India's diverse development and industrialization resulted in easy access to
a wide range of goods and services, but it also increased unfair and immoral
trading practices that exposed consumers to exploitation. This is because trade
and commerce practices were based on the caveat emptor doctrine, which is a
Latin maxim that means "let the buyer beware," or "let the consumer be
responsible for his safety."
As a result, a buyer does not have the right to reject an object after making a
reasonable decision to buy it. This characteristic was frequently used by
vendors, who misled their customers, impairing their judgement and leaving them
with no adequate remedy. The Consumer Protection Act of 1986, which was
re-enacted in 2019 (herein, referred to as the 'Act') to provide a simple,
quick, and inexpensive alternative redress mechanism and safeguard consumers,
was designed by policymakers who saw the need for legal protection. A step
forward to caveat venditor, which means "let the seller beware," implying that
the seller bears some duty to their customers in case of exploitation.
In the Middle Ages, the phrase "caveat emptor" was not a legal principle. They
treated buyers with the same respect that we see today in the "customer is
always right" phase. Before the Revolutionary War, the phrase was only used in a
handful of English court cases (1775-83). England attempted to implement proper
trade practises, but this backfired, as there was an increase in unfair trade
tactics, with the majority of advertisements being false and misleading.
Trade and commerce exploitation became so prevalent in England's system that
individuals chose to labour for their safety by allowing each customer to shift
for himself. This agreement spawned the idea "Let the buyer beware," which was
immortalised by the Latin writer caveat emptor. The idea was the common people's
power; it allowed them to maintain their ground against the seller's
exploitation and deception. This trade ideology became a code of personal
conduct, a spirit of individualism, and a way of thinking about politics.
Consumer protection in India was likewise deeply rooted in the Indian culture,
which goes back to 3200 B.C. During ancient India, human values were prized and
ethical principles were prioritised, and all segments of society adhered to the
divine law of Dharma, which was drawn from the Vedas. Laws were enacted to
protect people's social and economic conditions, including the buyers'
interests. However, British colonialism revolutionised the Indian legal system,
and the English system was used to administer justice.
However, this tenacious philosophy ran counter to the emerging concepts of a
planned and regulated society. The seller had no obligation to offer
information, and the buyer's proper scrutiny of the items was deemed more
important than any other duty. Any notion of retaliating against the seller or
laying accountability on him was likewise rejected. Soon, it became clear that
the legislation was skewed in favour of the seller, and that buyers were often
exploited. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted to protect people.
Caveat Venditor under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019
The concept of caveat venditor is defined under Chapter VI as Product Liability
under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. It is defined as the responsibility of
the product manufacturer or product seller, of any product or service, to
compensate for any harm caused to a customer by a such defective product
manufactured or sold or by a deficiency in service related thereto.
However, as stated in Chapter VI of the Act, there are various exceptions to the
obligation. When a product was used improperly, altered, or modified, the
manufacturer had provided warnings or instructions, it was sold as a component
or material to be used in another product, and the necessary warnings or
instructions were given, it was legally intended to be used only by or under the
supervision of an expert, or the complainant was under the influence of alcohol
or drugs while using the product, no liability shall be fastened on the
manufacturer or seller.
The new product liability (Chapter VI) section of the Consumer Protection Act of
2019 strengthens the buyer's position in the market by allowing them to file a
lawsuit against the product manufacturer if a consumer is harmed while using a
defective or substandard product that they manufacture or sell. It also broadens
the scope of the Consumer Courts' jurisdiction.
Section 84(1) of the Act expressly deals with the liability of the product
manufacturer in a product liability action, encases of manufacturing defects,
defective designs, deviations from manufacturing specifications, doesn't conform
to the express warranty or fails to contain adequate instructions of correct
usage to prevent any harm or any warning regarding improper or incorrect usage.
Also, Section 84(2) prevents the manufacturers to escape liability on the
grounds of non-negligence or non-fraudulent in making the express warranty of a
product, it makes the liability watertight and comprehensive. Similarly,
Sections 85 and 86 of the Act provide for the liabilities of a service provider
and product seller respectively.
This section allows the consumers to seek remedies after buying goods or
rendering services that previously were ignored because a rational consumer was
expected to have a good judgement. In contrast, availing goods and services and
hence, the remedy provided were inadequate.
A Shift from Caveat Emptor to Caveat Venditor
- Fundamental Right
The Indian Constitution guarantees citizens fundamental rights (even as
consumers) and protects citizens from the excesses of the state and its agents.
In the case of a violation of fundamental rights, a writ petition can be brought
against the state and its agents.
The remedy of such writs, on the other hand, is ineffectual against affluent
enterprises that are not state bodies. The Supreme Court recently ruled in
Upendra Choudhury v Bulandshahar Development Authority, that people who filed
complaints against private enterprises did not fall under its writ jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court ruled that a Writ Petition under Article 32 against builders
could not be filed before the Supreme Court. Consumer Courts, RERA, and the IBC
are all places where citizens can seek help.
- Consumer Courts
Consumers benefit from the three-tier Consumer Court Forum because it gives a
better means of recourse than the civil courts. The act expands a Consumer
Court's geographical jurisdiction to encompass the complainant's home or
workplace. It was helpful during the Covid -19 outbreak. It also saves you money
on additional travel expenses that may or may not be paid by compensation.
has also significantly increased the pecuniary jurisdiction of Consumer Courts
at all three levels, allowing for correct jurisdictional division and better
overall efficiency. In addition, a new Executive Regulatory Authority known as
the Central Consumers Protection Authority ("CCPA") has been established to
Under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Consumer Court exercise liability
mentioned in the act. Section 90 (1) of the act lays out the penalties for
offences such as creating, storing, selling, distributing, or importing spurious
items and adulterous goods, as well as deceptive and misleading advertising.
