A Consumer is defined as one who consumes or uses any commodity or service
available to him either from natural resources or through a market. According to
John F.Kennedy, “Consumer by definition includes everyone. basically in simple
terms it means any person who buys something. All the consumers have some
consumer rights provided to them by the law such such as right to be informed,
right to be protected, right to be assured, right to be heard, right to seek
redressal and right of consumer awareness. All these rights are provided to
every consumer and the need for providing these to consumer are:
- We need physical protection of the consumer, for example protection
against products that are unsafe or dangerous to his health and welfare.
- Consumer want protection against deceptive and unfair trade and market
- Consumers protection is needed against all types of pollution so that
they can enjoy a healthy environment-free from water, air and food
- Consumer protection is also needed against the abuse of monopolistic and
restrictive trade practices. Protection delayed is protection denied.
Now, when we all have go through the basic of Consumer laws ,what is a consumer
what are the rights that every consumer posses and why is there a need of
protection of consumer rights now we are going to study how our consumer laws
have evolved to from the barter system to modern- day Consumer protection act.
Evolution Of Consumer Laws:
When we study about the course of development of the consumer rights around the
worlds and in India, we should start understanding about its history so we can
take a closer look on how it developed.
Around The Globe:
The consumer constitutes the starting point of economic activities and its role
has always been valued by the development of the market. In effect, an adequate
consumer protection allows the economic systems to work through the
consolidation of the rights of the citizens. The Old Testament mentions a form
of consumer protection, and so does the Code of Hammurabi, but only in a
mercantile perspective. An early form of movement in defense of consumers was
born in the United States where the bases for the birth and development of
monopoly and oligopolistic capitalism have been started.
Until the 18th century, the consumers had to verify themselves the quality of
the goods they purchased and only in presence of gross negligence the seller
could have been hold liable. The struggle against capitalism and food fraud
started the first phase of consumerism but it wasn't until the third phase, in
the 1950s, that we saw the involvement of the European countries. The first
consumer's organizations were born in Denmark in 1947 and in Great Britain in
1955 where the Government created the Consumer Council in order to enable
consumers to express themselves on issues reserved to producers and traders.
But the real normative breakthrough came with the Single European Act; it
modified the Treaty of Rome by strengthening the role of the Economic and Social
Committee, to whom were attributed powers to protect the consumers. Over the
years, some important changes were made to that paved the way for a wider
consumer policy. But despite these additions, it still lacked a solid foundation
that allowed getting a real consumer protection. And from here on the actual
In 1962, former US President John F Kennedy declared four basic consumer
- The right to safety;
- The right to be informed;
- The right to choose and
- The right to be heard.
His declaration issued a license for the world's consumer groups which have
expanded since then to reflect the need of consumers in the market.
The guidelines were formulated to:
- Assist countries to achieve and maintain adequate protection for
- Encourage ethical conduct in the market
- Encourage the development of market conditions which provide consumers
with greater choice at lower prices
After extensive international consultation, UN General Assembly adopted few UN
Guidelines for Consumer Protection in April 1985, and updated in 1999. All
this acted as a tool for the nations to support consumer protection. At the
international level this has become the foundation for consumer movement. Today
240 organizations from over 100 countries has come up and united under a single
body named Consumers International.
In India the movement was initiated as a ‘social force' to safeguard and
encourage the interests of the consumers. But the Consumer Protection Act in
1986 gave it a legal authority with the declaration of six consumer rights.
Separate government departments of consumer affairs were set up and three tier
system of consumer courts at national, state and district levels.
As codified under the Indian Laws the Consumers have the following Rights:
- Right to Safety-to protect against hazardous goods
- Right to be Informed-about price, quality, purity
- Right to choose-access to a variety of goods and services at competitive
- Right to be Heard-consumers interest and welfare must be taken care of
- Right to seek Redress-protection against unfair trade practices and
settling genuine grievances.
- Right to Consumer Education. -Knowledge about goods and issues related
As stated earlier, Consumer Protection Act was enacted so as to have a single
comprehensive law for the protection of the interest of consumers and for the
creation of special courts to solve the consumer disputes speedily and
Salient features of the Act are as follows:
- Declaration of Six Consumer Rights.
- Setting up of a separate Department of Consumer Affairs in Central and
- Setting up of a three tier consumer courts for deciding the consumer
i. National Commission at national level
ii. State Commission at State Level
iii. District Commission at District Level
This was all about how it all started and evolved around the globe and in
India and give it a legalized framework.Now we'll study about the latest
amendments of consumer law of India.
The Consumer Protection Act,2019:
Recently(9TH August,2019),president gave assent to the Consumer Protection
Act,2019.The new act,which would replace the consumer protection act,1986 is not
an amendment to the 1986 law,but a new consumer protection law with many changes
for instance, section 107 is now repealed.This new act proposes law of measures
and tightens the existing rules to further safeguard consumer rights. It aims to
address consumer vulerabilities to new forms of unfair trade practices and
unethical business practices in the fast-changing new-age economy.
So the amendments in the Consumer Protection Act,2019 are as follows:
- Definition of ‘Consumer' expanded: A consumer now also includes a
purchaser who purchases goods on-line. ( S. 2(7), Explanation).
- Liability of Endorsers : An endorser of a product / service ( for
instance a Celebrity inviting you to buy a house) finds mention in CPA 2019.
Endorsers have onus (in addition to manufacturer / service provider ) to not
participate in false / misleading advertisements. (S. 21).
- Goods now explicitly include ‘food' as well: As defined in Food Safety
and Standard Act 2006. (S. 2(21). So, every food vendor, including food
delivery platforms are also now in the ambit of CPA 2019.
