The enforcement of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is one of the most critical breakthroughs in the sphere of the consumer protection movement in India. It was a continuous and comprehensive piece of legislation of its time, covering all goods and services. The Act ensures the rights of the consumer and provides for a simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to the consumers and also award compensation, wherever appropriate, to the consumer. An exclusive three-tier redressal system as an alternative to the civil court has been inculcated under the Act, wherein an aggrieved consumer can seek redressal against any defects in the goods purchased or deficiencies in services availed. It also includes restricting unfair trade practices if adopted by the trader of goods or the service provider. In the last thirty years, more than 4.3 million consumer cases were adjudicated and decided by the consumer forum.
Laws Protecting Consumers Under Different Regulations:
1. The Bureau of Indian Standards Act (2016) establishes the Bureau as the National Standards Body of India. Besides containing provisions for establishing voluntary standards, the Act also contains provisions to make compulsory certification regime of any article, process or service which it considers necessary from health, safety, environment, prevention of false practices, security etc. Several enabling provisions have also been made for hallmarking of the precious metal articles as mandatory. This Act allows multiple types of conformity assessment schemes, including Self Declaration of Conformity against any standard which provides simplified options to manufacturers to adhere to the standards and get a certificate of conformity. It authorises the Central Government to appoint any authority, in addition to the BIS, to verify the compliance of products and services to a standard and issue certificate of conformity.
2. The Legal Metrology Act 2009: The Act has come into force on 01.04.2011 and has repealed the Standards of Weights & Measures Act, 1976 & Standards of Weights & Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985. The Act ensures that all weight and measure used for trade or commerce or protection of human health and safety are accurate and secure so that users are guaranteed for correct Weighing and Measurement. The Act also empowers regulatory and enforcement actions for ensuring that the consumer gets the right quantity for which he has paid for.
3. The Essential Commodities Act 1955: The Act empowers the Government to regulate prices, production, supply, distribution etc. of essential commodities for maintaining or increasing their supplies and for securing their equitable distribution and availability at fair prices. Most of the powers under the Act have been delegated by the Central Government to the State Governments in the direction that they shall exercise these powers. Exercising powers under the Act, various Ministries/Departments of the Central Government and State Governments/UT Administrations have issued Control Orders for regulating the production, distribution, pricing etc. and trading of the commodities declared as essential to the public. At present, seven commodities have been retained under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to protect the interests of the consumers, which include farmers, general population and the families below the poverty line.
4. Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSS): It envisages regulation relating to the manufacture, distribution, storage, sale and the import of food articles to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and consumers connected in addition to that. Authority by name Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under this Act for laying down scientific standards for foods articles. This Act was operational read with the notification of Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011 and six Regulations w.e.f the 5 August 2011. The setting of food standards is undertaken through several Scientific Panels and the Scientific Committee of the FSSAI and final approval by the Authority.
5. The Contract Act, 1872 binds people on their promises, which are reduced to writing in a contract. In case of breach of contract, the Act also provides remedies available to parties.
6. The Sale of Goods Act, 1930: It provides for the safeguard and relief to customers in case goods not complying with the expressed conditions and warranty.
7. The Competition Act, 2002, governs Indian competition law. It succeeded in the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969. This Act established the Competition Commission of India to prevent the activities that have an adverse effect on competition in India. It acts as a tool to implement and enforce competition policy and to prevent and punish anti-competitive business methods by firms and unnecessary Government interference in the market. Competition law is equally applicable to writing as well as oral agreement, arrangements between the enterprises or persons.
8. The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act introduced in 1954: This Act controls the drugs-related advertisement in India by prohibiting the advertisements of drugs and remedies that claim to have magical traits and declares it as a cognizable offence. The Act further defines "magic remedy" as any talisman, amulet, mantra, or any other object, which is alleged to have miraculous powers to cure, diagnose, prevent or mitigate disease/illness. It also includes such devices that have the power to influence the structure or the function of an organ in humans or animals. It prohibits advertisements of drugs and remedies have magical properties and makes doing so a cognizable offence.
9. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 governs the import, manufacture, and distribution of drugs in India. The primary aim of this act is to ensure that the drugs and cosmetics are safe for sale in India, and are effective as well as confirm the state quality standards. The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 framed under the Act contain provisions for the different classes of drugs under given schedules, and also lays the guidelines for the storage, sale, display, and prescription of each schedule. It also defines the standards of quality for drugs and defines the term "misbranding". The drug is considered misbranded if it claims to be of more curative/therapeutic value than it is actually. Several times the manufacturer of such a drug may be asked to suspend manufacturing of the drug. The Act also deals with fake and adulterated drugs.