Consumer rights and protection in India are safeguarded through various laws and regulations aimed at ensuring fair trade practices, preventing unfair business activities, and protecting the rights and interests of consumers. Read here to learn more.
Consumer rights and protection refer to the rights and measures in place to ensure the well-being, safety, and fair treatment of consumers in the marketplace.
These rights are designed to safeguard consumers from unfair business practices, provide them with accurate information, and empower them to make informed choices.
The need for consumer rights and protection arises from various factors, and these measures contribute to a balanced and ethical marketplace.
- Right to Safety: Consumers have the right to be protected against goods and services that may be hazardous to their health or safety.
- Right to Information: Consumers have the right to receive accurate and complete information about products and services, enabling them to make informed choices.
- Right to Choose: Consumers have the right to choose from a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
- Right to be Heard: Consumers have the right to be heard and to have their grievances addressed by businesses and regulatory authorities.
- Right to Seek redressal: This means the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. It also includes the right to fair settlement of the genuine grievances of the consumer.
- Right to Consumer Education: This means the right to acquire the knowledge and skill to be an informed consumer throughout life. Ignorance of consumers, particularly of rural consumers, is mainly responsible for their exploitation. They should know their rights and must exercise them. Only then real consumer protection can be achieved with success.
- Be Critically Aware: The responsibility to be more alert and to question more – about prices, about quantity and quality of goods bought and services used.
- Be Involved: The responsibility to be assertive – to ensure that you get a fair deal as a consumer. Remember, if you are passive, you are likely to be exploited.
- Be Organized: The responsibility to join hands and raise voices as consumers; to fight in a collective and to develop the strength and influence to promote and protect consumer interest.
- Practice Sustainable Consumption: The responsibility to be aware of the impact of your consumption on other citizens, especially the disadvantaged or powerless groups; and to consume based on needs – not wants.
- Be Responsible to the Environment: The responsibility to be aware and to understand the environmental consequences of our consumption. We should recognize our individual and social responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect the earth for future generations.
Need for Consumer Rights and Protection
- Information Asymmetry: Consumers often lack the same level of information as sellers. This asymmetry can lead to exploitation, and consumer rights ensure access to accurate and transparent information.
- Unfair Trade Practices: Some businesses engage in unfair practices, such as false advertising or misrepresentation. Consumer protection laws are necessary to prevent such practices and hold businesses accountable.
- Product Safety: The safety of products is crucial for consumer well-being. Consumer rights ensure that products meet safety standards, and consumers have the right to seek compensation for harm caused by defective products.
- Redressal Mechanism: Disputes between consumers and businesses are inevitable. Consumer protection laws establish forums and mechanisms for the resolution of these disputes, ensuring fair and efficient redressal.
- Market Competition: Consumer rights contribute to a competitive marketplace by encouraging fair business practices. When consumers are empowered to make choices based on accurate information, businesses are incentivized to improve their products and services.
- Vulnerable Consumers: Certain groups of consumers, such as the elderly, disabled, or economically disadvantaged, may be more vulnerable to exploitation. Consumer protection laws aim to safeguard the interests of these vulnerable groups.
- Globalization and E-commerce: With the rise of globalization and e-commerce, consumers are exposed to a wide range of products and services. Consumer rights become crucial in ensuring the safety and fairness of transactions conducted online and across borders.
- Ethical Business Practices: Consumer rights promote ethical business practices, emphasizing fairness, transparency, and honesty in dealings with consumers.
Legislative framework for consumer rights and protection in India
India celebrates National Consumer Rights Day on 24th December every year to raise awareness about consumer rights and responsibilities. The day commemorates the day when the Consumer Protection Act 1986 received the President’s assent on December 24, 1986.
Consumer Protection Act, 2019:
- The Consumer Protection Act, of 2019 replaced the earlier Consumer Protection Act, of 1986, and it came into effect on July 20, 2020.
- The new act introduces several provisions to enhance consumer rights and strengthen the mechanism for consumer protection.
- It establishes the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect, and enforce consumer rights.
- Consumer forums, also known as Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, are established at the district, state, and national levels to adjudicate consumer disputes.
- Consumers can file complaints at the appropriate forum based on the value of the claim.
Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020
- The new act addresses issues related to e-commerce and provides for the liability of e-commerce entities.
- It regulates direct selling, prevents unfair trade practices, and ensures transparency in e-commerce transactions.
United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection:
- The United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection (UNGCP) are “a valuable set of principles for setting out the main characteristics of effective consumer protection legislation, enforcement institutions and redress systems and for assisting interested Member States in formulating and enforcing domestic and regional laws, rules and regulations that are suitable to their own economic and social and environmental circumstances, as well as promoting international enforcement cooperation among Member States and encouraging the sharing of experiences in consumer protection.“
International Organization for Standardization (ISO):
- ISO develops and publishes international standards, including those related to consumer protection.
- ISO 9001, for example, addresses quality management systems and includes considerations for customer satisfaction and meeting customer needs.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
- The OECD has guidelines and recommendations on consumer protection that member countries are encouraged to adopt.
- The OECD Principles on Consumer Protection in E-commerce guide ensuring fair business practices in online transactions.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD):
- UNCTAD works on issues related to trade, development, and consumer protection.
- UNCTAD’s Consumer Protection Toolkit offers practical guidance for countries seeking to enhance their consumer protection policies.
World Trade Organization (WTO):
- While the WTO primarily focuses on trade-related issues, it recognizes the importance of consumer protection in international trade.
- The WTO agreements acknowledge the need to balance trade interests with consumer protection and public health.
International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN):
- ICPEN is a network of consumer protection authorities from various countries.
- It facilitates cooperation and information exchange among consumer protection agencies globally.
In essence, consumer rights and protection are essential for creating a fair, transparent, and responsible marketplace where consumers can confidently make choices, and businesses operate ethically. These measures contribute to a healthier economic ecosystem by fostering trust between consumers and businesses.
Consumer rights and protection in India are evolving to address contemporary challenges, especially in the context of e-commerce and digital transactions. The emphasis on product liability and the establishment of the CCPA under the new Consumer Protection Act, of 2019, reflects a commitment to strengthening consumer rights and redressal mechanisms. Consumer awareness and education continue to play a crucial role in empowering consumers to make informed choices and exercise their rights effectively.
Global standards for consumer protection are dynamic and responsive to emerging challenges, including those posed by technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior. Cooperation among nations, international organizations, and consumer advocacy groups is vital to maintaining and enhancing these standards in an interconnected and rapidly evolving global marketplace.
-Article by Swathi Satish