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Important Concepts of Consumer Protection

The Consumer Protection Laws in India received a significant boost after the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. The COPRA, 1986 as a result of intense bargaining for the right of consumers all over the world. In this article the author will discuss the important concepts and the right granted to consumers under consumer protection laws in India especially in the light of changes introduced in the Consumer Protection Act of 2019.

Now before we move on the question of what are the rights granted to a consumer it is very important to understand who is a consumer in the first place. For this we analyse the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. Under section 2(7) of the act, a consumer is defined as the person who buys any goods or avails services for any consideration. The said section does not include any person who is involved in buying goods or availing of services for any commercial purpose as defined under the said section. This section also includes those who have not paid for a product but nevertheless use it with the permission of the buyer or person who has paid for the service.[1]

Now that we have understood the who the act aims to protect i.e. the consumer, we now move on to the rights granted to the consumer. According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs[2]a consumer has the following rights:

  1. The Right to Safety
  2. Right to be Informed
  3. Right to Choose
  4. Right to Consumer Education
  5. Right to Seek Redressal and Right to Be Heard

These rights are also enumerated in the Consumer Protection Act. The author will now discuss these rights in detail.

1. Right to Safety

The right to safety means the right of a consumer to be protected from those goods and services which are not safe for the consumer. This includes marketing of the said hazardous goods and services. This right ensures that the consumers do not suffer due to casual and lackadaisical attitude of those selling or manufacturing the goods.

2. Right to be Informed

Every consumer in order to make a choice that is the most beneficial one for him needs to know about the product. This right ensures that the any information is  made accessible to consumers about the product or service as regard to its quality, price, the purity, quantity and other things relevant for the consumer to make the right choice. This is to protect the consumer from being duped or tricked into faulty trade practices.

3. Right to Choose

The right to chose is an important right. This right was originally meant to promote an effective choice for the consumers. The way it was ensured was that there were no cartels or monopolies that would stymie the growth of a competitive consumer-based industry and thus protect the interests of the consumers. The anti-predatory pricing is one example of where law tries to protect, in some case, the smaller companies from larger companies and thereby prevent creation of monopolies.[3]

4. Right to Consumer Education

Often, the lack of a proper enforcement of consumer rights is not the absence of enough legislations, instead the reason is that of lack of awareness and ignorance. This right try to overcome this lacuna and make the consumer protection movement a more public led and public-spirited movement. Non-governmental organisations are the forerunner in achieving this aim along with voluntary consumer organisations.

5. Right to Be Heard & Right to Seek Redressal

These two rights have the same purpose, the means for a consumer to air his grievance and get redressal. The consumer protection act mandates the creation of consumer dispute redressal commission at the national, state and district level. These commissions have their powers defined in the consumer protection act and can award compensation or relief to those consumers whose rights have been violated.

Apart from these rights there have been some landmark judgements which have expanded upon the rights of the consumer and have given the whole movement a renewed momentum.

In the case of Spring Meadows Hospital vs Harjol Ahluwalia[4], the court expanded upon the definition of the term consumers and held that in case a child suffers an injury due to the fault of the hospital, the parents are also entitled to receive compensation as consumers.

Another case was that of VP Shanta[5] where it was held that medical services are to be included under the definition of services as provided under Section 2(1)(o) of the consumer protection act and thus any deficiency in such medical service will be liable to be given compensation for.

Conclusion

In this article we saw the right granted to consumer and how some of the case laws that brought changes to consumer protection laws in our country. Consumer law has been a new and exciting area of law that affects people in their very basic lifestyle. It is important that this field continues to develop with the progress of time, judicial pronouncement and introduction of new legislations.

[1] Section 2(7), Consumer Protection Act, 2019

[2]https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/organisation-and-units/division/consumer-protection-unit/consumer-rights

[3] Section 4, Competition Act 2002.

[4]M/S. Spring Meadows Hospital & Anr vs Harjol Ahluwalia, (1998) 4 SCC 39

[5]Indian Medical Association vs V.P. Shantha & Ors, 1996 AIR 550

This Article Written by Eashaan Agrawal, Student of National Law University, Delhi

Also Read – What Are The Rights Of Consumer Under Consumer Protection Act?

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