Affirmative Disclosure - Consumer Behaviour

Information is provided on negative attributes. It shows the deficiencies and limitations of the product e.g., “Tobacco is injurious to health.”

  1. Right to access: This right would facilitate the shop-keepers in selecting and stocking goods of choice and variety and at competitive prices.
  2. Right of proper hearing: The Central Council is, in the fourth place, charged with the responsibility of assuring the consumers that they would be heard, as of right, by the appropriate forums and the consumer will receive due attention and consideration from such forums.
  3. Right to seek redressal: The consumer has been given the right to seek redressalagainst unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation. In M.O. HasanKuthoos, Naricarvs. Joseph K. Thomas (1991), where money was deposited in advance for the supply of a car within two months, and the car was actually supplied sometime after two months, the retention of money beyond the period was held to be an unfair trade practice, entitling the party to 14 per cent interest on the deposit for the period of delay.
  4. Right to consumer education: Education makes the consumer aware of his rights and the chances of exploitation become meagre. Every person is a consumer in one way or the other. When aroused by a proper consumer education, one is likely to be above petty temptations and, therefore, more effective in its mission.

This has been a mission of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 that consumer’s education is a must. The Consumer Councils have been charged with responsibility to provide to the people, education in terms of their remedies under the Act. If the consumer is educated properly about his rights and remedies, the public servants shall cease to act as public exploiters, and corruption and mal practices in the public life will be reduced, if nor eradicated.
Besides all this there should be proper pricing truthful labelling, nutrimental ingredients be shown and displayed. Expiry dates should be displayed. The date of manufacture, proper weights, proper quality of material and proper packing, purity and hygiene be considered as well.

The implementation of the act: The National Policy in the sphere of consumerism to the responsibility of the Consumer Council. Consumerism has assured great importance in the field of commerce. The meaning of consumer in relation to the transactions with producers,sellers which affect his day-to-day life, is explained as order.

Consumer: Section 2(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines consumer in two parts. It provides that consumer is a person who buys goods for consideration and who hires or avails of any services for a consideration. In its explanation, it is made clear that if goods are purchased for commercial purposes, then he will cease to be a consumer, but if the goods are bought and used by him exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood, by means of self-employment, he would be deemed to be a consumer.

Thus, consumerism is a result of contract, and for contract, consideration is a must, whether for buying goods or, hiring services. Another important requirement is that a sale in course of trade necessary. Consumerism deals in buying and selling.The cause of action arises when there is:

  • Defect in goods: The producer or seller shall be held liable only when the buyer makes it clear to the seller that the goods are required for a particular purpose.
  • The buyer relies on the seller’s skill or judgment.
  • The famous case on this point was decided in 1936.

The name of the case was Grant vs. Australian Knitting Mills. In that case, the plaintiff, a doctor, purchased from the retailer, two woollen underpants manufactured by the defendants.
Next day after wearing one of them he became ill. His illness was diagnosed as dermatitis caused by a chemical irritant, which the defendants had negligently omitted to remove in the process of manufacturing. The manufacturers were held liable for the defect in the goods.

The second category of consumer is that of user of services. Deficiency in service was explained by the Apex Court in Lucknow Development Authority vs M.K. Gupt (1994) ISCC243. The court held that a housing authority would be liable for any deficiency in service, even if the contract for the service was made before the amendment made in 1993. In Indian Medical Association vs. V.P. Shantha (1995) 6 SCC 651, the Supreme Court held that the use of words, potential users does not have the effect of excluding medical services from the preview of the word ‘service’. However, the services must be of commercial nature, in the sense that they must be on payment, which may be either in cash or kind, and which may be made either at once, or partly on credit. In this category of consumer also, any beneficiary of the service would be included, though he is not the hirer. In this category comes a nominee of an insurance policy who is entitled to the service with the approval of the user.

