Need for Evolution
The origin of the consumer movement began in the 1960s which began as an interest in protecting the interest of the consumers and promoting unfair trade practices such as hoarding, black marketing and adulteration. the market where the activities of exchange are taking place makes the consumer an essential link to the growth of a seller. Time after time it was the consumers who were taken advantage and activities engaging in unfair trade practices took place in the market. There was no legal system in India to protect the consumers. The concept of consumerism took place which involves a social movement to protect and augment the rights and interests of the consumers against the producers. It was in the year 1970 when consumer organisations started to engage in writing articles and holding exhibitions against the malpractices in the market and bringing pressure on the business firms as well as the Government which led to a major development in the economy as the Act of 1986 of Consumer Protection was enacted. The Act provides a three-tier judicial system at the district, state and national to redress consumer grievances.
History of Consumer Movement
In the ancient period, Manu Smriti lays down few principles to safeguard the consumers and establish a code of conduct for the merchants. In the era where Kings, Mughals rule and later the British rule made bulk consumers poor. During the post-independence period, India was developing its laws and soon after many Governments based Super Bazaars were opened to control the prices and supply system. In the year 1978, Consumer Education Research Centre was set up with the purpose to protect consumer interest and was promoted through exhibitions. For the first time, a committee recommended an easy remedy before the magistrate that the aggrieved consumer should receive compensation for any falsely described or adulterated food. The landmark case of Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932) highlighted the duty of a manufacturer to take due care towards gross negligence towards its customer. The commotion stood an increase in various European countries and the USA which led to the enactment of the Act of 1986. Campaigns such as Jago Grahak Jago was adopted during the period 2000 to spread consumer awareness and helped set up consumer grievance systems.
Objectives and growth in the Modern period
Consumer Movement gave rise to the Consumer Protection Act (1986) which brings the following major objectives:
- Understand the development between cooperative societies and consumerism.
- Appreciate the consumers and bring awareness.
- Protect the consumers by appointing proper authorities for timely settlement.
- Protect against hazardous products to life and property.
- Seek redressal against the unfair practices.
- Lays down penalties for offences committed under the Act.
Role of Consumer Protection Act 1986
The Act brought six consumer rights namely:
- Right to Safety
- Right to Choose
- Right to Consumer Education
- Right to seek compensation
- Right to be informed
Each right bought additions which helped the consumers like the guarantee of the quality of goods with ISI Mark and AGMARK products, variety of products to choose from, forums to seek redressal and awareness with minimal negligence. The role of the forums helped provide quick relief to the consumers through:
- District forum- Claim shall not exceed 20 Lac. The forum consists of 3 members wherein one shall be a woman and the President is qualified to be a District judge.
- State Commission- Claim shall exist between 20 Lac. To 1 Cr. The commission consists of 3 members wherein one shall be a woman and the President is qualified to be a High Court Judge.
- National Commission- Claim exceeds 1 Cr. The commission consists of 4 or more members wherein one shall be a woman and the President is qualified to be a Supreme Court Judge.
Another addition to the Act was brought in the year 2019 to deal with the matters relating to violations of consumer’s rights and misleading advertisements. The e-commerce provisions have also been added to the Act of 2019.
How Consumer Movement began in other countries
The first consumer movement began in Denmark in 1947 and later in 1953 in Great Britain. In 1962 John F. Kennedy recognized four basic consumer rights in the USA for the first time. The movement arose in the United States at the beginning of the 19th century when in the case of Donald C. MacPherson v. Buick Motor Company observed that the manufacturer had been negligent and because of the defect a consumer was injured when one of the cars collapsed because of the defect. Soon after there came a rise in consumer activism and the urge to make a social change in the country.
Consumer Movement in Europe was fostered by the Consumer Union which led to great success in Europe. The movement began after the Second World War when there was an increase in aggressive selling, fraud and breach of promise. The British National Standard Institute established in the United Kingdom played a significant role in arousing the interest of the consumers in 1925. Thereafter many consumer associations were developed in Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Switzerland. Japan, Kenya, France, Hungary, Italy, Canada and Belgium caused an industrial revolution. The pattern remains identical to the USA and the idea of supporting the consumers led to great success. As for Britain, various centres and associations were developed where matters and complaints were attended by the members. A new independent body consumer council led to the creation of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Now Japan is considered the centre of testing consumer products in Asia.
The Parliament introduced the Consumer Protection dated 2019 to replace the prior Act of 1986 to enhance protection for the consumers in the e-business platform. The Bill was enacted on 9th August which would help regulate the business including e-commerce activities and the banking sector. The Act encourages to protect the interest of consumers from unfair trade practices and tasks to inquire and take action against any violations. The new Act expands the meaning for consumers and the fair business activities followed under the regulations. The Act provides relief and strength to the aggrieved consumers in this changing environment. The movement has led to one of the best existing laws in India. The procedure brings simple and speedy and effective justice with less paperwork. The development has proved that the Consumer is the King.
Geeks for Geeks https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/evolution-of-consumer-movement-in-india/
Byju’s https://byjus.com/questions/describe-the-evolution-of-consumer-movement-in-india/#:~:text=Answer%3A,was%20in%20an%20organised%20form and https://byjus.com/questions/what-are-the-main-objectives-of-consumer-protection-act/
S.S. Rana & Co. https://ssrana.in/ufaqs/consumer-forum-india/#:~:text=The%20constitution%20of%20Bench%20in,to%20be%20a%20District%20Judge.
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