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THE HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONSUMER PROTECTION LAWS IN INDIA

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

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.