Consumer Protection

The activities of the Centre on consumer protection policy encompasses initiatives at the national level, and research and advocacy undertaken in other parts of the world.

In year 2001, a report ‘State of the Indian Consumer’ was also published that examined the plight of Indian consumers in the light of the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection. This pioneering work was emulated in other developing countries including Pakistan. CUTS CCIER is involved in the process of drafting a National Consumer Policy for India. On being invited by the Royal Government of Bhutan, CUTS CCIER drafted a comprehensive law covering consumer protection, competition, and utility regulation and prescribed an institutional framework to implement the law.

Activities under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986

Pioneering efforts: CUTS has been an active player responsible for the enactment and strengthening of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (COPRA). COPRA is an unique law in the world, which provides for exclusive consumer disputes redressal fora. Secondly COPRA also recognised six rights of consumers. Along with the enactment of COPRA, other consumer laws like the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, Weights & Measures Act, Monopolies & Restrictive Trade Practices Act, Bureau of Indian Standards Act etc were simplified and consumers and their organisations given the power to prosecute offenders.

Representation: CUTS was the only group in the country to serve on the Central, Rajasthan State and West Bengal State Consumer Protection Councils (established under COPRA) during 1987-90 and subsequently in two of the three. It has also served on two High Powered Committees of the Central Council which reviewed the functioning of COPRA, and in one case the MRTPA. Its recommendations have lead to strengthening of COPRA.

Litigation: CUTS has also taken up a number of cases to the consumer courts for redressal of consumer grievances. For instance, the first complaint to the National Commission was filed by CUTS. It was a case against Bank of Baroda, for compensation to customers during a prolonged strike. The case was decided in 1989, without specific relief to consumers. In the past, before the filing of this litigation, there used be long strikes in banks and other similar public sector undertakings. After this case there was not a single case of a long strike in any bank.

Another effective case pursued by CUTS resulted in COPRA being amended to include the power of the redressal forums enabling them to ask for withdrawal of unsafe goods from the market and/or ban the marketing of unsafe goods. This case related to a toxic food additive: BVO (brominated vegetable oil) used in citrus-flavoured soft drinks (such as Fanta, Limca etc). It was legally banned, but the ban was short-circuited by the strong lobbies of manufacturers and bottlers aided by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.