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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Consumer - Definition

Features of Consumer Protection Act are:
a)      The Act applies to all goods and services unless specially exempted by Union Government.
b)      It covers all sectors – public, private or cooperative.
c)       Provisions of the Act are compensatory in nature.
d)      It contains all consumers’ rights - to choose, to be heard, to be informed, to safety, education and redressal.
e)      It empowers consumers seeking discontinuance of trader’s malpractices, defective goods, service deficiencies or withdrawal of hazardous goods from the market.

The main objective of the act is to provide for better protection of consumers. Unlike existing laws which are punitive or preventive in nature, the provisions of this Act are compensatory in nature. The act is intended to provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to the consumers' grievances, and reliefs of a specific nature and award of compensation wherever appropriate to the consumer.
a)      To assist countries in achieving or maintaining adequate protection for their population as consumers;
b)      To facilitate production and distribution patterns responsive to the needs and desires of consumers;
c)       To encourage high levels of ethical conduct for those engaged in the production and distribution of goods and services to consumers;
d)      To assist countries in curbing abusive business practices by all enterprises at the national and international levels which adversely affect consumers;
e)      To facilitate the development of independent consumer groups;
f)       To further international cooperation in the field of consumer protection;
g)      To encourage the development of market conditions which provide consumers with greater choice at lower prices.

Consumer
Section 2 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines the term "consumer". It says ‘consumer’ means any person:
a)      Who buys goods and has paid or promised to pay a consideration partly or fully under any system of deferred payment.
b)      Who hires or avails of services and has paid or promised to pay a consideration partly or fully under any system of deferred payment.
c)       Who uses the goods with the approval of the person who has bought the goods for a consideration
d)      Who is a beneficiary of the services hired or availed by an individual with the consent of that individual.

Who is not a consumer?
a)      An applicant for a passport has been held to be not a consumer, because the duties of the passport officer do not fall in the category of services for consideration.
b)      An applicant for ration card is not a consumer.
c)       The beneficiaries of municipal services have been held to be not in the category of consumers.

Rights of Consumers:
a)      The right to safety: It refers to the right to be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or life. It includes concern for consumers immediate and long term needs.
b)      The right to be informed: Consumers have a right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services so that they can make the right decision and protect themselves against malpractices.
c)       The right of choice: The consumer has the right to be assured of a choice of various goods and services of satisfactory quality and competitive price.
d)      Right to representation (or right to be heard): It is a right and the responsibility of civil society to ensure consumer interest prevails while formulating and executing policies which affect the consumers, as well as right to be heard while developing or producing a product or service.
e)      Right to seek redressal of aggrievances: The consumer has the right go to court if he has been unscrupulously exploited against unfair or restrictive trade practices and receives compensation for supply of unsatisfactory or shoddy goods.
f)       The right to consumer education: It is the right to acquire knowledge and skills to be an informed consumer because it is easier for the literate to know their rights and to take actions to influence factors that affect consumer’s decisions. The Union and State Governments have accepted the introduction of consumer education in school curriculum.
g)      Right to basic needs: It is the right to receive the eight basic necessities that are required to survive and lead a dignified life. These eight basic necessities include food, clothing, shelter, health care, sanitation, education, energy and transportation.
h)      Right to healthy environment: It is the right to be protected against environmental pollution and environmental degradation so as to enhance the quality of life of both the present and future generation.

Main responsibility of consumer are given as under-
a)      Be aware about their right: Consumer must be aware of their own rights. This right is right to basics needs, right to consumer education, right to be informed, right to be choose, right to be safety, right to be heard and right to seek redressed of grievances.
b)      Quality conscious: while making purchase, consumer should look for quality certification makes like ISI on electrical appliances and Agmark on food product etc.
c)       Must obtain cash memo: Consumer must insist on cash memos as cash memo act as proof of purchase. No seller can deny given cash memo. A seller is bound to give a cash memo even if buyer doesn’t ask for it.
d)      Be Assertive: The consumer must be assertive in his dealings.
e)      Be Honest: Consumer must act honestly and choose goods/services, which are legitimate. They should also discourage unscrupulous practices like misleading advertisements and black marketing etc.
f)       Ready to lodge complaints: Consumer should not ignore the dishonesty to trader. The consumer should file a complaint even for a small loss. However, they should file complaints for the redressed of genuine grievances only.
g)      Respect Environment: Consumer should avoid polluting the environment.

Person
A person includes:
a)      A firm whether registered or not;
b)      A Hindu undivided family;
c)       A co-operative society;
d)      Every other association of persons whether registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or not;
e)      A person by himself has no standing under the Consumer Protection Act. A person has to be a consumer within the definition of the word ‘Consumer’ to get remedy.

Goods
Goods mean goods as defined in the Sale of Goods Act 1930. Goods mean every kind of movable property other than actionable claims and money. E.g. it includes stocks and shares, attached to or forming part of the land including growing crops, grass which are agreed to be served before sale or under the contract of sale.

It means service of any description which is made available to potential users. It Includes the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, board or lodging or both, housing construction, entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service.
There is a distinction between the contract of service and contract for service. The contract of service implies some relationship of master and servant. The servant is obliged to obey the order of his master. This is Contract of Service. Where the person engages the service of another person and where he can only order what is to be done, it is Contract for Service.

Manufacturer
a)      Makes or manufactures any goods or parts thereof; or
b)      Does not make or manufacture any goods but assembles parts thereof made or     manufactured by others and claims the end product to be goods manufactured by himself; or
c)       Puts or causes to be put his own mark on any goods made or manufactured by any other manufacturer and claims such goods to be goods made or manufactured by him.

Trader
Is a person who
a)      Sells goods; or
b)      Distributes any goods for sale;
c)       Manufacturer of goods for sale;
d)      Packer of goods who sells or distributes goods in package form.
A complaint lies against a person who is a trader falling under the above categories. Even a Government company or an undertaking by the Government manufacturing and selling goods is covered by the word trader, like A middleman who brings together the buyer and seller and receives commission for the service rendered is NOT a trader.

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