C. Thilakam

epgp books






Learning Objective


The lesson imparts significance of consumer guidance and counseling, consumer protection, consumer legislation, consumer redressal mechanism and consumer protection councils to the learners.




“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.

He is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him.

He is not interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.

He is not the outsider in our business. He is a part of it.

We are not doing him a favour by serving him.

He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

– Mahatma Gandhi


Though the consumer occupies the central position in the entire scheme of free economy, consumer has not always received the attention that he deserves. In the practical world, consumer is the ‘slave” and not the ‘sovereign’ as described. The goods and services available may be in abundance or in short supply, but the position of the consumer is weak, in relation to the seller. Sellers want customers, as buyers and not as criticizers.


The majority of the consumers in advanced countries are well educated, well- informed and are in a opposition to protect themselves. But our Indian situation is different from the Western, where adequate production and proper distribution of products exist. In India, industries have not achieved the level of affluence of technology and the existing markets of products run in shortages, adulteration and black market prices. “A consumer is a king of the market” but in fact he is not. To save or protect themselves, against exploitative practices of trade, consumerism has emerged and has been accepted as a defensive force to safeguard the interest of the consumer.


The term ‘Consumerism’ has come into existence in the early 1960s when it was coined by the business community in the western world particularly in America. According to Prof. David W. Cravens and Gerald E. Hills have defined it as “an environmental force intended to aid and protect the consumer through the exertion of legal, moral and economic pressure on business


It is also defined simply as “let the seller beware”. Thus, consumerism, as social movement, may be defined as an organized effort of consumers seeking redress, restitution and remedy for dissatisfaction, that they have accumulated in the acquisition of their standard of living.” Consumerism, like democracy, is a movement by the people, of the people and for the people where the role of common man is uncommon.


Consumerism includes two basic areas such as 1.Removal of reduction of the discontent and dissatisfaction created in the business relations between the buyers and sellers in market. That is, the marketing activities of the sellers should guarantee consumer satisfaction at any rate as envisaged as a major plank of modern marketing concept.2. Protecting the consumers against the prejudices caused in the exchange relations.




It is really very difficult to organize the consumers in India, as India is a very vast country and the consumers are widely scattered, speaking different languages, belonging to different religions. It is difficult to form concrete organizations. Ignorance, illiteracy, economic and social backwardness of Indian consumers has given ample scope for the organized business community to exploit these consumers.


Consumer protection is a form of social action which is marked to attain the safety of the society namely, consumers. Satisfaction and wellbeing of the consumer should be the objective of all business units. In real practice, he is not protected or safeguarded but, he is cheated and looted.


The need for Consumer protection in India


1.Consumer needs physical protection against products and services that are fake, unsafe and endanger to health and property.

2.Consumer needs protection against misleading and unfair trade practices followed by dishonest business community. Today, the consumer is the victim of business malpractices and frauds. A contractor may cheat a humble and needy flat buyer.

3.Consumer needs protection against the abuse of monopoly and restrictive trade practices.

4. Consumer needs protection against deaf- ears on non-commitment of sellers.

5.Consumer needs protection against pollution of all kinds.


Consumer Protection and Awareness


Consumer’s exploitation can be avoided by the following steps


1.While making a purchase every consumer should ask for a proper bill from the shop keeper.

2.While purchasing one should read the label properly, quality, weight, quantity, price, date of manufacturing etc., should be mentioned duly.

3.Products which display quality control sign from the standardize institutions like “AGMARK”, “ISI” and other similar organizations, should be given priority while purchasing various goods.

4.Consumer should not purchase goods only on the basis of advertisements and other incentives provided with the products. Purchases should be based on the requirement, quality, quantity and on the value of the product.

5.One should not purchase products from the black market or through unauthorized means. If the product is not available in the market, the customer should opt for a substitute. Purchasing through illegal means encourages black marketing.

6 Consumers can register their complaints to district supply officer if he finds fault in respect of weight or measure, adulteration or against black marketing.

7.Consumers can approach consumer guidance society or District Supply Officer for obtaining compensation for defaults.

8.Every consumer should know the functioning of consumer forum, court, legal procedures, legal acts and have regular contact with the consumer societies.


Role of Government in Consumer Protection


1.To make the function of consumer court more meaningful, the Government is conducting training programmes for non-judicial members of the forum commission.

