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
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.