Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Krishnapriya M S
People around India are purchasing different kinds of goods and avail themselves of different kinds of services without being aware of the laws to protect them from being subjected to fraud and malpractices. Even after introducing strengthened measures by the government of India for the protection of consumers through amendments in the consumer protection act and legal metrology rules people are still being cheated by the manufacturers and middlemen. An aware consumer will be capable enough to protect himself from damages through malpractices. The aim of consumer protection laws triumphs only when consumers become enlightened about their rights and duties.
RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF A CONSUMER
From long-established principles of buyer beware we have a balanced shift towards assigning certain aspects on which sellers also should be aware. People should understand the 6 consumer rights that are available for them as per the statute.
1. Right to be protected from the marketing of hazardous products and services.
2. Right to get informed about the quality, purity, quantity, potency standard, and price of goods and services availed.
3. Right to be assured to access goods and services at competitive prices.
4. Right to be heard, that is it assures that the interest of consumers will be considered at an appropriate forum.
5. Right to seek redressal against unfair trade or restrictive trade practice or unscrupulous exploitation of the consumer.
6. Right to consumer awareness.
Consumers have the right to be aware of their duties and responsibilities and to know about the rights that are available to them. This right is one of the basic rights that give access to all other consumer rights available for them. Consumers have certain duties and responsibilities which are required for the proper access to these valuable rights. As they have the right to be heard parallel they have the responsibility to take necessary actions. As they have the right to get informed they also have the responsibility to check the quality, purity, and other standards.
CONSUMER AWARENESS PROGRAMS IN INDIA
“Jago grahak jago “ is one of the most popular initiatives by the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution government of India. Their extensive usage of television advertisements made our common man aware of consumer rights. This television awareness program has played a pivotal role in informing people about MRP and “Best before use” labels. The department of consumer affairs is bound to implement the consumer protection act 2019; the Bureau of Indian standards act 2016, and the legal metrology act 2009.As a part of the integrated grievance redressal mechanism, we have a consumer helpline portal. This portal is established as a part of alternate dispute redressal through which they register complaints that are sent to the concerned authority for solving problems. When this system fails to resolve issues we could approach consumer forums.
The state governments of different governments have their helpline numbers and societies for solving the problem. The government of Tamil Nadu has published a monthly journal “Nugarvor Kavasam".Every ministry has its respective website which gives insight into all the rights available for the consumers. These websites and toll-free numbers give information about the things the people have to take care of.
DISPUTE REDRESSAL COMMISSIONS / FORA
As per the consumer protection act 2019 we have 3 level quasi-judicial bodies for the redressal of consumer grievances, they are:
1. National Commission
2. State Commission
3. District Forum
Each of these 3 commission bodies has its respective pecuniary jurisdiction. District consumer redressal has pecuniary jurisdiction up to 20 lakhs. Above 20 lakhs up to 1 crore the consumer could approach the state commission and above 1 crore the consumer could directly approach the national commission. Other than pecuniary jurisdiction, state and district commission forums have appellate jurisdiction. The respective forums were headed by experienced members including retired high court judges and Supreme Court judges. The pecuniary jurisdiction was raised for the speedy disposal of cases. E-filing procedures could be adopted as per new amendments in the consumer protection act which made the procedure more flexible. As per chapter 3 of the consumer protection act 2019 central consumer protection authority is formed which will have an eye on unfair trade practices, misleading advertisements, and consumer rights.
CHALLENGES FACED BY CONSUMERS
Challenges are increasing day by day for even enlightened consumers. The producers and third parties do marketing tack ticks which make the situation more complicated. But the government had tried to take several steps through new amendments in the consumer protection act 2019. But the enforcement of it becomes difficult, even though consumers could directly approach the consumer forum the complicated laws and interpretations force the consumer to approach a litigant which is costly especially when compared to the loss. There are free alternative dispute resolution steps but due to lack of consumer awareness and lack of confidence over the system leads to a setback. After claiming the compensation the steps to enforce actions are costly and time-consuming.Consumers are still unaware of the importance of being enlightened consumers. Surveys say that of the consumers who hadn’t approached redressal mechanisms out of them 4percent believes the problem is too small to spend the time and cost.This shows the lack of awareness among consumers about the redressal mechanism and the bad impact that it could cause on the economy of our nation.
There had been a constant shift from buyer beware principle to a balance between buyer beware and seller beware principle. This is an ideal concept that could be possible only by the active involvement of buyers to protect themselves. This could be possible by making the buyers aware of the importance of stopping the sellers and third parties from malpractices that significantly could have an economic impact. Failure in reporting the defects will promote the law quality company to do such activities as they earn more than high-quality companies out of it. This problem of consumers being shying away from being active should be addressed. The sincere, hardworking, and innovative producers and third parties could get a better place to do the business. Business innovations are well welcomed but not business tactics.
 The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 ( Act 35 of 2019)  https://consumeraffairs.nic.in(Last Modified June 10, 2021 )  https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/ (Visited on June 10, 2021 )  Manoj Kumar” Emerging dimensions of consumer protection law in India”, 12 RMLNLUJ 144-146 (2020)  The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 ( Act 35 of 2019)  Gareth Downing “Consumers, consumer organization and enforcement agencies; A Three-Pronged Approach to consumer protection” 7 IJCLP 10 (2019)  Gareth Downing “Consumers, consumer organization and enforcement agencies; A Three-Pronged Approach to consumer protection” 7 IJCLP 10 (2019)