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A Study of Consumer Rights under Consumer Protection Act,2019

Consumer Protection act, 2019 is an act which aims to protect the rights of a consumer and for the same purpose it has established authorities, effective administration and awareness forums. The rights under the act are well defined and are there to protect the consumer from harassment from immoral, unethical or unscrupulous traders and service providers.

Consumer rights are designed to ensure free and fair-trade practices being followed in the market so as to remove the harassment of the consumers who may or may not have any knowledge regarding their rights provided by law. There are six rights under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and these are:
  1. the right to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services which are hazardous to life and property;
  2. the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products or services, as the case may be, so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;
  3. the right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods, products or services at competitive prices;
  4. the right to be heard and to be assured that consumer's interests will receive due consideration at appropriate fora;
  5. the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
  6. the right to consumer awareness;
Even though the consumer protection act has been in effect and operational from 1986 yet the consumers are not fully aware of the provisions of the act and especially the provision regarding their rights as a consumer. The rights of a consumer and the awareness about the same goes in parallel with each other yet they are connected.

The study on consumer rights under the consumer protection act, 2019 aims to reflect on the evolution of these rights available for consumers and the consumer awareness steps taken by respective the stakeholder agencies i.e., the government, consumer awareness NGOs, traders and merchants and their role in imparting the consumer knowledge through their measures for awareness. The level of consumer awareness on the consumer rights will only determine the performance of consumer protection aimed to be achieved through consumer protection act.

The introduction of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 states that it is an Act to provide for protection of the interests of consumers and for the said purpose, to establish authorities for timely and effective administration and settlement of consumers' disputes and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto [1].

With an aim to protect the interests of consumer, the Consumer Councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer's grievances are established at the national, state and district level to increase consumer awareness. For settlement of the matters of consumers and the related disputes the act seeks to promote and protect the rights of the consumers such as-
  1. the right to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services which are hazardous to life and property;
  2. the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products or services, as the case may be, so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices;
  3. the right to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods, products or services at competitive prices;
  4. the right to be heard and to be assured that consumer's interests will receive due consideration at appropriate fora;
  5. the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers; and
  6. the right to consumer awareness; [2]

The preamble of the Indian Constitution explicitly mentions the resolve of the people of India to make it a sovereign, socialist, democratic republic to ensure the social, political and economic justice to the citizens. It is the duty of the government of India to establish a socialist and welfare society.

This is possible only when economic, social and political justice be ensured to the citizens and they should be protected from social and economic exploitation. In this connection, Directive Principles of state policy enshrined in Part IV of the Constitution are important and deserve special mention. These Directive Principles of state policy lay down the foundation of for a welfare state.[3]

According to Article 37 of Part IV of the Indian Constitution Directive Principles of state policy are not enforceable through courts of law nevertheless they are fundamental in governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state i.e., the government to apply these principles while making the laws.

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the subsequent previous versions of act have their fundamentals governed by some of the Articles under Part IV of the constitution i.e., the Directive Principles of the state policy such as:

Article 38(1):

State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people.: The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.[4]

Article 47:

Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.: The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health[5].

By establishing consumer councils, grievance redressal commissions, consumer appellate authority at district, state and national level, and providing for the right to be protected against material, property and things which are hazardous to life, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is a step in working towards the abovementioned Directive Principles of state policy enshrined in our constitution.

The first introduced act i.e., the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was hailed as a landmark event because it was the first legislative step in the field of consumer protection. The present Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is regarded as the finest approach towards addressing the new challenges in this socio- economic area.

This study begins with the background of the consumer protection in India and around the world and discusses about the impact of rising industrialization and the changing economic scenario due to the changes in consumer behaviour from time to time on the key to all of these happenings i.e., the consumer. This study further discusses about the evolution of consumer rights as provided in the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to show how the consumerism around the world and different case laws in the legal history of our nation gave shape to these rights.

Further, the challenges posed by the emerging industries, primarily by the much trending ecommerce sector in digital era and how the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has delt with it has also been discussed. As the time passes, the behaviour and the aspiration of consumer changes and so emerges the new markets and Industries in the light of this it is necessary to always emphasise on the need of consumer awareness because an aware consumer plays an important role in establishing the free and fair-trade practices in market.

