How to protect the rights of consumer?

Government of India passed a law on 24th December 1986 to protect the rights of the consumer and this Act may be called the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It extent to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. 

However, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has drafted a fresh consumer protection Bill. In August 2015 the Centre had introduced the Consumer Protection Bill in Lok Sabha to repeal the 30 years old Consumer Protection Act.

"The draft Bill was sent to the law ministry. We had proposed 80-odd amendments in it. So, the law ministry suggested us to bring in a new Bill," Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said at the event organised to commemorate the World Consumer Rights Day. 

The ministry will soon take the Cabinet approval on the fresh draft and hopes to get it passed in the ongoing Parliament session, he said.

Till date there in no finalization of Consumer Protection Bill, 2015. So Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is still governing the consumer rights. 

Who is consumer under Consumer Protection Act?

As per the provision of Section 2 (d) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986

(d)  "Consumer" means any person who -

(i)  buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or

(ii) hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly prom­ised, or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who 'hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person but does not include a person who avails of such services for any commercial purposes;

Explanation.- For the purposes of this clause, “commercial purpose” does not include use by a person of goods bought and used by him and services availed by him exclusively for the purposes of earning his livelihood by means of self-employment; 

What are the consumer Rights?

Six Basic Consumer Rights That Every Consumer Should Be Aware:

Although businessman is aware of his social responsibilities even then we come across many cases of consumer exploitation. That is why government of India provided following rights to all the consumers under the Consumer Protection Act:

  1. Right to Safety
  2. Right to Information
  3. Right to Choice
  4. Right to be Heard or Right to Representation
  5. Right to Seek Redressal
  6. Right to Consumer Education

Right to Safety: As per this right the consumers have the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazard oust life and property, this right is important for safe and secure life. This right includes concern for consumer’s long term interest as well as for their present requirement.

For example: Sometimes the manufacturing defects in pressure cookers, gas cylinders and other electrical appliances may cause loss to life, health and property of customers. This right to safety protects the consumer from sale of such hazardous goods or services.

Right to Information: As per this right the consumer has the right to get information about the quality, quantity, purity, standard and price of goods or service so as to protect himself against the abusive and unfair practices.

Right to Choice: As per this right every consumer has the right to choose the goods or services of his or her likings. The right to choose means an assurance of availability, ability and access to a variety of products and services at competitive price. The producer or supplier or retailer should not force the customer to buy a particular brand only. Consumer should be free to choose the most suitable product from his point of view.

Note: - Competitive price means just or fair price of goods and services.

Right to be Heard or Right to Representation: As per this right the consumer has the right to represent him or to be heard or right to advocate his interest. In case a consumer has been exploited or has any complaint against the product or service then he has the right to be heard and be assured that his/her interest would receive due consideration.

This right includes the right to representation in the government and in other policy making bodies. Under this right the companies must have complaint cells to attend the complaints of customers.

Right to Seek Redressal: As per this right the consumer has the right to get compensation or seek redressal against unfair trade practices or any other exploitation. This right assures justice to consumer against exploitation. The right to redressal includes compensation in the form of money or replacement of goods or repair of defect in the goods as per the satisfaction of consumer. Various redressal forums are set up by the government at national level and state level.

Right to Consumer Education:  It is the right of consumer to acquire the knowledge and skills to be informed to customers. It is easier for literate consumers to know their rights and take actions but this right assures that illiterate consumer can seek information about the existing acts and agencies are set up for their protection.

The government of India has included consumer education in the school curriculum and in various university courses. Government is also making use of media to make the consumers aware of their rights and make wise use of their money.

What are the different remedies available for infringement of consumer rights?

  • Removal of Defects
  • Replacement of Goods
  • Refund of Price
  • Award of Compensation
  • Removal of Deficiency in Service
  • Discontinuance of Unfair/Restrictive Trade Practice

If seller deny to give these remedies to the consumer, then consumer has rights to move the court to protect his/her rights.

Consumer redressal forum:

Under the Consumer Protection Act, every district has at least one consumer redressal forum also called 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.

