The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, or (COPRA) was introduced by the Parliament of India in 1986 to protect consumer interests in India. The Act is applicable everywhere in India except in Jammu Kashmir. All goods and services with are purchased under any and all of the sectors fall under its purview. The major aim of this act is protect the Indian consumer from exploitation or unfair trade practices. This enactment increased the emphasis on consumer empowerment and changed the way in which businesses approached consumer complaints. As a result of COPRA, several consumer forums and courts were set up all across the country.
The act has supported the establishment of agencies such as the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF), State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC), and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). This is a hierarchical structure within with consumer disputes are dealt with. The DCDRF is established by the state government in each district in the state. There is a provision for establishing more than one District Forum in a district. This court is tasked with handling cases that value up to Rs. 2 million (US$29,000). The SCDRC is established within the state, and is responsible for dealing with cases that value less than Rs. 10 Million (US$140,000). The NCDRC is an establishment by the central government that handles cases which are worth more than 10 million.
It is worth noting that the act covers the public, private, and the cooperative sector. The provisions of COPRA are also compensatory in nature. The act clearly defines the activities and dealings that fall under it. Terms such as consumer, goods, service, consumer dispute, and unfair trade practice are described concisely to ensure clarity. The act also supports the formation of protection councils in every state. Consumer Education and Research Centre, Bureau of Indian Standard, Federation of Consumer Organisation in Tamil Nadu and Mumbai Grahak Panchayat are few consumer protection councils set up in various states in India.
Under this act, consumers are provided with the option of filing their complaints at the adequate forum for its quick redressal. However, any product given free of charge does not fall under this act. According to this act, the basic rights of consumers are involve right to safety, right to be informed, right to choose, right to representation (or to be heard), right to seek redressal, and right to consumer education. In this case, the consumer also has certain responsibilities that they are required to fulfil from their side. Firstly, the consumer is to provide adequate information about his requirements and expectations from the seller. Exercising caution in purchasing is the second responsibility of a consumer. Consumers are also expected to insist on a cash memo or a receipt during their transactions. Filing complaints against genuine grievances is both a right and a duty of the consumer. A consumer is also expected to be quality conscious and conduct his/her purchases without any compromise on the quality of the product.