Should Doctors Be Kept Out of the Consumer Protection Act?

Should Doctors Be Kept Out of the Consumer Protection Act?


Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that advocates cannot be held liable under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, for deficiency in service.

  • Additionally, the Court suggested revisiting its 1995 decision that included medical professionals under the Act’s definition of ‘services’.

GS-02 (Government policies and interventions)

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) :

  • The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) was established w.e.f. 24th July 2020 under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • Objective: To promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.
  • It will be empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution, order recalls of unsafe goods and services, order discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, and impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.
  • It also acts to prevent unfair trade practices and ensure that no person engages in unfair trade practices.
  • Composition:
    • Chief Commissioner as head.
    • Two other commissioners as members — one of whom will deal with matters relating to goods while the other will look into cases relating to services.

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Appropriateness of Using the Consumer Protection Act for Medical Complaints
  • Problems and Opportunities in Using the Consumer Protection Act
  • Alternative Mechanisms for Medical Complaints
  • Distinguishing Between Malpractice and Adverse Outcomes

Appropriateness of Using the Consumer Protection Act for Medical Complaints

  • The landmark case, Indian Medical Association v. V.P. Shantha, decided that doctors and hospitals fall under the Consumer Protection Act as service providers.
  • Doctors are highly qualified professionals offering specialized services, and their work cannot be equated with other professions due to the complexity of medical practice.
  • Arguments:
    • However, the Act is sometimes misused by individuals who do not want to pay medical fees, leading to harrowing experiences for doctors and increased costs due to defensive medical practices.
    • Also, it is appropriate for patients to seek recourse under the Consumer Protection Act. Without the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions, affected patients lack an effective adjudicating body for their grievances.
    • The Indian Medical Council Act may address doctor misconduct, but it does not provide compensation to affected patients.
    • Civil and criminal laws are inadequate for timely redressal.
    • The Consumer Protection Act, aimed at protecting consumer rights, is beneficial for patients seeking accountability for medical services.

Problems and Opportunities in Using the Consumer Protection Act

  • There are cases of gross negligence where legal action is justified, but frivolous litigation causes significant distress for doctors.
  • The legal process is lengthy, often taking 10 years to prove innocence. This discourages doctors and adds to their burden. Instead, having a regulatory authority with medical expertise could provide a more sensible solution, avoiding lengthy court procedures.
  • Meanwhile, The Consumer Protection Act offers patients a pathway to challenge malpractice and seek redressal, with expert opinions sought in complex cases. While delays in consumer commissions need addressing, the Act has largely benefited genuine cases of malpractice. Conducting a study on the number of frivolous cases could provide insights. The Act’s objective of providing speedy redressal should be maintained by addressing delays.

Alternative Mechanisms for Medical Complaints

  • An independent authority, similar to ombudsmen in insurance, banking, and electricity sectors, could handle medical complaints as a first step.
  • Patients should still have the option to approach consumer courts.
  • Including medical negligence under mediation provisions of the Consumer Protection Act could offer another layer of redressal.

Distinguishing Between Malpractice and Adverse Outcomes

  • A strong regulatory authority is needed to monitor medical professionals and control malpractice.
  • Medical indemnity insurance offers some protection, but court proceedings remain burdensome.
  • Proper regulatory mechanisms can provide a balanced approach to oversight and protection for doctors.
  • Judgments often favor doctors when justified, showing that the system does not always side with consumers. Maintaining diligent service delivery, proper record-keeping, obtaining informed consent, and clear communication about risks and outcomes can help safeguard doctors against litigation.


The debate on whether doctors should be kept out of the Consumer Protection Act highlights the need for a balanced approach. Ensuring accountability and redressal for patients while protecting doctors from frivolous litigation requires a robust regulatory framework. Revisiting the 1995 decision and exploring alternative mechanisms could lead to a more equitable solution for both patients and medical professionals.