Commenting on the woes and pathetic conditions of consumers in general, Mr. Krishnamurthy J. has observed “The consumer pays high fares for dirty railway compartments and dirtier toilets. He pays rent for a telephone even when it does not serve him. He uses buildings that are unsafe. He motors on roads that are dangerous. He has no pavements to walk on. The mail does not reach on time. He eats food that is adulterated and drinks water that is polluted and nearly breathes air that is poisonous. Does the consumer know that the Kesari daal causes paralysis, that the shelf life of bread is just 72 hours, that the drugs banned in West are dumped here and the excessive intake of glucose is bad, that most of the electric appliances do not conform to ISI standards and that filters do not give you bacteria free water?”
The consumer is the backbone of the market world and if he rejects any product or service, there is no future for that product or service. In the present day, competitive market strategy consumers have so many options and the little deficiency in the goods, products or services would entitle them to claim compensation.
In the earlier days, the commercial activities were governed by the principle of Laissez-faire which meant the least interference of the state in the economic dealings of the people. Caveat emptor was the rule that prevailed in market transactions in the 18th century. Because of this rule, the manufacturers, producers, retailers dictated their terms and exploited the consumers. But in the 19th century, when there was a boom in production and industrial development, the market trends started showing the change for the better. It was realized that the individualistic policy had led to a rise in capitalism eventually resulting in the concentration of wealth in the hands of few who dominated the economic field at the cost of poor and helpless workers who lacked the bargaining capacity to face mighty capitalists. With the change, the protection of the consumer interest came to be recognized as the responsibility of the State (both social and legal). There was thus a shift from the concept of caveat emptor to the Caveat – Venditor. Being the payer for the goods and services, the consumer has the right to consumer satisfaction and if he is being misused he has the right to redress. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted keeping the change of market in mind and it applied to all the goods and services with the only condition that such goods should have been purchased for personal use and not for commercial purposes.
A consumer though is the king of the market according to modern philosophy but he is being exploited in a number of ways due to false advertisements, lack of knowledge especially among the illiterate and poor class of people, lack of enthusiasm among the people including the activists to stand against the wrong. The protection is just because of the moral responsibility of business to protect and promote the interests of consumers and the Government of India’s responsibility to have the welfare state. There are two ways consumer protection can be attained: Legal and non-legal measures. Legal measures include the three-tier system (District Forum, State Commission, National Commission) provided under the Consumer Protection Act and non-legal measures include education and awareness among the masses, lobbying, and boycotting the product.