The doctrine of caveat emptor, namely ‘let the buyer beware’ prevailed, though several legislations, to protect the consumers’ rights were in vogue, like Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. Essential Commodities Act, Drugs (Control) Act, Standards of Weights and Measures Act etc. While these legislations were enacted to protect the consumers from unfair trade practices nevertheless these legislations never proved adequate to promote consumer awareness and compensate them for their complaints. English Law to some extent provided redressals it was nevertheless insufficient to Indian conditions.
Tolerance has a limit. Consumers movements spearheaded the attacks and slowly but surely the lobby grew stronger and stronger day by day. Awareness in a consumer, that his rights were being sabotaged grew from day to day. He realized that though on paper he was a king, nevertheless he remained a slave. The psychology under which the consumer in India had treaded for decades that he had ‘no choice’ needed to be penetrated with an effective dose of making him feel like a ‘King’ and not merely think like a ‘King’.
Only statutory umbrella could be a right, perfect and an effective dose for a consumer to have his say. That consumer is the king, came to slowly receive statutory recognition in India, both in the form of educating a consumer and also compensating him by summary and inexpensive proceedings. In fact, recognizing the rights of a consumer keeps the manufacturer and a trader alert, creative and innovative, which in any developing country are essential tools and means of development. The consumer wants a full value for his money whether he purchases goods or hires services. If the manufacturer is made accountable for defects or deficiencies the improvement would follow as a consequence. This improvement is development.
Seeking redress through Courts is not only time consuming but a costly process. It was therefore felt necessary that not only the consumers is to be educated and his interest are to be protected but redressal forums providing summary and inexpensive reliefs are a must if consumers movement in India is to receive a boost an effectively counter the strong lobby of manufactures or traders.
The Consumers Protection Act, 1986 was therefore enacted. It came into effect on 15.04.1987. The Act is supplemented by Consumer Protection Rules, 1987. The first minor amendment was in 1991. The Act was comprehensively amended by Consumers Protection (Amendment) Act, 1993 which came into effect from 18.06.1993. The 1993 amendment seeks to provide of the following:
(1) To enlarge the scope of the Act so as to enable the consumers to file class action complaints where such consumers have a common interest and to file complaints relating to restrictive trade practices adopted by a trader.
(2) To enable the consumers who are self employed to file complaints before the redressal agencies where goods bought by them exclusively for earnings their livelihood suffer from any defect;
(3) To add ‘services’ reacting to housing constructions
(4) To be able filing of class complaints on behalf of groups of consumers having the same interest
(5) To provide for the constitution of selection committees for the selection of non-judicial members of various redressal agencies.
(6) To increase the monetary jurisdiction of District Forums/ State Commission/ National commission.
(7) To confer additional powers on the redressal agencies by way of awarding costs to the parties of ordering removal of defects or deficiency from the services and for empowering to recall of goods likely to endanger the safety of the public etc
(8) To impose punishment on the complaint in cases of frivolous or vexations complaints; and
(9) To provide for a limitation period of one year for filing complaints.
It was again amended by Consumers protection (Amendment) Act, 2002 with major insertions and amendments, which came into effect from 15.03.2003