The Consumer Protection Act 1986 was enacted to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of Consumers Councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith (Preamble).
The Act Inter alia, seeks to promote and protect the rights of consumers such as —
(1) right to be protected against marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and property;
(2) right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;
(3) right to be assured, wherever possible, access to variety of goods at competitive prices;
(4) right to be heard and to assured that customers’ interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
(5) Right to seek redressal against unfair practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
(6) Right to consumer education
The objects are sought to be promoted and protected by the Consumer Protection Councils to be established at the Central and State levels.
The Act applies to all goods and services, except if otherwise provided by the Central Government by Notification. To provide speedy and simple redressal of consumer disputes, a quasi judicial machinery is set up at the District, State and Central levels. The three tier system of quasi judicial bodies will observe the principle of natural justice and are empowered to give relief of a specific nature and to award, wherever appropriate, compensation to consumers. Penalties for non-compliance of the orders given by the quasi judicial bodies have also been provided.
Thus the Consumer Protection Act is to serve the interests of the consumers. Consumer education and redressal of consumers’ grievances are the two aspects of the Act. It makes good the loss a consumer suffers and increases the feeling of responsibility of the manufacturer, trader, supplier or businessman.
The provisions of the Act have to be construed in favor of the consumer to achieve the purpose of enactment as it is social benefit oriented legislation. The primary duty of the Court while construing the provisions of such an Act is to adopt a constructive approach subject to that it should not do violence to the language of the provisions and not contrary to attempted objective of the enactment.
Extent of Consumer Protection:
While other legislations may be either punitive or preventive, the Consumer Protection Act compensates the consumer. The provisions of the Act are in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any law at the time being in force (Sec 3). In Maine Container Services South Pvt Ltd v Go Garments 1998 (3) SCC 247 it has been held that the Contract Act applies to all litigants before the Commissioner under the Consumers Protection Act. Passengers traveling in train suffering injuries and loss of Jewelry as a result of assault by unruly crowd are eligible for filing of complaint before State Commission is maintainable notwithstanding the provisions of sections 100 and 103 of Railways Act, 1889. The Consumer Protection Act therefore gives the consumer an additional remedy besides those which may be available under other existing laws. Existence of an arbitration clause in the agreement is no bar to the entertainment of complaint by the Redressal Agency as the remedy under the Act is in addition to the provisions of any other law. However, the Consumer Forums under the Act have not taken over the jurisdiction of civil Courts. If the dispute between the parties is pending in Civil Court no Consumer Forum will adjudicate the dispute. Similarly if evidence be laid by the parties to the dispute is voluminous or complicated the parties will be referred to the appropriate Civil Court.
Consumers Protection Act, thus enshrines the rights of a consumer to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, price etc., of the goods to be protected against unfair trade practices, to seek inexpensive and expeditious redressal of grievances before the Consumer Forums. Consumer Protection Act is a benevolent piece of legislation to protect a large body of consumers from exploitation.