Consumer Protection: Ways and Means of Consumer Protection, Lok Adalat and Public Interest Litigation (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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Ways and Means of Consumer Protection

We have enumerated several instances of exploitations and malpractices on the part of manufacturers, traders, dealers and services providers. Now the question arises as to how these can be eliminated. Actually, it is very difficult to stop such exploitation by any consumer single handily. The consumers have to collectively act against such malpractices and take the help of consumer organisations and the government agencies. Infect, consumer protection essentially needs consumer awareness, education and guidance, and it cannot be assured by voluntary business conduct or self-regulation. The following are the various ways and means of consumer protection followed in India.

Ways and Means of Consumer Protection

Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat՚s are the effective and economical system for quick redressal of the public grievances. The aggrieved party can directly approach the Adalat with his grievance, and his issues are discussed on the spot and decisions are taken immediately. The consumers may take the advantage of this system to solve their problems. Cases of electricity billing, telephone billings, road accidents etc. can be taken up in Lok Adalat for spot settlement. Infect, Indian Railways, Maha nagar Telephone Nigam Limited and Delhi Vidyut Board hold Lok Adalat regularly to settle user՚s grievances on the spot.

Public Interest Litigation

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is a scheme under which any person can move to the court of law in the interest of the society. It involves efforts to provide legal remedy to un-represented groups and interests. Such groups may consist of consumers, minorities, poor persons, environmentalists and others. Any person or organisation, though not a party to the grievances, can approach the court for remedial action in case of any social atrocities.

Redressal Forums and Consumer Protection Councils

Under the Consumer Protection Act 1986, a judicial system has been set up to deal with the consumer grievances and disputes at district level, state level and national level. These are known as District Forum, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (State Commission) and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (National Commission) . Any individual consumer or association of consumers can lodge a complaint with the District, State or National level forum, depending on the value goods and claim for compensation. The main objective of these forums is to provide for a simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal of consumers՚ grievances. The Act as amended in 2002 also provides for setting up of Consumer Protection Council at district, state and national level for promotion and protection of the rights of the consumers as laid down in Section 6 of the Act. The councils are required to give wide publicity to the rights of consumers, the procedures for filling complaints by them and provide inputs to consumer movement in the country.

Awareness Programme

To increase the level of awareness among the consumers the Government of India has initiated various publicity measures. It regularly brings out journals, brochures, booklets and various posters depicting the rights and responsibilities of consumers, redressal machineries etc. It observes World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March and National Consumer Day on 24 December. Several video programmes on consumer awareness are broadcasted through different television channels. Similarly, audio programmes are also broadcasted through All India Radio and FM channels. The poster and slogan competition on consumer protection are also organised at various level. To encourage the participation of public in the field of consumer protection the Government has also instituted National Awards to the persons who have done outstanding work in this field.

Consumer Organisations

Consumer organisations have been active all over the world to promote and protect consumer interests. A number of such organisations have also been set up in recent years in different parts of India. It is felt that neither it is possible to discipline all members of the business community through moral sanctions and a code of fair business practices nor can administrate orders and legislative provisions to ensure consumer protection without the active involvement of consumer associations. Now with an increasing number of consumer organisations involved in consumer protection, the consumer movement is getting a foothold in India and helping individuals to seek quick and adequate redressal of their grievances. Look at the box for some of such consumer organisations.

Consumer Welfare Fund

The government has created a consumer welfare fund for providing financial assistance to strengthen the voluntary consumer movement in the country particularly in rural areas. This fund is mainly used for setting up facilities for training and research in consumer education, complaint handling, counselling and guidance mechanisms, product testing labs, and so on.

Legislative Measures

A number of laws have been enacted in India to safeguard the interest of consumers and protect them from unscrupulous and unethical practices of the businessmen. Some of these Acts are as follows:

  • Drug Control Act, 1950
  • Agricultural Products (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937
  • Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951
  • Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
  • Essential Commodities Act, 1955
  • The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1956
  • Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969
  • Prevention of Black-marketing and Maintenance of Essential Supplies Act, 1980
  • Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986

The object and interest of almost all these enactments are mainly punitive, though some of these are also preventive in nature. However, none of these laws provide any direct relief to the consumers. Hence, amendments have been made in some of these laws by which individual consumers and consumer organisations have been conferred the right to take initiative and launch legal proceedings in civil and criminal courts against the violators.

Another legal enactment that made a dent in this situation was the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969. It gained the status of a specific consumer protection law with amendments made in 1984. Inspite of the changes made in 1984, a need was felt to have a more elaborate legislation. So, the Consumer Protection Act was passed in 1986 to offer the necessary protection to consumers and provide an elaborate mechanism to deal with consumer grievances and disputes. A broad idea about its main provisions is being given in the next section.

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