�Consumer�, Oxford dictionary describes a consumer as a person who purchases goods and services for personal use. A consumer plays a vital role in shaping the economy of the country, it is because of his demand either the industry flourishes or gets in the depression phase. Major sea routes, Airways, Railways and Roadways have their origin hidden in this demand. With ever increasing demand of some goods and services and sharply decreasing trends has moulded the new world order in the gone and the present century.

The Consumer behaviour was also pertinent in how the world saw rapid industrialization. In most of the instances people purchase products in order to differentiate themselves from other people. Therefore, it follows that people do not buy products just because of their material needs or usage, but also because of their symbolic value. Ironically people purchase a particular object because they want to identify themselves with a certain community and project certain value to others.

Then it is also true that buying consumer goods is actually a way of constructing an identity and at the same time people are also looking for emotional and aesthetic fulfilment. But this experience is for short term only. It is because as soon as people buy something to get a unique identity, that article becomes common and they are out to shop again.[6] The gone century was ruled by the concept of �Caveat Emptor�, a Latin phase meaning let the buyer be aware. Today the present century has changed its ways and now it is said �Caveat Venditor� meaning let the seller be aware.

With the advent of Industrial revolution in 18th Century, the new socio-economic world order took shape. The behaviour of the consumer was key in giving a shape to it. While it was the consumer who was the fulcrum of the revolution on which the growth of Industries depended, the Industries in the coming time became too heavy to weak the strength of the consumers.

Since the character of the trade and business turned international from being national and the manufacturers and the sellers had become well-organised, skilled and professional and on the other hand most of the consumers were illiterate and unorganised, it had become veery difficult rather impossible to prevent the exploitation of consumers. In order to protect the consumers and prevent their exploitation, the need for international consumers� protection movement was felt.[7]

In the 20th century the stakeholders for the global issues came forward and heralded the systematic designing of the rights of consumers.

In 1978, the intergovernmental working group gave consent to the code of conduct for Multinational Companies (MNCs) when at that time they affected the demand of consumers on the basis of their huge capital, mass production of goods and advertising and publicity and exploited the consumers. [8]

In 1983, the Economic and Social Council of United Nations (ECOSOC) played a governing role for the protection of interests of consumers, and passed a resolution recommending the general set of guidelines to be adopted by the governments of different countries. [9]

Recalling the above resolutions, the United Nation General Assembly adopted a resolution and framed the guidelines keeping in view the interests and need of consumers and recommended to all the developing countries to adopt them. These guidelines are:
  • To help the countries to achieve and maintain protection adequate to their consumer population;
  • To render help in production and distribution in accordance with the needs and desires of the consumers;
  • To encourage the high standards of moral conduct the persons involved in making available goods and services to the consumers;
  • To help the countries at national and international levels to supress the defective business systems affecting the interests of the consumers;
  • To help in development of independent consumer groups or unions;
  • To encourage the condition of market which may provide more opportunities of choice at less cost. [10]
In India, before the introduction of a consumer-central legislative step, different acts had the provisions of dealing with unfair trade practices, hazardous products, and protection of consumers. Statutes such as Civil Procedure Code, 1908, Sale of Goods Act, 1930, Indian Penal Code 1860, Essential Commodities Act, 1955, Industrial Development and Regulation Act, 1957, Food Adulteration Act, 1955, Weights and Measures Act, 1976 and Monopoly and Restrictive trade Practices Act, 1969, contributed in protecting the interests of consumers and empowered the consumers to raise their concerns.

Thus, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was an outcome of the negotiations happening around the world and involving the consumer dedicated provisions in the abovementioned statutes and therefore it is regarded as the �Magna Carta� in the field of consumer protection. But much development also took after the passing of the act. The original act was amended in 1991, 1993, 2002 and 2019.

Consumer Rights

The whole Consumer Protection Act, 2019 is the tree whose root is only and only the rights of the consumers. For these rights to be entrusted with the consumers the whole act has been designed. The six consumer rights are defined under the Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019[11]. These rights are (i) the right to be protected (ii) the right to be informed (iii) the right to be assured, (iv) the right to be heard (v) the right to seek redressal (vi) the right to consumer awareness. They are discussed in detail below.

