Consumer is the real deciding factor for all economic activities. It is now universally accepted that the extent of consumer protection is a true indicator of the level of progress in a nation. The growing size and complexity of production and distribution systems, the high level of sophistication in marketing and selling practices and forms of promotion like advertising, etc has contributed to the increased need for consumer protection. Recognising this, a well placed organisational set up has been created both at the Central and State level. At the central, Department of Consumer Affairs, under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution is the nodal organisation for the protection of rights of consumers, redressal of consumer grievances and promotion of standards of goods and services, etc.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is the most important legislation enacted to provide for effective safeguards to consumers against various types of exploitations and unfair dealings, relying on mainly compensatory rather than a punitive or preventive approach. The Act has set up a three-tier quasi-judicial consumer disputes redressal machinery at the National, State and District levels, for expeditious and inexpensive settlement of consumer disputes. It also postulates establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Central and State levels for the purpose of spreading consumer awareness.
The Weights and Measures Unit, under the Department of Consumer Affairs has been set up to promote use of exact and correct weighing and measuring instruments. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has been set up under Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 as the National Standards Body of India. It is engaged in formulation of quality standards of goods or services as well as their certification through Quality Certification Schemes.
Further, Consumer Welfare Fund has been set up to provide financial assistance for promoting and protecting the welfare of the consumers. As a part of the initiative of the fund, the Centre for Consumer Studies (CCS) at the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) has been set up to facilitate in-depth action research in the area of consumer protection and education.
The success of spreading consumer movement in the country would depend upon the level of consumer vigilance about their rights and responsibilities.