- Services now explicitly include ‘Telecom' as well : As set out in S.
2(42). Interestingly though, the definition of Telecom services is not
there. Perhaps it is considered as a very common in-use term.
- Product Liability introduced : Whole of chapter VI of the new Act is
devoted to this. Manufacturers / sellers of products/services are liable to
compensate a consumer for any harm caused due defective products or
deficiency in services. Exceptions have also been provided therein to
provide reasonable protection to the manufacturers / sellers. For instance,
a product manufacturer ‘shall not be liable for failure to instruct or warn
about a danger which is obvious or commonly known to the user or consumer of
such product or which, such user or consumer, ought to have known, taking
into account the characteristics of such product.'
- Unfair Contracts introduced: S. 2 (46) explicitly introduces this and
other sections provide for various reliefs, including nullification of such
contracts. Certainly this is a welcome step.
- Scope of ‘unfair trade practices' enhanced: S. 2(47) elaborates on such
practices and includes, for instance, misleading advertising, refusal to
take back defective goods, refusal to refund consideration for such goods
within period specified( and if no period specified within thirty days) etc.
An unfair trade practice also includes ‘(ix) disclosing to other person any
personal information given in confidence by the consumer unless such
disclosure is made in accordance with the provisions of any law for the time
being in force.'
- Pecuniary Jurisdictions enhanced : Now consumers can approach relevant
District Commissions for complaints valued upto Rs. 1 Crore (S. 34(1)),
State Commissions for complaints valued above Rs. 1 Crore and upto Rs. 10
Crore ( S. 47(1)) , and the National Commission for complaints valued above
Rs. 10 Crore ( S. 58(1)). This is expected to reduce the burden on the State
and National Commissions.
- Locational Jurisdiction of the Consumer Commissions expanded : Now
complaints can be made in the jurisdiction where the complainant resides or
personally works for gain (S. 34(2). Per CPA 1986 complaints had to be
instituted where the Opposite Party resided or conducted business, or where
the cause of action arose. This will certainly ease the burden on the
complainants as they can institute a complaint at district level where they
reside and need not travel afar to pursue their complaints. Besides, it may
also reduce burden on the state and national level Commissions.
- Admissibility of complaints to be decided within twenty-one
days: Although this was there in CPA 1986 as well, CPA 2019 makes this
stronger with an enabling provision. That is, if the issue of whether the
complaint is admissible or not to begin with ( for instance, the Complainant
may not be a consumer as per the Act, or the Commission where the complaint
is lodged may not have jurisdiction) is not decided within twenty-one days
of the Complaint being made, the complaint shall be ‘deemed to have been
admitted'. (S. 36(3).
Interestingly, this provision seems to be only for the District Commissions
and is lacking in case of State and National Commissions. Procedural
amendments in rules may follow
- Judicial Review introduced : The District, State and National
Commissions can all review their own orders if there is any error apparent
on the face of the record, either of their own motion or on an application
made by any of the parties to the complaint within thirty days of such an
order. ( S. 40, S. 50 and S. 60 ) . This is a welcome step and will reduce
the burden of appeals on State and National Commissions.
- Appeal from State to National Commission only when substantial question
of law : While CPA 1986 did not ask for any such grounds, CPA 2019 allows
for appeal only in this specific case, the issue of whether the appeal rests
on a ‘substantial question of law' to be decided by the National
Commission ( S. 51(2) ). Hence CPA 2019 renders the State Commissions as
practically the last forums.
At the same time however, an appeal lies both on facts and question of law
if someone fails to comply with an order of a Commission and punishment
thereupon (S. 72(1) and S. 73(1). S. 73(1) prescribes the hierarchy (as
before) as District, State, National Commissions with final appeal lying
with the Supreme Court. This raises the specter of disobedience of a lower
forum orders to get the opportunity to agitate the matters again in front of
- Appeals from National Commission to Supreme Court only when complaints
originally filed in National Commission: This is clear from a reading of S.
67. This means that a complaint filed in a District Forum can be pursued
only till corresponding state forum and no further.
- E-filing of complaints: In a strong effort to be consumer friendly, CPA
2019 provides for a consumer to electronically file his/her complaint to the
forum having required jurisdiction ( S. 35 (1), proviso). S.
101(2)(p) enables the Central Government to formulate the rules for this
- Hearings via video-conferencing: At the District level, upon an
application made for hearing or for examination of parties in person or
through video conferencing, the District Commission may, on sufficient cause
being shown, and after recording its reasons in writing, allow the same. S.
- Central Consumer Protection Authority established: Whole of chapter III
( S. 10 to S. 27) of CPA 2019 is devoted to the Central Consumer Protection
Authority ( CCPA). The CCPA will have an investigation wing to conduct
inquiry/investigation into consumer law violations. It has been granted
wider powers such as suo-motu actions, recall products, order reimbursement
of the price of goods/services, cancel licenses and file class action suits,
if a consumer complaint affects more than one individual. Additionally, the
Authority can also file complaints and intervene in matters before
corresponding consumer commissions.
The major focus of the CCPA is violations such as misleading advertisements
that have potential to affect a large number of consumers. Existing District
Collectors will carry out the inquiries and investigations. Search and
seizure may be carried out by officers appointed under CCPA, or by existing
District Collectors. Appeals against orders of CCPA lie before the National
- Mediation introduced: CPA 2019 introduces alternate dispute resolution
mechanism of mediation with chapter V ( S. 74 to S. 81 ) devoted to it, as
well as at other places such as S. 37. Hopefully, this will make dispute
resolution quicker and easier for all the stakeholders and also reduce
pressure on the Consumer Courts.