2.Rural consumer cooperative societies and the public distribution system are being strengthened.

3.March 15thof every year is declared as consumer Protection Day and the public are educated on their rights and responsibilities.




The Government of India has enacted certain laws to protect the wellbeing of the consumers and to safeguard them.


Consumer protection Act, 1986


The Government ofIndia has passed the Consumer protection Act in 1986. This is a landmark in the history of consumer movement in India because it is applicable to the whole of India and to all goods. It is not applicable to public enterprise. It seeks to setup consumer courts in each state with power to punish the guilt by heavy fine and imprisonment.


Amendments to Consumer protection Act, 1986


Some progressive amendments in the consumer Protection Act 1986 were introduced by Consumer protection (Amendment) Ordinance 1993.


The salient features of the Amendment are:


Rise to Pecuniary Jurisdiction: The pecuniary jurisdiction of the District Forum was raised from Rs.1 lakhs to Rs.5 lakhs and that of State Commission from Rs.10 lakhs to 20 lakhs


Empowerment of State Governments: The State Governments are empowered to establish more than one District Forum in a District if it deems fit in large cities.


Institution of complaint: Now an aggrieved party can institute a complaint at any place where branch office of the opposite party of an establishment is situated.


Right to Institute in Group: Right is granted to one or more consumers to institute a complaint where there are several consumers having the same interest.


The Consumer Protection Act applies to the manufacturing companies so that any defect or impurity of the product at the manufacturing stage can be detected and if proved, the concerned executives can be sent to jail. The middlemen like wholesalers and retailers can, thus, be excused if the product is defective or harmful at the production stage of the plant.


Here we have brief reference to some of the Acts which more closely related to marketing area. They are:


1.  Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954


This Act was passed with a view to protect public health prohibiting adulteration of food. An adulterated food article is one which is injuries to public health. It is injurious when

  • the product quality is not as demanded or claimed
  • it contains an injurious substance
  • any constituent of the article has been taken away
  • it has been prepared, packed or kept under insanitary conditions
  • it is unfit for human consumption
  • it is obtained from deceased animals it is poisonous or deleterious
  • it contains prohibited preservative
  • its quality or purity falls below the prescribed standards.


2.  The Essential Commodities Act, 1955


It is one of the major consumer- oriented legislations of the country whose object is to control, in the interests of general public, the production, supply and the distribution of trade and commerce in certain commodities declared essential. A number of products are included under it. Whenever a company markets these products, the provisions of this Act apply to it and influence its product, distribution and pricing decision. In 1974, it was further amended with provision against hoarders, black marketers and profiteers. It is made compulsory to display the prices of essential commodities.


3. Weights and measures Act, 1988


The Act was passed to safeguard the consumers against the exploitation of weighing measures of commodities by traders. Under this Act, standard weights and measures are introduced and metric system of weights and measures has been introduced.


4. The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969


This Act was passed in order to regulate the monopolistic and restrictive trade practices followed by the companies. It applies only to such undertakings, except Government and Public undertaking. Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTP) has been set up to enquire into monopolistic and restrictive trade practices upon a complaint by any trade or consumer association. The main objectives, in short, are checking concentration of economic power which is detrimental to the society, checking such monopolistic and restrictive trade practices which are injurious to public well-being and welfare and vesting the powers with the Central Government to investigate and control mergers and expansions.


5. Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940


Just as in food products, drugs of sub-standard quality are manufactured and marketed. The prices charged for medicines are not proportional to the cost of production. The high prices charged by the manufacturers are high enough to exploit the consumers. There is the problem of spurious drugs – manufactured by unscrupulous producers, and they are not harmful but also dangerous to life.


6. Packaged Commodities Act, 1975


This is an important measure for consumer protection. This order provides that producers of several packaged commodities should print on the packages and contents, weights, price, month of manufacture, the date of expiry of the products, the name of manufacturer meant for retail trade so that consumer will come to know what they purchase. It has valuable provisions to consumers.




Drugs Control Act, 1950


Dangerous Drug Act, 1930


The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act 1954



Household Electrical Appliances (Quality Control) Order, 1976 and many other Acts in favour of consumers are equally important.



