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Consumer Protection - Problems and Prospects


Sheetal Sahoo


KIIT Law School

Aman Chatterjee


KIIT Law School

August 14, 2009


Abstract:     
The contemporary era is marked as the era of consumers. No country can knowingly or unknowingly disregard the interest of the consumers. This can be argued on the basis of fast enactment of consumer protection laws in almost all part of the world. Apart from the consumer protection laws in developed world, we could find the accelerated rate of lawmaking for consumers in developing countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Korea, Mongolia, Philippines, Mauritius, China, Taiwan, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries. India is not an exception to this rule. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is one of the examples that is to be treated as a milestone in the history of socio-economic legislation to protect the interests of the consumers in India.

The main objective of the Consumer Protection Act is to ensure the better protection of consumers. Unlike existing laws which are punitive or preventive in nature, the provisions of this Act are compensatory in nature. The Act is also intended to provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to the consumers' grievances, and relief of a specific nature and award of compensation wherever appropriate to the consumer. The act has been amended in 1993 both to extend its coverage and scope and to enhance the powers of the redressal machinery.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVE:
The Constitution of India in Articles 38, 39, 42, 43, 46 and 47 provides that the state shall strive to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people; it shall direct its policies in such a way that operation of economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment, it shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief; it should endeavor to build an economic organization or to make suitable legislation to ensure a decent standard of life to all the workers who constitute the bulk of the consumers; it should promote educational and economic interests of schedule castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections and it shall also raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve public health.

Article 46 of the Indian constitution provides that state shall endeavor to protect the economic interest of the weaker section of its population and also protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation which means all kinds of harassments and frauds in the market place. This also includes people should be entitled to unadulterated stuff injurious to public health and safety.

This principle amply reflects the inclusion of the philosophy of the concept of consumerism in article 47 of the Indian Constitution:
THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
THE DANGEROUS DRUGS ACT, 1930
THE SALE OF GOODS ACT, 1930
THE DRUGS (CONTROL) ACT, 1950
THE INDUSTRIES (DEVELOPMENT AND REGULATION) ACT, 1951
THE INDIAN STANDARDS INSTITUTIONS (CERTIFICATION MARKS) ACT, 1952
THE PREVENTION OF FOOD ADULTERATION ACT, 1954
THE MONOPOLIES AND RESTRICTIVE TRADE PRACTICES ACT, 1969
THE CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, 1973

PRESENT SITUATION:
We all are consumers in one form or another. But in the present socio economic scenario we find that the consumer is a victim of many unfair and unethical tactics adopted in the market place. The untrained consumer is no match for the businessman marketing goods and services on an organized basis and by trained professionals. He is very often cheated in the quality, quantity and price of the goods or services. The consumer who was once the ‘king of the market’ has become the victim of it. The modern economic industrial and social developments have made the notion of ‘freedom of contract’ largely a matter of fiction and an empty slogan so far as many consumers are concerned. With globalization and development in the International Trade and Commerce there has been substantial increase of business and trade, which resulted in a variety of consumer goods and services to cater to the needs of the consumers. In recent years, there has been a greater public concern over the consumer protection issues all over the world.

In the early law, the doctrine of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) was the philosophy of the law of sales. Today it has been replaced by “let the seller beware”. As a result of this change of legal philosophy, business is heavily regulated on behalf of the consuming public. Many corporations today have a department of consumer affairs. Product liability suits are already a part of tort law.
FUTURE PROSPECTS:

The Consumer Protection Act has aroused enormous expectation amongst the masses for redressal of their grievances. These expectations can be realised only when the redressal machinery laid down in the Act is made functional. However, the place of establishment of redressal machinery under the Act has been slow. The State Governments did not evince sufficient interest in establishing District Forums and the State Commissions. In fact, the District Forum is the fulcrum of the entire Consumer Disputes Redressal Machinery because a large number of cases are to be covered within the jurisdiction for the District forum. The appeals against the orders of the District Forum are to go to the State Commission and against the orders of the State Commission to the National Commission.

The working of the State Commissions and the National Commission will remain diluted unless the District Forums are set up in all the Districts as envisaged in the Act. These delays and defaults on the part of the State Government brought to the attention of the Supreme Court in a Common Cause v. Union of India, where the Court issued directions that all States and Union Territories to constitute all the District Forums and the State Commissions within six weeks. It appears that the State Government has paid scant regard to this statutory obligation. This is the most unfortunate state of affairs, for they betrayed total lack of concern for the constitution and functioning of the District Forums and State Commissions.

RECOMMENDATIONS:
This paper attempts to explore and identify consumer awareness regarding consumer, responsibilities and Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It is patently obvious that consumers are not only the largest economic group but also the pivots of all the economic activities. It is also true that the very consumers are the most unaware or voiceless group in most of the countries of the world. There are plethoras of laws and other mechanism to ensure the welfare of consumers, yet they have no power to order where he can make his purchase at will.
Suggestion:

1.Educate consumers to develop an understanding about their responsibilities as consumers.
2.Consumer should organize together to develop the strength and influence to promote and protect their own interest.
3.Government should make and implement rules of punishment more harsh so that manufacturer and shopkeeper think twice before adopting fraudulent practices.
4.A campaign should be set in motion to involve each and every consumer for making them more conscious and aware of their right and responsibilities.
5.Government and other consumer agencies should make efforts in the direction of propaganda and publicity of district forum, state and national judiciary established for consumer protection so as to make more and more consumer aware about machinery for their greater involvement and to seek justice in case of grievances .
6.Redress procedure should be made more logical, easy enough to be understood by a large number of consumers. Further procedures shall so designed as to have easy handling and quick disposal of cases.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 23

Keywords: consumer, protection, future, prospects

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Date posted: August 16, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Sahoo, Sheetal and Chatterjee, Aman, Consumer Protection - Problems and Prospects (August 14, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1452526 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1452526

Contact Information

Sheetal Sahoo (Contact Author)
KIIT Law School ( email )
PATIA
P.O. KIIT
Bhubaneswar, OR Orissa 751024
India
Aman Chatterjee
KIIT Law School ( email )
P.O. KIIT
OR Orissa
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