A new impetus to consumer protection

RIGHTS ISSUE

The Act is a more chiselled version of its predecessor, the Standard of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 and provides a greater impetus to consumer protection.

The old Act was considered to be archaic and cumbersome and was therefore replaced with the new Act, which lays down standards to be conformed to by traders and manufacturers and, has prescribed heavier fines, and in certain circumstances imprisonment to deter unscrupulous trade practices.

The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011 (Packaged Commodities Rules) has also come into effect along with the Act. The Packaged Commodities Rules provides in detail the procedures to be followed by manufacturers and retail/wholesale traders and declarations to be made with regard to pre-packaged commodities.

Pre-packaged commodities are goods which are sold in a packaged form. Services provided for hire by autorickshaws also come under the purview of this Act. The rules also prescribe that any advertisement mentioning the retail sale price of a pre-packaged commodity shall also declare the net quantity/number of the commodity contained in the package. It further specifies that the font size of the net quantity in the advertisement shall be the same as that of the retail sale price. This is intended to protect the consumer from false representations made in fine print.

Appointment of officers

The Act provides for the appointment of a Director of Legal Metrology (Central government), Controller of Legal Metrology (State government) and other officers. These officers are vested with several powers some of which are the power of inspection and seizure of goods.

Although the Act has been enacted with the purpose of establishing and enforcing standards of weights and measures, protection of consumer interest appears to be an underlying objective. Some states have already enacted their respective Legal Metrology (State) Rules.

The Act however, suffers from some lacunae and certain areas do not appear to be adequately covered. For instance, the law governing goods meant for export, goods sold to industrial and institutional consumers do not appear to be adequately provided for by the Act. The system of legal metrology plays a vital role in protecting consumer interest, promoting fair trade and fair competition among traders. The Act with focused streamlining can benefit both consumers and trading community.

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