The Right to be Protected

This right has been provided to protect the consumers from the hazardous goods or the goods which pose threat to the life of consumers. This right has evolved out of the provisions of certain existing act which were enacted before the enactment of the consumer protection act, 1985. The statutes such as

Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 which provides for prevention of food adulteration by laying down the provisions of food, food inspectors. Restraint on sale/manufacture/import of certain item. The act also has penal provisions for defaulters.

Agriculture Produce (Grading and marketing) act, 1937 provides for grading and marking the agriculture produce so as to ensure that the produce meets minimum level of standards as set out by this law and states the penalty for non-conforming to the requirement of this law.

Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 regulates the import, manufacture, sale and standards of drugs and cosmetics, states the minimum standard to be followed from manufacturing to packaging of drugs and cosmetics.

Bureau of Indian Standards, Act 1986 provides for setting up a Bureau which is empowered to establish, publish and promote Indian Standards of articles or processes. It also provides for mandatory certification of various products ranging from electrical appliances like iron, heater and fan to food products like milk powder etc.

Recently, in September 2020 the consumer affair ministry announced that the imported toys need to pass the quality testing set up by the ministry to get a nod for import in India. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) was asked to frame the Quality Control Standard (QCS) for toys and its staff is also deployed at ports to take the sample and test[12].

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 under section 20 empowers the central authority to recall the defective products or where substantial evidence shows that the product was sold after indulging in unfair trade practices.

The Right to be Informed

It Means right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices. Consumer should insist on getting all the information about the product or service before making a choice or a decision. This will enable him to act wisely and responsibly and also enable him to desist from falling prey to high pressure selling techniques[13].

Unfair trade practices also include the spurious methods to sell the product. In a time, full of stories of food adulteration, toxic chemical usage in cosmetics and food products and rising concerns of health and the subsequent awareness among people has made it important for the manufacturer to print the relevant information so that a consumer is aware enough of the thing being used by him.

Therefore, we see different logos on the FMCG products such as the commonly known green and red symbols denoting the type of food vegetarian or non-vegetarian, �CONTAINS CAFFINE� logo can be seen on soft drinks bottles and coffee and tea packets, Nutrition table and ingredients printed on the packaging of food products to inform the health-conscious people specifically and also people in general, also Allergic Warnings are published so as to aware the people with allergies etc.

Advertisement, a highly pressurised selling technique has also affected the way people purchase goods. MNCs and other big corporates with their ample funds use the concept of brand ambassadors to arouse the sentiments of the consumers and it considerably increased the consumption of goods, in such circumstances it became necessary to take solid steps to ensure the protection of interests consumers and to bind the sellers and service providers and their ambassadors with such rules.

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 for the first time in the history of consumerism in India under section 21 has stricter provisions for controlling the misleading and false advertisements and taking action on the endorser of the brand. The Central Authority under the act has been empowered to impose the penalty for manufacturer or seller is up to Rs10 Lakhs and two years of imprisonment and for subsequent offence it may rise to Rs50 Lakhs and five years of imprisonment.

For the endorser of such products a penalty can be imposed up to Rs10 Lakhs and one year imprisonment and for any further offence the endorser can be banned also for a period of one year. No penalty will be imposed if the endorser has exercised due diligence and has verified the veracity of the claim made by the product which is being endorsed. [14]

Right to be Assured or The Right to Choice

Economic reforms in early 1990 brought in plethora of options in almost all the goods and services. The increased number of manufacturers for the same product ended the monopolistic practices and encouraged competition in the market resulting in better options and competitive prices[15]. Wherever possible consumers should get choices and a variety of options with respect to price, quality in goods and services.

In 2003, the government enacted the Competition act, 2002 which aimed �to prevent practices having adverse effect on competition, to promote and sustain competition in markets, to protect the interests of consumers and to ensure freedom of trade carried on by other participants in markets�[16] it replaced the archaic Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969.

It was introduced to avoid the formation of cartels, parallel pricing, controlling production to increase prices and any other activity that have adverse effects on competition and which are anti-competitive. [17]Hence, today we see no monopoly in certain sectors which are and now becoming essential for a human being such as FMCG, Electronics, Apparels and etc.

