Prior to 1986 consumers were unaware of their rights. The business community was exploiting the innocent consumers as per their own choice. The new economic policy and the policy of liberalization adopted in India since 1991 have completely altered the face of business ethics by generating larger flows without the attendant accountability. The problems of consumers have become more acute during the last two decades. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is a milestone in the history of socio-economic legislation directed towards public welfare and consumer protection. Therefore, the importance of consumer protection in India has increased significantly during the policy of Economic Liberalization. It has been found that due to demonstration effect and increase in money power under new economic policy the demand for consumer products has been increasing by leaps and bounds and traders have been making a full use of increased demands for consumer products. They have been adopting fair and foul means to attract consumers and earn more and more incomes by hook or crook. Paradoxically, while the population has been increasing, the purchasing capacity of consumers in most of the cases has gone up after ushering in an era of new economic policy. The people have no time to make judicial judgments while purchasing goods; as a result of this most of the traders have been making full use of advertisements to attract consumers to purchase their products. They have been giving false specifications of their products and fleecing the consumers. No doubt, Director General of Investigation and Research (DGIR) has been established for investigating these cases but it has proved to be a white elephant. It has been found that in most of the cases investigations do not take place because these traders influence the officers of DGIR by gifts and offering jobs to their children to stop the investigations. A consumer of Nokia product asked DGIR to start investigations against NOKIA Company for unfair trade practices and deficiency in service. The DGIR did start the inquiry against the company but stopped in between because their officers were influenced by the Company not on merit but by other considerations. Moreover, there is urgent need to bring medical profession under Consumer Protection Act because they have been large number of complaints against doctors for negligence, resulting in serious disability and death of their patients. Doctors have made this profession a money making profession by hook or crook rather than making it a noble profession. In a nutshell, there is need to improve the functioning of DGIR, Consumer Forums and MRTC. A time limit of one year should be fixed if the consumer movement has to succeed in India. This paper indicates the problems of the consumers of India, failure of institutions which protect consumer rights and also suggests policy implications.
Key words: Consumer protection, economic policy, purchasing power.
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