With the industrial development and rapid rise in international trade and commerce , a variety of consumer goods have appeared in the market to cater to the needs of the consumers and a host of other services have been made available to the consumers like insurance ,transport, electricity ,housing , entertainment. Finance and banking. With the coming into existence of a new class of manufacturers and traders with better knowledge of markets , the earlier concept of relationship between the traders and the consumers has been affected and thus making the concept of consumer sovereignty almost inapplicable. The trend of publicity of goods by various advertisements has become order of the day. Most of the advertisements are misleading and defects in the products are detected later on. The advertisements of goods and services in television, newspapers and magazines influence the demand for the same by the consumers though there may be manufacturing defects or imperfections or short comings in the quality, quantity and the purity of the goods or there may be deficiency in the services rendered. In spite of various provisions providing protection to the consumer and providing for stringent action against adulterated and sub-standard articles in the different enactments like Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, The Indian Contract Act, 1872, The Sale of Goods Act, 1930, The Indian Penal Code , 1860, The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 and Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, very little could be achieved in the field of Consumer Protection. Though the then Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 and the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 have provided relief to the Consumers yet it became necessary to protect the consumers from the exploitation and to save them from adulterated and sub-standard goods and services and to safeguard the interests of the consumers. With this objective in mind and in order to provide for better protection of the interests of the consumers, the legislature in its wisdom enacted the CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986. The said Act was suitably amended by the Consumer Protection ( Amendment) Act, 2002.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has made provisions to promote and protect the rights of the consumers such as :
(a) The right to be protected against marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and property;
(b) The right to be informed about the quality, quantity , potency., purity, standard and price of goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;
(c) The right to be assured , wherever possible , access to an authority of goods at competitive prices;
(d) The right to be heard and to be assured that consumers interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums;
(e) The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
(f) Right to consumer education.
The Act makes provision for establishment of Consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith. To provide speedy and simple redressal to consumer disputes, a quasi-judicial machinery has been set up at the District, State and Central levels. These quasi-judicial bodies observe the principles of natural justice and have been 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. Now the complaint can be filed by the legal heir or the representative of the deceased consumer. The pecuniary jurisdiction of the District Forum has also been increased to Rs. 20 lakhs, that of State Commission to Rs. One Crore and matters above one crore are to be tried and entertained by the National Commission. There is also a provision of appeal to the Supreme Court from the orders of the National Commission.
Consumer dispute mostly relate to the deficiency in service in pursuance of any contract or in relation to any goods. When the case is not a simple case of deficiency in service and involves determination of complex questions of facts and law, which cannot be satisfactorily determined by the redressal agency in the time frame provided under the Rules, it would be better for the complainant o seek redress of his grievances in a Civil Court if so advised. The remedy provided under the Act is in addition to the provisions of any other law for the time being in force. The provisions of this Act give the consumer an additional remedy besides those that may be available under other existing laws. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 with its simple and less expansive mechanism has come to a great relief to the litigants.