‘’JAGO GRAHAK JAGO’’ Everyone must have surely heard and seen this famous tagline while watching advertisements on Televisions, Video or Audio campaigns or through Print Media. Itis a consumer awareness programme from Ministry of Consumer Affairs by Government of India.
In, India, the law on consumer protection is contained in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The importance of consumer courts dealt through this Act has been increased day by day as transactions in goods or services are done by many consumers these days (also known as customers). And the consumers have become more aware of their rights. Thus, some reasons and objects are mentioned below as to why Consumer Protection Act came into major role play:
- The consumers wanted the right to be protected against marketing of goods which are hazardous of life and property.
- The consumers wanted to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices
- The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
- The right of consumer education was also the need for them.
Hence, a responsible citizen must have complete knowledge at least about those laws which are useful for him or in which he deals with the issues involved in his daily life. Such one example is of Consumer Protection Act, 1986, because today everyone keeps on purchasing goods/services as per his needs and demands. As said, a consumer must be well aware of his rights and duties, he must have complete knowledge about this statute to be a fully informed citizen so that no one could victimize a consumer.
- HOW THE SYSTEM OF CONSUMER COMPLAINT WAS STARTED-
With the emergence of the culture of consumerism, the concept of consumer protection has emerged as a protective umbrella. Some astray examples of consumer protection cannot be ruled out in early days through fixation of ‘just price’ or law providing for elaborate injunction for ensuring fair prices, precise weights, accurate measures and fair dealing. Such measures are to be found in Kautilya’s Arthasastra and examples of the fixation of low prices of consumer goods could be found during the regime of Allaudin Khilji. The delay in development of consumer protection was affected by the common law doctrine of ‘’ Caveat Emptor’’(let the buyer beware). This doctrine allowed the seller to disown his responsibility and buyer was held responsible for his negligence in choosing the purchased goods. Today, it has been replaced by the other maxim ‘’ Let the seller beware’’.
- WHO IS A CONSUMER-
According to Section 2(1)(d) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 a Consumer means:
- Any person who buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or any system of deferred payment and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration or promised or partly paid or partly promised or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose, or
- Any person who hires or avails of any services for a consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised or under any system of deferred payment and includes any beneficiary of such 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
- RIGHTS OF A CONSUMER-
As we know consumer is the backbone of the economy. Consumers Rights are to be protected. Thus, the rights of the consumers are as follows:.
- RIGHT TO SAFETY:
The purchased goods and services availed should meet their immediate needs and must also fulfill long term interests. Consumers must be protected against goods and services which are hazardous to life.
- RIGHT TO BE INFORMED:
The consumer must be informed about the quality, potency, purity, standard and price of goods.
- RIGHT TO CHOOSE:
This right can better exercise in a competitive market where a variety of goods are available at competitive prices which will enable a consumer to check the fair prices.
- RIGHT TO BE HEARD:
It means that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
- RIGHT TO SEEK REDRESSAL:
It means redressal against unfair trade practices. It also includes right to fair settlement of the genuine grievances.
- RIGHT TO CONSUMER EDUCATION:
It means the right to acquire the knowledge and skill to be informed consumer throughout life. Ignorance of consumers, particularly of rural consumers leads to exploitation.
- DUTIES OF A CONSUMER-
- Consumer must ask for guarantee of the products and services before purchasing. Consumers must purchase quality marked products such as ISI, AGMARK etc.
- The consumer’s should form non-political and non-commercial consumer organizations which can be given representation in various committees formed by Government.
- Consumers must make complaint for their genuine grievances even if it is of small value but its impact on the society as a whole may be very large.
- Consumer must ask for bill after every purchase.
- Consumer must use the product as per the instruction of the manufacturer.
- NATURE OF CONSUMER COMPLAINT-
The consumer complaints can be of various types:
Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars also include a consumer complaint.
Service problems billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, internet, electric and gas service or water services include such utilities complaints.
- RETAIL SERVICES:
False advertising and other deceptive practices, defective merchandise, problems with coupons, gift cards failure to deliver includes such complaints.
- PRIZES & LOTTERIES:
If the prize won or lotteries are not been paid when a consumer claimed then also is said to have infringe his rights.
- ONLINE SHOPPING AND CATALOG SALES:
These days’ consumers report various problems, such as undisclosed costs, failure to deliver on time, non-delivery and refusal to honor guarantees.
- TELEPHONE AND MOBILE SERVICES-
A consumer complaint also includes the charges which are to be paid even on toll free numbers, or unauthorized switching off services and misleading offers.
- CREDIT CARDS-
Even the credit cards services includes consumer complaints as unexpected interest rate changes, overcharges etc.
- CUSTOMER SERVICE-
After the purchase of goods, If the seller promises to provide customer service and then denies to do so.
- REDRESSAL AGENCY-
A consumer, any voluntary association registered under the Companies Act, 1956, the Central or state government or one or more consumers where there are numerous consumers having same interest, any person who is a beneficiary of goods/services, legal representatives of deceased consumers, husband or relative of the consumer can file a consumer complaint.
A consumer need not engage the services of any Advocate and can file the complaint by himself by a registered post. No court fee is required while filing the complaint under the Act.
A Complaint shall be instituted in a District Forum(amount up to Rs. 20 lakhs) or State ( Rs. 20 lakhs to Rs. 1 crores) or National Commission ( exceeding 1 crores) within the local limits of whose jurisdiction-
- The opposite party resides or carries on business or has branch office or personally works for gain and the same goes for more than one opposite party.
- Provided that in such a case the permission of either District, state or National commission as the case may be, or the opposite parties who do not reside in such place or carry on business or have branch office or personally works for gain as the case may be, must be obtained, or
- The cause of action
Thus, territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction must be taken care of. A requisite fee must be paid with the complaint which states facts necessary to establish a cause of action and relief claimed. Signature of the complainant or authorization letter any authorized person must be there. Bill of the goods, warranty and guarantee documents and notice to trader to rectify the product, and an affidavit must be attached with the complaint. A minimum 5 copies of complaint is to be filed along with additional copies for each opposite party.
To file a complaint online every consumer must reach at: https://consumerhelpline.gov.in
The Act provides for limitation period of two years from the date of cause of action. In case there is delay in filing the complaint, a consumer must explain the delay which can be condoned by the tribunal.
Through this article, an effort has been made to make the consumer more alert against the unscrupulous traders who think that consumers have no powers if any wrong is done with them. At last but not the least, ‘CONSUMER BEWARE’ is the slogan which must be remembered by every consumer!