Consumer protection was not necessary when the world was younger and communities smaller. In the lifestyle of those times unfair trade was almost impossible. The industrial revolution and a shift of population from rural areas to towns and anonymity of urban living gave plenty of scope for malpractices.
In our country, buyers have a very weak bargaining power and cannot assert their right being heard. Consequently, manufacturers and traders are tempted to follow diverse practices which turn out to be unfair to consumers.
To check the onslaught on consumers, a host of legislations were enacted. These include Sale of Goods Act, 1930; Essential Commodities Act, 1955; Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954; Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980; Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1956; Agricultural Products and Grading and Marketing Act (AGMARK), 1937; Indian Standards Bureau Certification Act, 1952; MRTP Act, 1969 etc.
Besides the applicability of the above legislations, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted which was substantially amended by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 1993 w.e.f. 18th June, 1993.
Consumer means any of the following persons:
A person who buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised or under any system of deferred payment. The term includes any other user of such goods when such use is made with the approval of the buyer.
The expression ‘consumer’, however, does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose.
A person who hires or avails of any service for consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment. The term includes any other beneficiary of such services with the approval of first mentioned person.
Consumer protection is needed because of following:
- 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 practices.
- Consumers protection is needed against all types of pollution so that they can enjoy a healthy environment-free from water, air and food pollution.
- Consumer protection is also needed against the abuse of monopolistic and restrictive trade practices. Protection delayed is protection denied.
On the one hand consumers, particularly in India, are unorganized, illiterate and ignorant, poor and backward, relatively uninformed and above all they still have the traditional outlook and attitude to suffer in silence. On the other side, businessmen and traders are organized, well-informed, intelligent and competent sellers. The negative sides of our life have enabled unscrupulous businessmen to exploit consumers in India.
Consumers in modern markets are amateurs whereas the persons confronting them are professional sellers. The consumer choice is influenced by mass advertising and other promotional devices which make people want things which neither they really need nor they can afford.