The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was legislated by the Government with a sole purpose of[su_highlight] ‘defending the rights of a consumer and provide him justice in case of disputes'[/su_highlight]. The Act for the first time introduced the concept of ‘consumer’ in legal parlance, and conferred express additional rights on him. But what is interesting to note in the constitution of the Act is that it doesn’t seek to protect every consumer within a literal meaning of the term. Especially not within a common context.
So, one may ask, who is a consumer as defined in the Consumer Protection Act? In simple terms, a Consumer is:
- An individual who buys a good for ‘consideration’ and
- An individual who hires a service for ‘consideration’
In the legal definition of the Act, the consumer is defined as an individual who:
[su_quote]buys any goods for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys such goods for consideration paid or promised or partly paid or partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment when such use is made with the approval of such person, but does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose; or[/su_quote]
[su_quote]hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised, or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person; [/su_quote]
Well, those are too many words. Let us simplify it for you with certain examples. Click on the plus sign to below to view the examples.
At this juncture it is important to note that in both definitions, the term ‘consideration’ plays a very key role. [su_highlight]Consideration means the cost/price/value or invoice amount which the purchaser(s) of any goods and or the hirer of any services has paid or merely promised to pay or has partly paid and promised to pay the remainder under a deferred system of payment to the trader or manufacturer or service provider.[/su_highlight] The provision further emphasises the fact that a consumer is not only the original buyer of the goods or original hirer of the services, but also the future beneficiaries of goods or services, but with consent of the original owner.
Coming back to our examples:
[su_spoiler title=”Sunil buys a mobile phone” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]
Mr. Sunil aka Gadget Lover from Mumbai decides to gift himself an iPhone 5C on his 35th birthday. He approaches an Apple centre, and accordingly makes a payment of Rs.53,000/- for the iPhone.
The amount paid in here justifies the term ‘Consideration’, and Sunil testifies the term ‘Consumer’. [/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”Sunil purchases a Tanishq diamond set” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]
Sunil forgets his marriage anniversary, for the third consecutive year. To make up for the miss, he decides to gift an expensive Tanishq diamond set to his wife, Sunita. The only problem is a Tanishq diamond set costs upward of Rs. 1 Lakh, and Sunil’s liquid cash-in-hand is less than the cost of the set. But Sunil is firm on gifting the same. So he approaches the Tanishq showroom, speaks to the salesman and agrees to pay Rs.10,000/- as down payment, while promising to pay the another Rs.90,000/- in deferred instalments.
These deferred installments qualify the term ‘Consideration’. And Sunil justifies the term ‘Consumer’.
[su_spoiler title=”Sunita, being Sunil’s wife is a consumer too” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]
Taking the same example forward, Sunita, now besides being the proud owner of a Tanishq diamond set, is also a ‘consumer’ in the sense of the definition, as she is using the goods with his consent.
All the above examples justify conferring of the Consumer title on an individual buying or using a good. But what about someone hiring a service? The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has provisions for the same too.
[su_spoiler title=”Amit hires the services of BEST in his home” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]
Mr. Amit owns a 2 BHK flat in Mumbai. He utilises the electricity service of BEST [Brihanmumbai Electrical Supply and Transmission] in his house.
As per the provisions of the Act, Amit qualifies the term ‘consumer’.
[su_spoiler title=”Amit leases the house to Abhishek” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]
Taking the same example forward, Amit leases his house to Abhishek. By the provisions of the Act, Abhishek, who is a tenant of Amit, qualifies as the beneficiary of the said services of BEST electricity. And is a consumer in the definition of the Act.[/su_spoiler]
We hope that the above examples make it abundantly clear who is a ‘Consumer’ as defined in the Act. The definition limits the scope in the context of purchaser of goods / hirer of services, by ‘excluding’ from its wide range individuals who buy goods for resale or for any commercial purpose, expressly denying them the benefits of the Act.
Image By McKay Savage from London, UK – India – Sights & Culture – 008 – Crowd watching cricket, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23468856