Consumer Protection in India- Empowering the Indian Consumer
Who is a consumer?
Consumer Protection Act 2019 section 2(1)(d) says that , a Consumer is someone 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 any commercial purpose; or
(ii) hires or avails of any service 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 service 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 service for any commercial purpose.
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Importance of Consumer and Consumer Protection
However, a consumer is the most important element of the whole market. It is the consumer who is the primary determinant of almost everything (demand, popularity, and feedbacks). It has been a long time since ‘Caveat Emptor’ (Let the buyer beware) has become ‘Caveat Venditor’ (Let the seller beware). The market, the sellers, the governments, and even the consumers themselves have realized their importance. Earlier, a limit was there in the market; what was available was the need, consumers had little or no choice. They had to adjust themselves according to what was available, and live for their needs and not wants.
However, the market showed exponential growth in India post-1991 reforms. India was now open to the world. Many Multi-National Corporations entered India and swiftly captured the market. Indian sellers, who earlier had the steering wheel of the market, were now out of the driver’s seat. The competition by the MNCs forced them to improve their product quality, listen to consumer feedback, and bring continuous improvements in their products if they wished to survive in the large Indian market.
This even resulted in many Indian local companies shutting out, as they could not keep up with the rapid pace of the growing market, or because their products were not up to the quality of their international counterparts. This portrays the long journey that has been covered by Indian consumers; from not having many choices, to having everything, offline and online.
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Why Consumer protection?
As explained, the Indian market is now one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world. Along with this, there comes a very large number of products; a variety of brands, and even local competitors. With these products, it becomes important to keep a check on these products that are, goods and services.
The government has to protect its citizens. If the consumers are not aware, or if they are consuming harmful goods, or even if they are dissatisfied with the services that they are availing, the government has given certain rights to all consumers.
This helps create a safe environment in the market place for consumers. This ensures that the consumers, the actual kings of the market, get their redressals for the harm or loss they suffer. It ensures justice for the money or the value that they are spending. Henceforth, consumer rights and consumer protection laws, are highly significant.
Consumer Protection Act, 2019
The act was passed on August 6th, 2019. The Consumer Protection Act of 2019 is considered a landmark in the context of Indian consumers. The act has its new salient features, with more empowerment to the consumers, and somewhat grey areas. Overall, the act has not only broadened the definition of consumers, but also has added much more to the whole concept of consumerism, and conflict resolution.
Consumer protection has finally covered the online market as well. This is a highly essential addition to the whole consumer scenario. The skyrocket in online marketing sales, consumer engagement off physical markets is highly evident. Henceforth, this was the most significant addition to consumer protection.
The act has introduced a new concept- Product liability. It means that the manufacturers, distributors, retailers, can be held liable if an injury is suffered by the consumer. This has given more power to the consumers, and rightfully so. This will make the product manufacturers, product sellers, and even product service providers answerable.
Another salient feature of the act is the fact that misleading advertisements are punishable to the extent of imprisonment. The celebrities endorsing the product may not be punishable but can be barred from further endorsing the product.
Filing of complaints:
Earlier, the complainant had to file complaints in the consumer court of the state where the seller’s office is located. After the act, the complainant can file a complaint in the court where he/she works, or even through online portals.
Establishment of new authority:
There will be a new authority by the name of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), which will have much wider power and jurisdiction. The CCPA will have an investigation wing, headed by a Director-General, which may conduct inquiry or investigation into consumer law violations.
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Overall, the act has covered all the loopholes that were present in the outdated Consumer protection act 1986. Not only has it brought the online market under its ambit, but it also promises to establish a central authority. It has made complaint procedure far more convenient. This henceforth provides for more improvement, and entities that cater services and goods to the consumers have to exercise extra care. Through the new concept of product liability, it is ensured that extreme care is taken at each level and that there is no place for negligence. The act indeed declares “Let the seller beware.”
–Written by Moksh Bhatnagar
(Writer, The Legal State)
– Edited by Mahek Raval
(Editor, The Legal State)