THE HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION LAWS IN INDIA

Updated: Sep 5

Author: Sakshi Dev,

Delhi Metropolitan Education, Uttar Pradesh



ABSTRACT

Consumer Protection is one of the socio-economic activities that is to be administered by the government and the businesses with a major interest in consumer satisfaction. Consumer protection has been a neighbourhood of the responsibilities of the rulers in India even before independence. But a good consumer protection law, which purely focuses on consumer protection, was enacted within the year 1986. The consumer movement that flourished within the early and middle of the 20th century made the entire world concentrate on the formulation of vital consumer Acts. United Nation guidelines were the idea for the formulation of consumer protection policies and measures in many developing countries, including India. In 1986, the Consumer Protection Act was passed by the Parliament, which took into account together the simplest Acts for consumer protection among its counterparts.


INTRODUCTION

The growing interdependence of the global economy and international character of many business practices have contributed to the event of universal emphasis on consumer rights protection and promotion. Consumers, clients and customers world over are demanding value for money within the form of quality goods and better services. Modern technological developments have no doubt made a tremendous impact on the standard, availability and safety of products and services. The exploitation of consumers accepts various structures, for example, adulteration of food, spurious drugs, more prices, low quality, inadequate services, hazardous products and many more. Additionally, with a revolution in information technology, newer sorts of challenges are thrown on the buyer like cyber-crimes, plastic money, etc. which affect the buyer in an even more significant way. ‘Consumer is sovereign’ and ‘customer is the king’ are nothing but myths within the present scenario, particularly within the developing societies. However, it's been realized and rightly said so that the buyer protection may be a socio-economic programme to be pursued by the government also as the business because the satisfaction of the consumers is within the interest of both, during this context, the government. However, it includes a primary responsibility to guard the consumers’ interests and rights through appropriate policy measures, legal structure and administrative framework. Consumers participate in the marketplace by employing a particular product. The status of customers is more or less pathetic as far as consumer rights are concerned. You'll be able to take examples of shopkeepers weighing less than he should, the company making false claims on packs. Then there are local sweetmeat sellers adulterating raw materials to supply the sweets. You can recall the case of dropsy due to adulterated mustard oil.

Historical Background of Consumer Rights

Every year, the 15th of March is observed as the “World Consumer Rights Day”. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy of the U.S. called upon the U.S. Congress to accord its approval to the customer Bill of Rights. They are:

(i) Right to information

(ii) Right to choice

(iii) Right to be heard; and

(iv) Right to safety


President Gerald R. Ford added another right, i.e. right to consumer education. Further other rights like Right to a healthy environment and Right to basic needs (Food, Clothing and Shelter) were added. In India, we've recently started celebrating 24th December every year as the National Consumer Rights Day. Within the history of the event of consumer policy, April 9, 1985, which is a very important date as on that day the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a group of general guidelines for consumer protection. Therefore, the Secretary-General of the United Nations was authorised to influence member countries to adopt these guidelines through policy changes or the law. These guidelines constitute a comprehensive policy framework outlining what governments ought to do to market consumer protection in the following seven areas:

I. Physical safety;

II. Protection and Promotion of the buyer economic interest;

III. Standards for the security and quality of commodity and services;

IV. Distribution facilities for commodity and services;

V. Measures enabling consumers to get redress;

VI. Measures concerning specific areas (food, water and pharmaceuticals) and

VII. Consumer education and knowledge programme.


Though not legally binding, the principles provide an internationally recognised set of primary objectives, particularly for governments of developing and newly independent countries for structuring and strengthening their consumer protection policies and legislations. These guidelines were adopted recognizing that buyers often face imbalances in economic terms, educational levels and bargaining power and bearing in mind that buyers should have proper access to non-hazardous products also because of the importance of promoting just, equitable and sustainable economic and social development. These U.N. guidelines for Consumer Protection can assist within the identification of priorities, particularly within the light of emerging trends during a globalised and liberalised world economy. The U.N. guidelines were never intended to be a static document and required to be revisited within the changed social, political and economic circumstances. On re-examination of U.N. guidelines in 1999 “sustainable consumption” was also included within the list which is undoubtedly a crucial step during this direction. It might perhaps be apt to spotlight that long back Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi said that” the rich must live more just so that the poor may simply live.”. There can't be a far better expression championing the explanation for sustainable consumption. it should not be out of place to say that the increased internationalisation of cooperation is additionally a neighbourhood of the globalisation process. Rules adopted for companies trading in OECD countries for the protection of the interests of consumers can now even be applied to their conduct for the protection of the interests of the consumers in non-OECD countries. A replacement investment guideline from the OECD spells out principles to be used by multinational corporations handling consumers. The rules, which affect fair business, marketing and advertising practices also as safety and quality of products and services lend themselves to consumer monitoring and campaigning. Possibilities for action include twinning arrangements during which groups from non- OECD countries work with groups from the house countries of multinational corporations to carry them in charge of failure to stick to the rules.