Unlike other remedies available under various Acts, the Consumer Protection Act does give a new forum which will be comparatively free from all weaknesses. Court fee is not there, lawyers are not needed and, time limit is set for disposal. In a favour case of Laxmi Engineering Works vs. PSG Industrial Institute Air 1995 SC 1428, the Supreme Court determined the nature of protection, and held that the quasi-judicial bodies created by the Act are not courts though invested with some of the powers of the court. They are quasi-judicial tribunals, brought into existence to render in expensive and speedy remedies to the consumers. These bodies are not supposed to supplant but supplement the existing judicial system. The idea was to provide an additional forum, providing in expensive and speedy resolution of disputes arising between consumers and suppliers of goods and services purchased and availed of by them, in a market dominated by large trading and manufacturing bodies. Indeed, the entire Act revolves roundthe consumer, and is designed to protect his interest. The Act provides for “business to business” disputes.

Mere provisions of the law are of no use unless the effective remedial measures are there. The Act provides for an effective policy making body, i.e., Central Consumer Protection Council, State Consumer Protection Council to keep an eagle’s eye on whether the provisions are being implemented effectively or not. In 1987, the Consumer Protection Rules were framed to give effectiveness to the authorities.

The Minister in charge of the Department of Food and Civil Supplies in the Central Government, is the chairman of the Central Council and same is the case of State Councils. There are a total 150 members and their term is fixed for three years. The Constitution and functions are described from Sections 4 to 8 of the Act. This role is supervisory.
From Sections 9 to 24, the provisions for constitution and functions and jurisdiction of consumer disputes redressal agencies are narrated. These are as under:

  1. District Forums: They are organized at the district level and a retired District Judge is nominated by the State Government to be its president. Two other members, one lady and one gents, is appointed by a committee consisting of the Chairman of State Commission, Secretary of Food and Civil Supplies and Secretary of Law Department. Their term is for five years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. Their jurisdiction is up to 5 lakh rupees.
    A complaint can be filed by the consumer himself, by a recognized consumer association, by one or more consumers, or by the Central or State Governments. The District Forum cannot grant interim relief. They can grant only the final relief. They also do not have the power to review their orders. Sections 10 to 15 deal with the composition, power and jurisdiction of the District Forum . The decisions of the District Forum can be challenged only according to the procedure prescribed in Act itself.
  2. State Commissions: The composition of National Commission is given in Section 16 of the Act. The President of the commission shall be a retired High Court Judge and two other members. Its jurisdiction is laid down in Section 17 of the Act and it can dispose of the cases upto the value of Rs. 20 lakhs. It can hear the appeal from the District Forum and can also call for the records. Section 18 lays down the procedure, which is the same as is laid down in Sections 13 and 14 of the Act. Section 19 lays down the procedure for original jurisdiction which is limited to monetary value only.
  3. National Commission: The composition of National Commission is provided in Section 20 of the Act. The President of the National Commission is a Supreme Court Judge, who is appointed by the President of India in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. Four other members are appointed. Original jurisdiction is limited to the case the value of which is more that 20 lakhs and rest of the jurisdiction is appellate. From any decision of the National Commission and appeal lies to the Supreme Court. Thirty days time from the date of the order is allowed for the purpose. Where no appeal is made, the orders of the District Forum, State Commission and National Commission are considered and made final. The period of Limitation for filling complaints is two years from the date of cause of action. Delay, if any, can be condoned by the Forums. The orders of a District Forum, State Commission and those of National Commission are enforceable in the manner of an order or decree made by a court in a Civil Suit. From 26 to 31 Sections provisions are insignificant.

The main purpose for which the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted, was to impart speedy and inexpensive justice to the consumer. However, with the passage of time these forums have also assumed the same character as is practiced by the ordinary court. The delaying tactics, the engagements of lawyers and other legal battles have married the efficacy of the forums created by the Act. They have been losing their importance gradually, and the purpose for which the redressal agencies were created is slowly being frustrated. The cases are now lost in the pending files lying with the judges.

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