The Consumer Protection Act 1986 was the original consumer protection legislation enacted in India. It has since been replaced by the Consumer Protection Act 2019. The eras that these Acts were enacted in tell us a lot about their goals. The Consumer Protection Act 1986 was legislated during the implementation of the Liberalisation, Privatisation, Globalisation model in the Indian economy. The Consumer Protection Act 1986 is often regarded as the “Magna Carta” of consumer protection legislation.
Through the “Liberalisation” facet of this policy, employment contracts experienced a bias towards the employers as the provisions governing working conditions were made more lenient. As the “Privatisation” and “Globalisation” facets introduced new industries and faces into the Indian economy, it became necessary to enact legislation that could safeguard Indian consumers. For this reason, the Consumer Protection Act 1986 was created.
Innovations in the Consumer Protection Act 1986
The Consumer Protection Act 1986 was revolutionary for its time. Important provisions included:
- Establishment of Consumer Protection Councils: Consumer Protection Councils were established at the Central, State, and District levels to deal with consumer complaints in an accelerated manner.
- Establishment of consumer organizations: The Consumer Protection Act 1986 established various consumer organizations and NGOs, such as the Consumer Guidance Society of India, Consumer Education and Research Centre, Bureau of Indian Standards, and the United India Consumer’s Association. The goal here was to increase consumer awareness.
- Creation of Consumer Dispute Redressal Agencies: Through the Consumer Protection Act 1986. District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums, also known as DCDRFs, were created in each district of every State. These courts dealt with cases of values up to Rs. 20,00,000.
- Each State also created a State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, known as the State Commission, to deal with cases that were valued at less than Rs. 1,00,00,000.
- The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission was created as well to deal with cases that exceeded Rs. 1,00,00,000 in value.
Objectives of the Consumer Protection Act 1986
The Consumer Protection Councils that were established through the Consumer Protection Act 1986 sought to protect the following rights relating to consumers:
- The right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
- The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard, and price of goods or services, as the case may be, to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
- The right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
- The right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interest will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
- The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices, or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.
- The right to consumer education.
Important provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 1986
- Chapter II of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 in its entirety is very significant as it created the Consumer Protection Councils. These laid the foundation for the present consumer protection framework present in India.
- Article 9 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 established Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies.
- Article 20 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 provided for the creation of a National Commission for consumer protection.
- Article 22 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 enlisted the powers and procedures relating to the National Commission.
- Article 28 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 protected actions taken in good faith from impugning the Act itself.
- Article 33 and Article 33(a) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 describe the National Commission’s power to make rules and regulations governing consumer protection in India.
Changes made in the Consumer Protection Act 2019
- Many of the changes between the Consumer Protection Act 1986 and its present-day counterpart relate to the regulation of e-commerce services.
- The current Consumer Protection Act makes it compulsory for all e-commerce sites to clearly display their return and cancellation policies on their website, as well as the Consumer Helpline number to help aggrieved customers.
- As of 2019, sellers cannot refuse returns of defective goods or products that were delivered late.
- Additionally, consumers can return goods within a specified time period to receive a refund without any cancellation charges, provided that the product remains in its original condition without any alteration.
- The judicial bodies created under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 were strengthened by the legislation in 2019, and the consumer redressal process was made more streamlined with tighter deadlines.
How to file a consumer complaint
The Consumer Protection Act 2019 allows consumers to complain directly to the relevant forum to resolve their issues as quickly as possible without having to involve expensive lawyers.
- Complaints can be filed if there is a deficiency in service or a defect in the goods delivered.
- Services include all kinds of activities, such as healthcare, food, and transportation services.
- The Consumer Protection Act 1986, as well as its 2019 update, lay an emphasis on alternative dispute resolution methods. Before initiating legal action, attempt to negotiate with the service provider on your own.
- If this fails, inform the service provider of your intent to take legal action, stating the cause of action and a reasonable amount for compensation.
- If there is no response to this, you can file a consumer complaint at Consumer Commission Online Application Portal. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission can access these complaints and seeks to resolve them within three months.
- The complaint will be sent to the service provider for a response. They will receive a reasonable amount of time to respond, after which the complainant will have to submit a rejoinder.
- Under the Consumer Protection Act 2019, the Commission will attempt to find alternative methods for solving the complaint, apart from courtroom proceedings. This would include negotiation and mediation sessions.
- If these fail, the Commission will initiate traditional adversarial litigation proceedings in specialized consumer courts.
The Consumer Protection Act 1986 was a big step towards securing rights for consumers all across the country. Under the present framework, a lawyer is not necessary to fight your case in a Consumer Court. However, legal consultations are always recommended in such situations.