Consumer Protection in India
The consumer movement in India is a recent development. A bill to protect the interests of the consumers was passed by Parliament in 1986. The Act, known as the Consumer Protection Act, gives the aggrieved consumer an opportunity to redress his grievance. It provides for the consumers protection council at the central and state levels to establish the rights of the consumers. There is also a provision in the District Forums at the district level, the State Commissions at the state level and the National Commission in New Delhi.
According to a booklet published by the Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies, “If the cost of the goods or Services and compensation asked for is less than one lakh rupees, the complaint can be filed in the District Forum, which has been notified by the State Government for the district where the cause of action has arisen or where the opposite party resides.” If the amount is more than a lakh, but less than ten lakh, the complaint can be filed before the State Commission. If it exceeds ten lakh the complaint can be filed before the National Commission.
The procedure for filing the complaint is simple and cl speedy. It does not require the payment of any fee. It can be presented in person by complaint or by his authorized agent or it can be sent by post.
In December 1986, some consumer protection Acts namely the Essential Commodities Act (1954), the Drug and Cosmetics Act (1940), the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act (969) and the Agriculture Produce (Grading and Marking) Act (1985) were amended to enable, the consumers and registered consumer organisation to file complaints. This has strengthened the rights of the consumers.
On 21 June 1993, the government of India issued an ordinance-to amend the Consumer Protection Act, giving more rights to the consumer and the Forums.
The majority of the consumers in our country are in a pathetic plight. They are often forced to buy adulterated provisions. These are not properly weighed or measured. According to the Malta Committee, inaccurate weights and measures bring about a loss of Rs. 170 crore a year to the consumers in cities. The farmers incur a loss of Rs. 150 crore by such a fault. By under-weighing atone, the consumers lose Rs.3,000 crore annually. At times, bills are not issued to the consumers.
Very often, the prices marked on the products and those mentioned in the bills do not match. Old stock is sold at new prices. Glittering advertisements hoodwink the consumers. The consumers themselves should take the initiative to form Vigilance Committees in very village. They should remain watchful to find out the black-marketing, hoarding, profiteering and such other malpractices committed by the dealers. The members of the Committee should report all cases–to the officers concerned for suitable action against them.
The people living in urban areas are now aware of their rights as consumers. The number of cases filed in the forums is increasing. The majority of them are from the people in the above areas.
The people living in rural areas have to be enlightened on the rights of the consumers. Now there are more than 500–voluntary consumer organisations doing consumer protection work in the country. We hope, with the help of these organizations the consumers living in rural areas will file complaints to redress their grievances.