Right to be heard

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 defines this right as the right to be heard and be assured that consumer�s interests will be receive due consideration before the appropriate forum. Every consumer has a right to raise their concerns before the dedicated platform. The act establishes the dispute redressal commissions at district, state and national level under Section 28, Section 42 and Section 53 of the act respectively.

The new Act provides the consumer with the facility to lodge a complaint in the jurisdictional consumer forum located at the place of residence or work. This is different from the old practice of lodging complaint at the place of purchase or the seller� s office address as provided under Section 34(2)(d) of The Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The New Act will allow consumers to complain electronically and to hear and / or hear parties through video-conferencing.

This method is easy and also reduces the inconvenience. Before, there was no video conferencing provision[18]. The 2019 act also expands the definition of the consumer to include the e-commerce transactions which the earlier act did not include. The definition now includes �any person who buys any goods, whether through offline or online transactions, electronic means, teleshopping, direct selling or multi-level marketing� (Section 2(16) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019).[19]

The Right to Seek Redressal
This right is the most powerful object in the hands of consumers, it justifies the entire essence of the act which it aims to satisfy. This right is provided against unfair trade practices, restrictive trade policies, and unscrupulous violation of consumers. It also seeks to enforce all other rights provided to consumers in the act. The main objective of the right is to provide a speedy and cost-efficient method of dispute redressal.

In the Right to be Heard, establishing consumer dispute redressal mechanism was a step in the direction of this right while in the Right to Seek Redressal, the working of these commissions, the applicable jurisdiction, the mediation cell and the system of appeal is the redressal infrastructure given by the act. In C. Venkatachalam v. Ajit Kumar C. Shah and others[20] the Supreme Court observed that:
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted with the object and intention of speedy disposal of consumer disputes at a reasonable cost, which is otherwise not possible in ordinary judicial/court system.

Section 35 & 38, Section 49, Section 59 of the act lay down the manner/procedure applicable to district, state, national levels respectively.

The Right to Consumer Awareness

For the success of the aim of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 it is necessary to aware the consumer with different provisions of various statues which favour the protection and promotion of the consumer. An aware consumer forms the basis of a highly competitive and malpractice free market order. Consumer education also plays an important role in healthy development of society when faulty trade practices such as adulteration, hazardous chemical usage, and usage of prohibited material are checked and an eye has been kept on them.

While utilizing the right many NGOs are established which provide legal assistance to the aggrieved consumers, educate the consumers with important provisions which they can demand to be applied in daily life, and publish on the updates in consumer protection field. A literate consumer is the king of market.

Case Laws:
  1. Supriyo Ranjan Mahapatra v. Amazon Development Centre India (P) ltd. [21]

    In this case the consumer ordered a Laptop from an e-commerce website for Rs129/- as offered instead of its original price of Rs23,499/- later the order was cancelled by the e-commerce company citing the pricing issues and the same was communicated to the consumer over a telephonic conversation.

    Consumer attempted many a times to sought the exact reason of the cancellation, after no communication could be established a legal notice was served which was also not responded. The consumer moved to District Consumer Redressal Forum (now commission according to new act of 2019) where it was held that the e-commerce company was not only negligent in rendering services but also included in unfair trade practices, thus consumer�s case was partly allowed and he got a total compensation of Rs12,000/-.
  2. Tata Press Ltd v. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (�Tata Press�)[22]

    the Supreme Court observed the right of the consumer as a recipient of commercial speech by stating, �An advertisement giving information regarding a life-saving drug may be of much more importance to the general public than to the advertiser who may be having purely a trade consideration. Article 19(1)(a) not only guarantees freedom of speech and expression, it also protects the rights of individuals to listen, read and receive the said speech.� Further, the Supreme Court also held that misleading and deceptive advertising would not fall within the protection of Article 19.
  3. Ernakulam Medical Centre v. P.R. Jayasree & Anr. [23]

    The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission observed that �Releasing a dead body by a hospital to an unrelated third person unquestionably constitutes �deficiency in service� within the meaning of Section 2(1)(g) and (o) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986.�
  4. HDFC Bank Limited v. Balwinder Singh [24]

    The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission expressed shock over the usage of physical means in form of musclemen by the bank to recover the loan amount from the consumer and in the same process the musclemen took the possession of the consumer�s car. The bank was held liable and the consumer was awarded exemplary damages of Rs25,000.