In a nutshell, we can say that these Acts protect the legitimate interest of consumers in a number of ways. With a separate Act namely, Consumer Protection Act of 1986 as amended up to date, these enactments make the consumer protection much more meaningful and purposive and effective. What is more important is that more passing of Acts has no meaning. The persons for whom it is passed should take full advantage of these. That is there should be public awareness among organizations and associations, so that the group cry is louder than individual and more demonstrative.




The Consumer Protection Act of 1986 provides for the establishment of three-tier quasi judicial machinery for redressing the consumer grievances as under:


1.      District forums

2.      State Commissions

3.      National Commission


1.      District Forums:


1.A Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum to be known as “District Forum” is required to be established by the State Government with the prior approval of the Central Government.

2. It consists of a president and two members appointed by the State Government

3. The president of the Forums is required to be a person who is, or has been or is qualified to be a District Judge

4. Of the two members, one must be a person of eminence in the fields of education, trade or commerce and another must be a lady social worker.

5.  The jurisdiction of the Forum is to entertain complaints where the value of goods or services and the compensation claimed is less than Rs.5 lakhs.

6. The complaint may be lodged by affected consumer himself or the registered consumer association to which he belongs.

7. The District forum shall entertain complaints arising from within the district.

8.District forum shall be located at the headquarters of the district.


2.      State Commission:


1.  A Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to be known as “State Commission” is required to be established by the State Government with the prior approval of the Central Government is the State.

2. It shall consist of a president and two other members’s to be appointed by the State Government.

3.The president should be a person who is or has been a Judge of a High Court, appointed by the State Government.

4.The two other members should be persons of ability, integrity and standing and should have adequate knowledge or experience of, or have shown capacity in dealing with problems relating to economics, law, commerce, accountancy, industry, public-affairs or administration, one of whom should be a woman.

5.It can also entertain appeals against the orders of any district forum within the state.

6. The original jurisdiction is vested in the Commission in respect of complaints where the value of goods or services and the compensation so claimed exceed Rs.5 lakhs but not more than 20 lakhs.


3. National Commission:


1. The highest authinst the order of the National commission can be filed to the Supreme Court within 30 days.


Merits of the Consumer court


Instead of filling a case in the regular court, the aggrieved consumer can look up to the consumer court. The regular courts are already burdened with cases pending for many years. In a regular court generally, one has to take services of an advocates but in a consumer court, the complainant himself can argue the case.

1. In consumer court cases are disposed off within 90-150 days. Whereas in a regular court time consumer procedures take several years for the case to be disposed off.

2.For filling a case in the consumer court no stamp fee need to be paid. The complaint can be filed even on plain paper.

4.  There is no cumbersome procedure to be followed by the complainant in a consumer court.

5.  The aggrieved consumer gets justice, speedily at a very low cost with fewer formalities.


Procedure for making complaints before the District Forum/State Commission


Consumers can register their complaints with the consumer forums, which are located in every district and also at the state as well as national levels. Complaints can be registered by an individual or his/her representative. It can also be made through (NGO) non-government organization.


An aggrieved consumer or his authorized agent can present the complaint in person or by registered post to the concerned consumer forum.


The consumer has to collect and keep ready all the evidences needed. Mere allegation is not proof. Some documentary evidence or witness is needed.


The written complaint (preferably typed) with sufficient number of copies containing the details referred should be kept ready. Before filling the written complaint the consumer can approach the seller, opposite party and get his views in writing about the complaint to be made. This is because in many cases the problem is solved even before filling the case in the district forum.


Complaints should have


a. Full name and address of the complaining person.

b. Full name and address of the opponent

c. Detailed facts about the complaint.

d. Documents relating to the claim in the complaints (Bill, vouchers, receipts, guarantee card, etc.,).

e. Efforts made by the complaining person for resolving the problem

f. Monetary compensation or relief claimed by the complaining person.

g. Signature of the complaining person or his/her representative.


If the person is acting on behalf of another, the necessary permission to act as agent should have been obtained.


Receiving notice from the district forum and attending the hearing.

The opposite party will give its counter usually within 30 days from the date of receipt of notice.


On the next date of hearing argument will follow and if need be witness will be brought in. There may be cross examination and lastly, the District Forum will communicate its orders. If need be the aggrieved party can appeal to the state commission within the stipulated period.


Consumer protection law safe guards the interests of consumers, against health hazards and monetary loss.




The lesson dealt with the significance of consumer guidance and counseling, consumer protection, consumer legislation, consumer redressal mechanism and consumer protection councils.






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