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Rights of Consumers

Consumer Protection Act (1986):

The Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 1986 with the objective of providing better protection of consumers’ interests. The Act provides for effective safeguards to consumers against various types of exploitation and unfair dealings.

The Act lays down the rights of the consumers and also provides for the promotion and protection of the rights of the consumers. It creates an alternative disputes resolution mechanism exclusively for consumers.

The salient features of the Act are as follows:

  1. The Act enshrines six rights of consumers, namely, right to safety, right to be informed, right to choose, right to be heard, right to seek redressal, and right to consumer education.
  2. The provisions of the Act are in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force.
  3. It is an umbrella legislation covering all goods and services, but excluding transactions not involving consumers from the purview of the Act.
  4. Goods are those which are manufactured or produced and sold to consumers through wholesalers and retailers. Services are in the nature of transport, telephone, electricity, housing, banking, insurance, medical treatment, etc.
  5. The Act applies to private, public and cooperative sectors.
  6. A consumer can seek redressal against any manufacturer and trader of goods/service provider, so long as the goods purchased or service availed of was for a consideration.
  7. The Act provides for simple, inexpensive and timely redressal of consumer complaints.
  8. The provisions of the Act are not only compensatory in nature but also preventive and punitive in character.
  9. The Act provides for establishing a three-tier consumer dispute redressal machinery at the national, state and district levels commonly known as National Commission, State Commission and District Forum respectively.
  10. A written complaint can be filed before the District Consumer Forum for pecuniary value of upto twenty lakh rupees, State Commission for value upto one crore rupees and the National Commission for value above one crore rupees, in respect of defects in goods and or deficiency in service. The service can be of any description and the illustrations given above are only indicative. However, no complaint can be filed for alleged deficiency in any service that is rendered free of charge or under a contract of personal service.
  11. If a consumer is not satisfied with the decision of a District Forum, he can appeal to the State Commission. Against the order of the State Commission, a consumer can approach the National Commission.
  12. The remedy under the Act is an alternative in addition to that already available to the aggrieved persons/consumers by way of civil suit. In the complaint/appeal/petition submitted under the Act, a consumer is not required to pay any court fees; only a nominal fee is required.
  13. The Act also provides for setting up of Consumer Protection Councils at the Central, State and District levels, which are advisory bodies to promote and protect the rights of the consumers.

Rights Under the Act:

The rights of consumers provided under the Act are explained below:
  1. Right to Safety: It is the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
  2. Right to Information: It is the right of consumers to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, with a view to protecting the consumer against unfair trade practices.
  3. Right to Choose: The right to choose can be made meaningful by ensuring access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
  4. Right to Represent: It is right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
  5. Right to Redressal: It is a right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.
  6. Right to Education: The right to consumer education is a right which ensures that consumers are informed about the practices prevalent in the market and the remedies available to them.

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