Claims of less than Rs. 5 lakh should be filed with district forum, claims of Rs. 5-Rs. 20 lakh directly with the state commission, and claims of more than Rs. 20 lakh with the National Commission.

Documents required to file the complaint:

  • Complaint is to be filed within two years of buying the product or using the service.
  • Complaint needs to be in writing. Letters should be sent by registered post, hand-delivered, by email or fax. Don't forget to take an acknowledgment.
  • The complaint should mention the name and address of the person who is complaining and against whom the complaint is being filed. Copies of relevant documents must be enclosed.
  • The consumer must mention details of the problem and the demand on the company for redressal. This could be replacement of the product, removal of the defect, refund of money, or compensation for expenses incurred and for physical/mental torture. Please ensure that the claims are reasonable.
  • You should preserve all bills, receipts and proof of correspondence related to the case. Avoid using voice mail or telephone because such interactions are normally difficult to prove.
  • The complaint can be in any Indian language, but it is better to use English.
  • There is no compulsion to hire a lawyer. Main cost consists of correspondence and travelling to the consumer forum for the hearing
  • Maintain a complete record of the emails and documents sent by you.

Appeal:

Appeal is a legal instrumentality whereby a person not satisfied with the findings of a court has an option to go to a higher court to present his case and seek justice. In the context of consumer forums:

  1. An appeal can be made with the state commission against the order of the district forum within 30 days of the order which is extendable for further 15 days. (Section 15)
  2. An appeal can be made with the National Commission against the order of the state commission within 30 days of the order or within such time as the National Commission allows. (Section 19)
  3. An appeal can be made with the Supreme Court against the order of the National Commission within 30 days of the order or within such time as the Supreme Court allows. (Section 23)

Penalties:

The consumer courts (district court, state commission and National Commission) are given vast powers to enforce their orders. If a defaulter does not appear in court despite notices and reminders, the court may decide the matter in his absence. The forum can sentence the defaulter to a maximum of three years' imprisonment and impose a fine of Rs. 10,000. Forums can issue warrants to produce defaulters in court. They can use the police and revenue departments to enforce orders.

MODEL FORMS OF COMPLAINTAND APPEAL:

MODEL FORMS OF COMPLAINT:

UNDER THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986

Before the Hon'ble District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum at ------------------- OR
Before the Hon'ble State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at ----------------

1. Particulars of complainant:

(a) Full Name:
(b) Complete Address:
(c) Village, Tehsil, City and State:

2. Particulars of the Opposite party:

Opposite party No. 1

(a) Full Name of dealer/shop/Firm/manufacture:
(b) Complete Address:
(c) Village, Tehsil, City and State:

3. Particulars relating to goods/services complained of:

(a) Details of goods/service:

(i) Item of goods with quantum/nature of service:
(ii) Date when goods purchased/service obtained:
(iii) Amount paid as consideration:

(Attach photocopies of bill/voucher/receipt etc.)

(b) Whether the complaint relates to:

(i) Loss or damage as a result of unfair trade practice adopted by the trader:
(ii) One or more defects in goods:
(iii) Deficiency in services:
(iv) Excess price charged by trader (above the price fixed by or under any law for the time being in force of displayed on goods or package containing such goods):

(c) If the complaint relates to (b)(1) above.

Please indicate the nature of unfair trade practice adopted by the trader, such as

- Statement as to the quality etc. of foods sold/service made:
- Sponsorship of goods/dealers:
- Warranty/guarantee with period promised

(attach photocopy of warranty/guarantee card, if any):

- Disparaging of goods of other traders:

(d) If the complaint relates to (b)(ii), nature and extent of defects in goods:

(e) If the complaint relates to (b)(ii), nature and extend of deficiencies in service:

(f) If the complaint relates to (b)(iv), details of price fixed and price charged:

(g) Any other details connect with the complaint (Such as, when defect in goods or deficiency in service was first noticed):

4. Details of attempts made to get the matter complained of settled and result thereof:

(i) Personal negotiations:
(ii) Written communication with trader/opposite party: (attach copies of correspondence)
(iii) Application made to other authorities such as M.R.T.P. Commission.

