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The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted for better protection of the interests of consumers. The provisions of the Act came into force with effect from 15/04/1987. Consumer Protection Act imposes strict liability on a manufacturer, in case of supply of defective goods by him, and a service provider, in case of deficiency in rendering of its services.
· Consumer Protection Councils and Consumer Courts: District, State and National Level
The Act mandates establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Centre as well as in each State and District, with a view to promoting consumer awareness.
The Central Council is headed by Minster, In-charge of the Department of Consumer Affairs in the Central Government and the State Councils by the Minister In-charge of the Consumer Affairs in the State Governments.
To provide inexpensive, speedy and summary redressal of consumer disputes, quasi-judicial bodies have been set up in each District and State and at the national level, called the District Forums, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission respectively.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, guarantees the following statutory rights to the consumers-
The right to be protected: it is the duty of the manufacturers and the distributor not to supply any goods to the consumers which fails to comply with the general safety requirements in all circumstances.
Safety standards are published from time to time by the relevant authorities in relation to many types of consumer goods.
2. The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, as the case may be, so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices like false and misleading descriptions about the nature and quality of goods, exaggerated statements about their power or potency, for example, that the hair oil is capable of promoting hair growth or preventing hair loss where there is no such power to an appreciable extent. It may be noted that a victim of unfair trade practices would be able to come before a Consumer Forum only if he is a consumer within the meaning of the Act. Other buyers would have to go to the Monopolies Commission under MRTP Act.
3. The right to choose from a variety of goods and services at competitive prices; For the benefit of the consumers the Central Council has been charged with the responsibility of bringing about the organization of markets and market practices in such a way that all dealers are supplied with a variety of goods for the benefit of the consumers and that the goods with a variety are being offered at competitive prices. It is only then the consumers will have access to variety and will be able to enjoy the benefit of competitive prices.
4. The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer's interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums;
This Right has less to do with buying goods and availing services, and has more to do with the available remedies to an aggrieved consumer.
The right to be heard is not only an important consumer right, it is also a principle of natural justice. The Central Council is charged with the responsibility of assuring to consumers that they would be heard as of right by appropriate forums and consumers will receive due attention and consideration from such forums.
5. The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; The consumers have been given the right to seek redress against restrictive/unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation. The right can be explained clearly by following example - where money was deposited in advance for the supply of a car within two months and the car was actually supplied some time after two months, in such situation retention of money beyond the period of two months is an unfair trade practice and the consumers can claim proper interest on the deposit for the period of delay.
6. The right to consumer education. Consumer education is essentially, the awareness of the rights mentioned above.
Once the people are rendered conscious of their power, they may feel empowered to struggle against exploitation by manufacturers and traders.
The Central Council has been charged with the responsibility to provide to the people proper education in terms of their remedies under the Act.
· What constitute Goods and Services
"Goods" means every kind of moveable property other than actionable claims and money: and includes stock and shares, growing crops, grass, and things attached to or forming part of the land which are agreed to be severed before sale or under the contract of sale:
"Services" means service of any description which is made available to potential [users and includes, but not limited to, the provision of] facilities in connection with banking, Financing insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, board or lodging or both,[housing construction] entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information, but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service;
· Defects and Deficiency
"Defect" means any fault, imperfection or short coming in the quality, quantity, potency, purity or standard which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or[under any contract express or implied or] as is claimed by the trader in any manner whatsoever in relation to any goods;
"Deficiency" means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service;
If there is any defect or deficiency is goods or services, the end consumer has a right to approach the consumer courts under the Consumer Protection Act. However, if someone is not an end consumer but merely a buyer of inputs, they don't have any rights under this act. For instance, a toy make who buys wood from a vendor and then makes toys out of the wood to sell to kids have no protection against the wood vendor under the consumer protection law, although the kids has such rights against the toy maker.