Before occupation, the direction of consideration of provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, perhaps it might be better to summarise the factors liable for legislations to guard consumer’s rights. These factors are as follows:

1) Rapidly increasing sort of goods and services which modern technology has made available;

2) Growing size and complexity of production and distribution system;

3) High level of sophistication in marketing and selling practices in production.

4) Removal of the private relationship of buyer and seller as a result of mass marketing methods;

5) Consumers’ increased mobility.

In order to know the event of consumer protection in India, it's important to trace the beginnings of the formation of the concept.


A. Ancient India

Ancient India witnessed the supremacy of the Vedas as a spiritual text, coming from God himself. The Vedas were strictly followed by the bulk within the ancient Indian society. Apart from the Vedas, this era also gave rise to the Code of Chanakya, Manu Smriti, Narada Smriti then on. These ancient codes contained provisions which sought to safeguard the interests of the buyer, with the aim of consumer safety.

Among the Dharmas, the foremost authoritative texts are:

Manu Smriti

Narada Smriti

Yajnavalkya Smriti

Katyayana Smriti.

Brihaspati Smriti

Among these, Manu Smriti was the foremost influential.


1. Manu Smriti

Manu Smriti was all about the social, political and economic conditions of the society within the past. It stressed on ethical trade practices, punishing those that were unfair to the consumers. Its prescribed code of conduct extended to adulteration also, which is mixing of a commodity with another, leading to impurity. All goods had a market value or a purchase price, as set by the king.


2. Kautilya’s Arthashastra

Kautilya’s Arthshastra clearly defined laws regulating weights and measures. A penalty was proposed for traders who indulged in adulteration of products namely grains, medicine, perfumes, salt and sugar. Arthashastra describes the role of the State in regulating trade and its duty to stop crimes against consumers. Black marketing and unfair trade practices were strictly condemned by Kautilya. There have been punishments prescribed for various sorts of cheating, which were stringent. These fines might be as severe as isolating the cheater’s hand. The rights of the traders were also well protected by the Arthashastra.


The Arthashastra was created during Chandragupta’s period. This era witnessed healthy trade practices where traders were to possess a license to sell, which was given on permission. The king granted a margin of profit to sellers while fixing sale prices. The State was liable for protecting the consumers against unfair prices and fraudulent transactions. Such acts were punishable, including smuggling and adulteration, especially of food.


B. MEDIEVAL PERIOD AND PRE-INDEPENDENCE

During the medieval period Muslim lords who ruled India, like Alauddin Khilji, Sher Shah Suri, and Akbar etc., thought of securing the purchasers and customers and that they sanctioned strict laws for an equivalent. They presented weights, measures standardization process.


C. THE MODERN AND BRITISH TIMES

British rulers combined the culture (dharma) with a bound together across the country system that had similitudes with the laws as of now ordered in Britain. (Prasad, 2008). They presented Acts like

• The Indian penal code, 1860

• Carriers Act, 1865

• Law of Tort

• The Indian Contract Act, 1872

• Sale of goods act 1930

• The Agricultural Product (Grading & Marking) Act, 1937

• The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940


These legislations demonstrated to be colossally viable in sparing the interface of the buyers amid the time of British, the principles were presently uniform over the state and not subjective to the conclusions of the various rulers of the Antiquated and Medieval periods.


D. POST-INDEPENDENCE PERIOD

When India accomplished autonomy, it embraced the Anglo-Saxon framework of organization of justice. Hence, the past enactment that was found out by the British proceeded to work in free India. Besides the existing legislation, the state was on its way to make laws through the creation of the Indian Structure and its appropriation in 1950. Due to the law-based nature of the structure, the prime centre of the rules was the advantage of the common open, who were to consumers.


II. THE NEW LEGISLATION ENACTED AFTER INDEPENDENCE ARE AS FOLLOWS:

● The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954

● The Essential Commodities Act, 1955

● The Monopolistic Restrictive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, 1969

● The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986

● The Consumer Protection Act, 1986

● The Trade Marks Act, 1999

● The Competition Act, 2002


The Consumer Disputes Redressal agencies- the National Commission, the State Commission, and therefore the District Forum soon began working and has quickly caused in fast action taken against those that exploit the consumers.


CONCLUSION

Consumer Protection involves securing the rights and interests of the customer in issues of accessibility, quality, amount and cost of merchandise and enterprises. It in actuality advances the idea of significant worth for cash and improves the trust between the client and the maker or suppliers of administrations. The Consumer Protection Act came into being within the month of March 1987. This Act was acknowledged for its basic, rapid, reasonable and compelling equity, and for less printed material and formal procedures. It was considered to supply more successful protection to consumers than any other comparable enactment existing within the world. After its execution, it was observed that there was a rise within the mindfulness of consumer rights and utilization of arrangements within the consumer protection Act. There was a development within the sum of self-regulation in open and private segments. But over a period of time, buyers were gradually losing their interest within the redressal mechanism as the cures were deficiently and the lawful apparatus was ineffectual. CPA is demonstrating a help to those who are mindful of it, but there's an ought to reinforce the offices beneath it. In India, the buyer movement found a transparent conception during the liberation movement of the `40s when Gandhi established the lead. Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, has been considered as the most significant consumer advocate the globe had ever seen.


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