Even though strong and clear laws exist in India to protect consumer rights, the actual plight of Indian consumers could be declared as completely dismal. Very few consumers are aware of their rights or understand their basic consumer rights. Of the several laws that have been enacted to protect the rights of consumers in India, the most significant is the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Under this law, everyone, including individuals, a Hindu undivided family, a firm, and a company, can exercise their consumer rights for the goods and services purchased by them. It is important that, as consumers, we know at least our basic rights and about the courts and procedures that deal with the infringement of our rights.
In general, the rights of consumers in India can be listed as under:
* The right to be protected from all types of hazardous goods and services
* The right to be fully informed about the performance and quality of all goods and services
* The right to free choice of goods and services
* The right to be heard in all decision-making processes related to consumer interests
* The right to seek redressal, whenever consumer rights have been infringed
* The right to complete consumer education
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and various other laws like the Standards, Weights & Measures Act have been formulated to ensure fair competition in the market place and free flow of true information from the providers of goods and services to those who consume them. However, the success of these laws would depend upon the vigilance of consumers about their rights, as well as their responsibilities. In fact, the level of consumer protection in a country is considered as the correct indicator of the extent of progress of the nation.
The production and distribution systems have become larger and more complicated today. The high level of sophistication achieved by the providers of goods and services in their selling and marketing practices and various types of promotional activities like advertising resulted in an increased need for higher consumer awareness and protection. In India, the government has realized the plight of Indian consumers and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has established the Department of Consumer Affairs as the nodal organization for the protection of consumer rights, redressal of all consumer grievances and promotion of standards governing goods and services offered in India.
A complaint for infringement of consumer rights could be made under the following circumstances in the nearest designated consumer court:
* The goods or services bought by a person or agreed to be bought by a person suffer from one or more deficiencies or defects in any respect
* A trader or a service provider resorting to restrictive or unfair trade practices
* A trader or a service provider charging a price in excess of the price displayed on the goods or the price that had been agreed upon between the parties or the price that had been stipulated under any law in force
* Goods or services that pose a hazard to the safety and life of a person offered for sale, knowingly or unknowingly, causing injury to health, safety or life.
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