5. Whether any other law/rules/regulations/procedure applicable:

6. Details of documents/witnesses relied upon to substantiate the complaint.

7. Relief claimed:

(i) To get defects in the goods removed and/or
(ii) To replace the goods with new goods and/or
(iii) To return the price/charges paid
(iv) Compensation claimed for financial loss/injury/interest suffered due to the negligence of the opposite party/parties. (Justify with reasons the extent of compensation claimed for the loss or injury)

8. the Forum/State Commission has jurisdiction to entertain the complaint in view of

(a) Section 11(i)/Sec 17 of the Consumer Protection Act
(b) The extent of amount involved being Rs:
(c) The cause of action having accrued at:

PRAYER

It is, therefore most respectfully prayed that (here give details of prayer) ---------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Through -------------------------------------------------- Authorized.
Representative/Advocate/Voluntary Consumer Association (give here names and addresses)
Place --------------
Date --------------                                                                

COMPLAINANT.

VERIFICATION

I, -------------------------------------- S/o ------------------------------------ resident of -------------------

----------------------------- do solemnly declare and state that the particulars stated above are true to the best of my knowledge and belief and no part thereof is false and nothing material has been concealed therefrom. The annexures are exact copies/translation of their originals. I undertake to pay any sum required for the conducting of test in the laboratory as per the provisions of Sec. 13(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Verified at --------------- this ------------ day of -------------- two thousand and ------------------

DEPONENT.

Enclosure (Mark enclosures as Annexure I, II, III etc.)

1. ---------------------------------------------------
2. ---------------------------------------------------
3. ---------------------------------------------------

MODEL FORM OF APPEAL

Before the Hon'ble Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (State Commission)

At --------------------------------------
(Appellate Jurisdiction)
Memorandum of Appeal No. --------------------------------- Of --------------------

IN THE MATTER OF

Name: -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Full Address: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Village/Tehsil/District: ---------------------------------------------------------------
Versus
Name: -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Full Address: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Village/Tehsil/District: ---------------------------------------------------------------

The humble appeal of Appellant(s) above named most respectfully showed:

1. This appeal is directed under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against the order of the District forum ----------------------------- In application No. ---------------------- of -------------

---------------------- passed on --------------------------- received by the appellant on -------------------------

2. This appeal is filed within the time limit provided under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection

Act, 1986/ This appeal being, barred by limitation, is accompanied by an application for condonation of delay for consideration by the Commission, as per rules ----------------------- of the Consumer Protection Rules of -------------------------------------- State (delete whichever is not applicable).

3. Brief facts of the case are stated hereunder (Please furnish herein the details of the case and the decision of the District Forum):

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. The grounds on which appeal is preferred are stated here under (the grounds should be numbered consecutively without any arguments of narrative):

5. The appellant has not preferred any other appeal against the order impugned herein.

6. PRAYER: It is, therefore, respectfully prayed that your Lordship may be graciously pleased to allow the appeal and set aside/modify the order of the District Forum appealed against.

7. List of enclosures:

1. Certified copy of the order of the District Forum appealed against.
2. Affidavit.
3.--------------------------------------------
4. --------------------------------------------
PLACE: ------------------
DATE: ------------------ SIGNATURE

(To be signed by the Appellant and Authorized Representative/Associate).

Government's role in protecting our consumer rights:
The federal and provincial governments are responsible for protecting consumer rights.

The federal government is responsible for creating marketplaces that are fair, efficient and competitive for producers, traders and consumers. The Office of Consumer Affairs, which is part of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

The federal government is also responsible for the safety of food products. This includes food labelling and advertising. They also inspect food, plants and animals at Indian's borders. The federal government also oversees telecommunications.

The provincial government is responsible for matters, such as the conditions of sale, business practices, public safety and licensing. Services are mainly regulated by provinces or, in some cases, by municipalities. The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is responsible for this.

The author can also be reached at Vinay.pandeycs@gmail.com

 

Guest 
on 27 June 2017
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