How various developments that took place in 20th century and the role of stakeholders shaped the consumerism in India and how the first milestone moment in the consumer protection field took place as the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. With the onset of globalization, the consumer movement took a new shape and today we see the enactment of a new act that is the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 which is again a significant and yet diversified statute as it also includes the penal provision for misleading advertisements and product endorsers.

It expands the definition of a consumer to include the users of the new concept of e-commerce, also when the world is getting virtual and digitalized it is important to include the innovative methods so that no aggrieved consumer is left behind. With the growing needs according to the changing time the rights of consumers also shape themselves and are thus ever evolving. Fair, cheap and easy process of consumer redressal system is the only thing for which the entire legislation is enacted.

In Lucknow Development Authority v. M.K. Gupta[25] Justice R.M. Sahai aptly observed:
The law attempts to remove the helplessness of a consumer which he faces against powerful business described as a network of rackets or a society in which producers have secured the power to �rob the rest�. The malady is becoming so rampant, widespread, deep that the society instead of bothering complaint and fighting for it is accepting it as a part of life. The enactment of in these unbelievable yet harsh realities appear to be a silver lining in checking the rot.�

Knowledge instils awareness, awareness brings change and change establishes the right and suitable order to the society which benefits all, thus in a time of internet and rapid search system available at the hands of consumers , consumer awareness is the only movement through which socio-economic progress can be checked in an ever evolving community it is important to make the consumers literate with consumer education then only the holding the transition of Caveat Venditor from Caveat Emptor can be maintained.

  1. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, No. 35, Acts of Parliament, 2019 (India
  2. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, No. 35, Acts of Parliament, 2019 (India).
  3. Dr. S.K. Kapoor, Law Of Torts & Consumer Protection Act 1986 479 (2013).
  4. India Const. art. 38 cl. 1
  5. India Const. art. 47
  6. Nupur Roy, Globalizing India and Consumerism in a New World Order (1991-2016), JSTOR (Jan. 11, 06:14 PM)
  7. Dr.S.K.Kapoor, Law Of Torts & Consumer Protection Act 1986 477 (2013)
  8. Dr.S.K.Kapoor, Law Of Torts & Consumer Protection Act 1986 477-478 (2013)
  9. Dr.S.K.Kapoor, Law Of Torts & Consumer Protection Act 1986 477 478 (2013
  10. United Nations, Draft Resolution for Consideration by The General Assembly, UNCTAD (Jan. 13, 03:25PM)
  11. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, No. 35, Acts of Parliament, 2019 (India).
  12. PTI From September 1, entry of imported toys in India only after quality testing: Paswan The Economic Times
  13. Consumer Rights Consumer Affairs: unit/consumerrights#:~:text=Means%20right%20to%20be%20informed,a%20choice%20or%20a%20decision.
  14. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, No. 35, Acts of Parliament, 2019, (India).
  15. Dr.Roopa Vajpayee & Akanksha Rana, Consumer Claims 54 (Eastern Book Company 2020
  16. The Competition Act, 2002, Act No. 12, Acts of Parliament 2003 (India).
  17. Dr. Roopa Vajpayee & Akanksha Rana, Consumers Claims 55 (Eastern Book Company 2020)
  18. Ginka Kalyan, Analysis of The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, MANUPATRA (Jan. 07, 11:07 AM)
  19. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, Act No. 35, Acts of Parliament 2019 (India)
  20. (2011) 4 S.C.C. (Civ.) 835, 850
  21. Consumer Complaint No. 42 of 2018 District Consumer Redressal Forum Behrampore Odisha (India).
  22. (1995) 5 SCC 139.
  23. 2020 SCC Online NCDRC 490.
  24. III (2009) CPJ 49 (NC)
  25. AIR 1994 SC 787 791.
Written By: Divyanshu Jain

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