Other than basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, consumer consumes a variety of things in their daily lives such as cell phones, digital cameras, soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, among other things. Thus, all of us are consumers in the literal sense of the term. When we buy things from the market as a consumer, we expect value for money, i.e., quality, quantity, right price, information about the mode of use, etc. However, there may be instances where a consumer is cheated.
In such cases, most of us do not know whom to approach to seek redressal. Moreover, a majority of us also are unaware of our “rights” as a consumer and often hesitate to complain or even stand up to unfair practices. We also don’t have the recourse of costly litigation to seek justice and we continue to bear such injustice. This is where consumer forums, which can help you get justice against unfair practices without incurring exorbitant litigation costs, come in. The below article provides basic information about the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, its advantages for consumers, the basic rights of the consumers, and consumer redressal forums among other things.
Consumer Protection Act, 1986
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, was enacted to provide a simpler and quicker redressal to consumer grievances. The Act objective is to promote and protect the interest of consumers against deficiencies and defects in goods or services. It also ensures to secure the rights of a consumer against unfair trade practices, which may be followed by manufacturers and traders.
The agenda of a consumer forum is to provide relief to both parties and demolish long litigation. In a process called ‘informal adjudication’, forum officials converse between the two parties and urge compromise.
The Act levied on all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Union Government and covers all sectors, whether private, public, or cooperative. This Act has provided machinery whereby consumers can file their complaints. These complaints will then be heard by consumer forums with special powers so that action can be taken against erring suppliers and possible compensation is awarded to the consumer for the hardships he/she has undergone.
The consumer, under this law, is not required to deposit huge court fees, which earlier used to deter consumers from approaching the courts. The rigours of court procedures have been replaced with simple procedures as compared to the normal courts, which help in quicker redressal of grievances. The provisions of the Act are compensatory in nature. Please remember, consumer courts provide redress only in cases of products or services for personal use; defects in products used for commercial purposes are not entertained.
Basic rights of consumers include:
- Right to be protected against marketing of goods and services that are hazardous to life and property
- Right to be informed about the quality, quantity, standard, and price of goods or services so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices
- Right to receive assured access, wherever possible, to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices
- Right to be heard and to be ensured that consumer’s interests will receive enough consideration at appropriate forums.
- Right to seek redressal against biased trade practices.
- Right to educate the consumer
Consumer redressal forum
Under the Consumer Protection Act, every district has at least one consumer redressal forum, also known as a consumer court. Here, consumers can get their grievances heard. Above the district, forums are the state commissions. At the top is the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in New Delhi.
A written complaint to the company is taken as proof that it has been informed. The complaint must be backed by copies of bills, prescriptions, and/or other relevant documents, and should have a deadline. Consumers can also complain through a consumer organization. Claims of less than Rs5 lakh should be filed with a district forum, claims of Rs5-Rs20 lakh with the state commission, and claims of more than Rs20 lakh directly with the National Commission.