for consumption and not for resale or any other commercial purpose. He pays some amount of money to avail these goods and services offered to him.
A Consumer plays a crucial role in changing the market. If there is no consumer, the manufacturer will have no one to provide its services. More often, the consumer is offered contaminated food or uncertified products.
Being an important participant in the market, the rights of the consumer must be protected. Until the commencement of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, India was severely affected by black marketing, food adulteration, inadequate weighing, etc., which affected the well-being of the consumers in the Indian market. Due to these malpractices, the government decided to enact the Consumer Protection Act on 24th December 1986. The main objective of the act was to protect the rights of the consumer.
There are six primary consumer rights defined as per the Consumer Protection Act, 1986:
Right to Safety: The Consumer Protection Act defines this right as protection against goods and services that are ‘dangerous to life and property’. It applies to medicines, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, and automobiles. The Right to safety says that all such products of critical nature to life and property should be carefully tested and validated before being marketed to the consumer. The goods and services purchased by the consumer should not only meet the immediate needs but also fulfil the interests for the long term goal. It is suggested to choose the product holding quality mark.
Right to Information: Right to information says that the consumers have the right to be informed about the quality and quantity of goods sold. They must have the information about the price of product and access to other information about the product that consumer intends to buy. A consumer should get all the information about the goods and services before making a choice. The consumer may now seek the information of the product by filing the complaint under Right to Information Act, 2005 before the appropriate authority.
Right to Choose: The consumer must have the right of choosing the products at competitive prices. Thus, the concept of a competitive market explains that there are many sellers to sell similar products, but it’s the consumer right to choose what they intend to consume and in what quantity. This is done to avoid a monopoly in the market. It also includes the right to choose the basic goods and services.
Right to Seek Redressal: When a consumer is exploited, he/she have the right to file a complaint against the faulty product and approach a consumer court. A consumer court is a forum that hears the criticism and provides justice to the exploited parties. The consumer has the right to be represented in various forums formed for the welfare of the consumer. The Consumer Protection Act defines the three-tier redressal system to execute the right of redressal.
Right to be Heard: The right to heard ensures that if the consumers are dissatisfied with the product purchased, then they can be heard in consumer redressal forums. When a consumer feels exploited, he has the right to approach a consumer court to file his complaint. This right respect the claim made by the consumer and will be duly heard. The said complaint cannot go unheard as it must be addressed within the appropriate time frame. The right to be heard empower consumers to voice their concerns fearlessly and seek justice if exploited.
Right to Consumer Education: Consumers have the right to know all information and should be aware of their rights and responsibilities. Lack of awareness is the major problem in our country, which results in the exploitation of Consumer rights. This information can help them to choose what to purchase, how much to buy and at what price. Consumers are not even aware of the acts protecting them. Unless they are aware of the right, they cannot seek justice when exploited.
Also, in addition to the above mentioned six consumer rights, there are also a few other consumer rights.
Right to file a complaint: The consumers can file a complaint with the District Consumer Commission or State Consumer Commission directly as the Consumer affairs are now framing rules for electronic filing of complaints and payment of fees digitally.
Right to seek compensation: The complainant can now file a case against the manufacturer or seller of a particular product for any loss occurred. This new provision brings e-commerce under the ambit of consumer laws.
Right to seek hearing via video conference: As per the new act of consumer protection, if any of the consumer forwards the application for being present for hearing through video conference, the commission can allow the same.
Right to know the reason for rejection of complaint: No complaint can be rejected by the commission, in fact, as per the act, the commission must decide to admit or reject a complaint within 21 days of the filing of the complaint.
Right to protect the consumer as a class: The complaint which relates to the violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices or misleading advertisement which are prejudicial to the interest of the consumer as a class, the complaint can be filed before the district collector, commissioner of regional office or the authority of Central Consumer for a class action.
Conclusion: The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted in order to protect the rights of the consumer on 24th December 1986. Now, in 2019, this three-decade-old Consumer Protection Act is repealed by new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 in order to enhance consumer rights in the digital economy and expand the scope of consumer grievances with easy process of filing complaints.
The existing legal framework of Consumer protection Act failed to address the emerging issues and new modes of business like telemarketing, multi-level marketing, e- commerce, etc. there was a dire need of a legal framework that gives the regulatorsuo-moto powers.