Hoarding or destroying items to inflate the price is also price manipulation and
should be punished. Furthermore, this act introduces the concept of Unfair
Contract Terms, which can be annulled by a Consumer Court. Section 89 of the act
defines the penalty for false or misleading advertising, stating that any
manufacturer or service provider who creates and publishes pretended or
misleading advertisements that are harmful to customers will face incarceration
as well as indemnity.
- Landmark Judgements
In Donoghue v. Stevenson, A plaintiff's friend bought a bottle of opaque ginger
beer. The plaintiff filled a glass with half of the ginger beer and drank it.
She then added the remaining liquid to the glass, where she discovered a snail's
decayed remains. She claimed that as a result, she became unwell. Since she
didn't have a contract with either the store or the manufacturer, she sued the
manufacturers of the ginger beer for negligence.
The House of Lords laid down
that a duty was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, i.e., shifted the burden
of responsibility for the content on the manufacturer. Previously, the
manufacturer had no duty of care towards the plaintiff as the buyer had
purchased the product after his/ her due inspection, so, accordingly, the buyer
should be beware.
In this case, Lord Atkin ruled that a manufacturer of products
who sells them in a way that indicates his intention is for them to reach the
final consumer in the same condition they left him, with no reasonable
opportunity for intermediate inspection, and with the knowledge that failure to
prepare and store the products with reasonable care could result in harm to the
consumer's life or property, owes the consumer a duty to exercise that
The existence of a duty of care as a matter of law was another issue that the
House of Lords had to resolve. It was decided that the manufacturer had a
responsibility to ensure that the bottle was free of any foreign objects that
would endanger the plaintiff. After the defendant's claim that there was no
contractual tie was rejected, a lawsuit was brought under tort law. The
complaint would have been brought under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 in the
The important neighbour principle was also established as
Lord Atkin stated, "You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions
which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who,
then, in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be persons who are so closely
and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in my
contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or
omissions which are called in question."
In Grant v. Australian Knitting Mills Ltd.
, this concept of duty of care by the
manufacturer or seller was first introduced in Australia. In this instance, the
plaintiff developed dermatitis as a result of wearing clothing that, at the time
it was acquired from the store, was defective due to the inclusion of extra sulphite that had been carelessly left in the manufacturing process.
reasonable physical examination would not have been able to find it because it
was a latent and concealed flaw. The manufacturers intended for the clothing to
be worn exactly as the plaintiff did when they created it. It was determined
that there was a duty of care between the manufacturers and the plaintiff, which
the manufacturers were responsible for breaching.
Through judgements and statutes, the departure from caveat emptor can be seen as
the rights of the buyer are protected and sellers are held liable for their
negligence and shortcomings.
Analysis and Suggestions
During the British colonisation of India, the concept of Caveat emptor was
adopted. It was successful at first, but as society progressed, this concept was
no longer acceptable. In Priest v. Last, the seller's reliance on the buyer to
buy a water bottle was taken into account for the first time to allow the buyer
to reject the products.
Consumer rights are expressly protected under the Consumer Protection Act of
2019 through consumer courts and central consumer protection authority. In the
landmark case of Donoghue v Stevenson
, the duty to exercise reasonable care
towards purchasers, or consumers, was vindicated. Sellers and service providers
have a legal obligation to use reasonable caution while selling items and
This allows a complaint to file a lawsuit and seek damages
for any harm or injury he has suffered as a result of defective or faulty goods
being supplied to him under Section 2(35) of the act. Unfair trade practises and
deceptive advertising are also punishable under the law. It should be mentioned
that the concept of caveat emptor became popular in England because customers
sought to be protected against unfair trade practises and deceptive advertising.
They believed in their judgement to distinguish between real and counterfeit
goods, but issues arose when individual judgement proved insufficient, and
governmental authorities were forced to intervene. It should be mentioned that
the concept of caveat emptor became popular in England because customers sought
to be protected against unfair trade practises and deceptive advertising. They
believed in their judgement to distinguish between real and counterfeit goods,
but issues arose when individual judgement proved insufficient, and governmental
authorities were required to intervene.
The market is no longer merely a physical location in our fast-paced world; its
meaning has broadened and evolved to include e-commerce platforms. The caveat
emptor doctrine cannot be applied in an electronic market since the consumer is
unable to utilise his or her good judgement to analyse the goods before
purchasing. The new act also protects online consumers' rights, making it a
With the gradual shift from no duty of the seller or manufacturer to
establishing responsibility upon them, the buyers can exercise their remedies in
a faster and cheaper manner but to avail of these rights, the buyers must also
be mindful of their responsibility and adhere to terms and conditions imposed on
them. The conditions can be exceptions under product liability of the Consumer
Protection Act, 2019, or filing the charge in correct commission within an
appropriate period. The customers must also respect the rights of the seller as
a marketplace is a common community existing of both sellers and buyers.
The Consumer Protection Act of 2019 and the discussed judgement emphasise the
consumer's rights and protect them. It has also raised corporate accountability,
requiring them to refrain from engaging in unfair trade practises. The statute
is based on the motto 'caveat venditor,' which is more effective in protecting
consumers' interests when socioeconomic and political conditions change.
discussed above, a divergence from gradually declining caveat emptor can be
detected. I feel that reasonable protection is provided while striking an
acceptable balance between the rights of sellers and buyers, as previously
increased sellers' rule is balanced by now buyers' rights.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Aparna Mangla
Authentication No: SP226239302038-19-0922