Rights of a consumer

A consumer is defined as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration. It does not include a person who obtains a good for resale or a good or service for commercial purpose.

Consumer Rights are guaranteed and protected by an established law that came into being in the year 1986 as the Consumer Protection Act, which was recently amended with new developments to be the now in force Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

Consumer Rights are divided as the following:

1. Right to Safety

Right to safety is the right of a consumer to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property. This means that every product or service that has the potential to cause harm to life or property, e.g. electronic gadgets, cars, etc., must be marketed only if they adhere to all the required safety standards.

Every consumer has a right to have access to better products in terms of quality, endurance and the value for money spent. The consumers should preferably purchase products certified of a prescribed standard with the quality marks such as ISI, AGMARK etc.

2. Right to be informed

Every consumer has a right to know about the quality, quantity and other relevant details of the product or service before making a choice. The seller is bound to provide right information to the consumer. This right protects the consumer from any fraud that can be caused to a consumer by a seller or service provider through incorrect or inadequate information about the product or service.

3. Right to choose

In a competitive market where a variety of goods are available at competitive prices the consumer has a right to choose. The consumer should have a variety of options provided by different companies from which to choose. When monopoly exists (meaning control of the trade and supply in one hand) in the market, the consumer cannot be compelled to purchase a product at the price, quality or other standards decided by the company but shall have a free choice and access to variety of products for the consumer to choose from.

4. Right to be heard

It is a Right that allows consumers to put forward their complaints to a forum that shall address and redress their grievances thereby keeping a check upon the sellers and service providers. This ensures protection of the consumer interests from being exploited.

5. Right to seek Redressal

The consumers on encountering a bad experience with respect to a product or service can bring their grievance to the consumer forums. The Consumer Forums address consumer complaints and provide appropriate redressal in the form of compensation to damages which is a monetary relief, or may give any other appropriate direction. The complaints can be made through online or offline modes.

6. Right to Consumer Education

Every individual has a right to education of matters regarding consumer protection and the rights bestowed upon them. The right knowledge is vital to keep a consumer from being exploited. One should be cautious while purchasing a product, for example checking its quality standard, and preserving the original bills of a purchase which is crucial in establishing a transaction in case of any dispute when brought to the notice of the court. The awareness also helps people get their issues resolved by approaching the right mechanism of law.

How to get a consumer grievance addressed?

A complaint regarding a consumer grievance can be filed in a court (called a Consumer Forum) where the complainant resides or works irrespective of the fact whether the seller, manufacturer or the service provider is functional or resided in such place or not.

There are Forums established under law at different levels to address consumer issues. Namely, a District Forum at every district, the State Commission in every State and a National Commission above the two Forums.

1. District Forum

For a dispute involving any amount not exceeding 1.Crore, one can go to the District Forum of their respective district. The complaint can be made on a plain paper and can be filed in person or through an authorised agent, after it has been notarised, through registered post or regular post. It is important to serve a personal or legal notice to the opposite party before filing the complaint.

It is required to file four copies, plus additional copies for each opposite party. The complaint must be filed within two years from the date of the cause of action having arisen. The cause of action refers to those grounds on the basis of which a legal action is taken.

2. State Commission

Cases where the value of goods or services is between Rs.1 Crore and Rs.10 Crores can be filed in the State Forum. In case of a complainant being dissatisfied by the order made by a district forum, the matter can be brought before the State Forum within 30 days from the date of the order so made.

3. National Commission

Matters of Consumer grievance involving an amount exceeding Rs.10 Crores can be brought before the National Commission. The decisions of the State Commission can also be appealed against before the National Commission and the appeals from the orders of National Commission can be filed before the Supreme Court, within 30 days of such order.

How to make an Online Complaint?

A consumer complaint can be filed online also. To register a complaint through online mode one has to visit the website run by the Consumer Online Resource and Empowerment Centre. The site is a complaint and grievance redressal system maintained by the Consumer CO-Ordination Council and is supported by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. One has to register the complaint on the web portal by filing the form with required details asked therein. The complainant has to create a user id and password in the web portal. In order to successfully lodge a complaint the complainant shall also attach necessary documents supporting his/her claims in the context of the complaint so made.

Once the complaint is registered successfully, the complainant will be assigned an electronically generated number which can be used to track the status of the complaint until it is resolved.

Equal provisions for E-Commerce (Online Business entities)

Under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 all the rules that are applicable to direct sellers and service providers have been extended to cover E-commerce entities meaning those entities that do the business in an online mode.

These online business entities are required to provide information to consumers, relating to return, refund, exchange, warranty and guarantee, delivery and shipment, modes of payment, grievance redressal mechanism, payment methods and security of payment methods. The online business entities have also been made responsible to look into the consumer grievances, just as any offline business entity. These platforms are required to acknowledge the receipt of any consumer complaint within 48 hours and redress the complaint within one month from the date of receipt.

Published on 14th November, 2021


'Know the Law' is part of YLF's wider legal awareness initiative and aims to provide simplified legal literature to the public.

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