Historical Background of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (India)
It was at the initiative of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, a seminar was organized in New Delhi in January, 1986. The representatives of state governments, voluntary organizations of consumers and central ministers of different departments took part in the seminar and expressed their opinions on the issue of consumers, protection.
Those suggestions were discussed and debated in a number of inter-ministerial meetings to prepare a draft bill on consumers’ protection. In order to design the framework of proposed legislation on consumer protection, the existing laws of different countries, viz., U.S.A., U.K., Australia, in respect of consumers’ protection, were taken into account. The prevailing socio-economic condition of India also shapes the paradigms of bill on consumers’ protection.
The bill was finally placed before Lok Sabha on 9th December, 1986 by Sri H. K. L. Bhagat. In introducing the bill he stated that the bill represented a land-mark in the field of socio-economic legislation of the country.
This comprehensive bill would supplement and not replace any other law pertaining to consumer protection. The bill enshrines the rights of the consumers to be protected by the consumer protection councils in the centre and states and the redressal machinery at the national, state and district levels.
The legislation intends to provide prompt and meaningful remedy for consumers’ grievances. But its success will depend on effective implementation of its provisions by the central and state government. There is no hesitation in saying the strong and broad-based voluntary consumed movement from the grass-root level holds the key to success.
The Minister declared that, “I also take this opportunity to request my brethren in the trade and industry to rise to the occasion, set up consumers’ redressal cells within their organizations which and would minimise consumers’ complaints and improve their image. Trade and industry should not only envolve a code of ethics for fair business practices but also implement them in letter and spirit.”
Statement of Objects:
1. The Consumer Protection Bill, 1986 seeks to provide better protection of interests of the consumers and for that purpose to make provisions for establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumers’ disputes and for matters connected therewith.
2. It seeks to promote and protect the rights of consumers, such as:
(a) The right to be protected against marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and property.
(b) The right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices.
(c) The right to be assured, wherever possible, access of variety of goods at competitive prices.
(d) The right to be heard and to be assured that consumers’ interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums.
(e) The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers, and
(f) The right to consumer education.
3. To provide steady and simple redressal to consumers’ disputes, a quasi-judicial machinery is sought to be set up at the district, state and central levels. The quasi-judicial bodies will observe the principles of natural justices and have been empowered to give reliefs of a specific nature and to award wherever appropriate compensation to consumers. Penalties for non-compliance of the orders given by the quasi-judicial bodies have also been provided.