In our trade centric globalised world the “consumer rights” phrase is used often nowadays, but what are the rights of a consumer? These rights are available to Indian consumers or not?
Consumer rights can be broadly referred as- a body of laws pertaining to things that a producer or seller must do so that no harm to consumers and their property is caused. In order to understand rights of the consumers in a finer way we need to take a look at consumer protection laws of India. On July 8, 2019 diseased Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan who was Minister of Consumer Affairs and Food Distribution at that time, presented a bill in Lower House titled as “The Consumer Protection Bill of 2019” which was consequently passed on 30 July 2019. This act replaced more than three decade old Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
Reason for repealing of previous Consumer Protection Act and its replacement with the new Consumer Protection Act were:
1. Narrow in scope: Old consumer protection act covered only 6 types of unfair trade practices. The new act widens the scope of consumer protect act by adding few more types of unfair trade practices.
2. Slothful grievance redressal mechanism: The previous consumer protection act was not enough to protect all the consumer rights. Under the new Consumer protection Act a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has been set up by the central government to protect and enforce consumer rights. There is also an investigation wing under the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and on the directions of Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) investigation wing can inquire or conduct an investigation in the cases which are related to misleading advertisements, violations of consumer rights, and unfair trade practices.
3. Emergence of e-commerce and advanced business methods: The primary objective of previous consumer protection act was to protect consumer rights however due to introduction of e-commerce and technological advancement modus operandi of businesses has evolved, therefore the enactment of new consumer laws was ineluctable.
Before knowing about rights of the consumers we should first know who a Consumer is according to Consumer Protection Act 2019, sec 2(7) of the said act defines consumer as-any person who buys goods or avails any service for a consideration and includes any user except for the person who has availed such services or goods for the purpose of resale or commercial use and the word consideration covers each and every type of the transactions done through any modes whether offline or online.
Consumer Protection Act 2019 begets total 6 types of consumer rights which are as follows:
- Right to safety
- Right to information
- Right to choice
- Right to be heard
- Right to seek redressal
- Right to consumer education
Right to safety and information: As per Consumer Protection act 2019 every consumer has the right to be protected against marketing of such goods and services which can be hazardous to life and property. Every consumer has a right to know all the information related to a particular product or service such as- quality, quantity, potency and price etc so that a consumer can be protected from any unfair trade practices.
Right to choice: Whenever a consumer wants to buy a product or take a service they always have right to choose. Every consumer should have accessibility to a variety of goods or services additionally at competitive prices so that a consumer can choose from a variety of options as per his requirement.
Right to be heard and seek redressal: If any consumer has any concern or complaint regarding any particular product/service or even company then the consumer’s interests shall be given due deliberation this right helps in encouraging consumers to put forward their concerns and complaints without any fear and hesitation. Consumers can also claimredressal for complaints relating to unfair trade practices and unethical exploitation of consumer at appropriate Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission.
Right to consumer education: As per Consumer Protection Act 2019 every citizen of India has a right to have education about consumer protection as well as about their consumer rights. Government of India in 2005started a consumer awareness program known as “Jaggo Grahak Jaggo!”as the name suggests it was an awareness programto make consumers aware of their consumer rights and it was done through media advertisements, audio/video campaigns and posters etc. While some NGOs also run consumer awareness programs.
Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions (CDRC) is setup at three levels-
- District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (DCDRC)
- State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (SCDRC)
- NationalConsumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC)
A complaint can be filed by any particular consumer in the Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (CDRC) in relation to- defective product or deficiency in service, overcharging and unfair trade practices etc consumers can file their complaints at any appropriate levels of Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission in accordance with other sections of Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the pecuniary jurisdiction of Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (CDRC). The pecuniary jurisdiction of commissions was also raised by the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 the pecuniary limit of three different levels of Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission is as follows:
- In District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission any complaint relating to any particular product or service having a value up to Rs 1 crore can be filed.
- In State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission any complaints relating to any particular product or service which has a value of more than Rs 1 crore can be filed with an upper ceiling of Rs 10 crore.
- In National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission any complaint relating to any particular product or service which exceeds the value of Rs 10 crore can be filed.
If a consumer is not satisfied with the decision given by the commission then they can also appeal to the appellate commissions. Appeals from the District CDRC will be heard at Sate CDRC. Appeals from State CDRC will be heard at National CDRC. The final and the last appeal will be lying in the Supreme Court of India. Moreover complaints for unfair contracts can also be filed with the consumer commissions at State and National levels. Filing a consumer complaint do not involve a prolonged legal process moreover the complaints filed in consumer commission does not stay unresolved for years.