Self help Through Consumer Protection
“A customer is the most important visitor
on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not
an interruption in our work - he is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a
favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him”, said Gandhiji.
today want value for money, a product or service that would meet reasonable expectations, should be safe in use and full disclosure of
the product specification. These expectations are termed as ‘Consumer Rights’.
15 March is observed as the World Consumers’ Day.
Consumer Protection Act, 1986
The most important milestone in Consumer
Movement in the country has been the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act,
1986. The Act has set in motion a revolution in the field of consumer rights,
that perhaps cannot be paralleled anywhere else in the World. The Act applies
to all goods and services unless specially exempted by the Central Government,
in all sectors whether Private, Public or Co-operative.
The Act enshrines all the consumers rights which are internationally accepted. As per
the Act, the consumer protection councils have been established at Central, State
and District levels to promote and protect the consumer rights. They are:
· Right to Safety: To be protected against the
sale of goods and services which are spurious/ hazardous to life.
· Right to information: To know the quality,
quantity, weight and the price of goods/services being paid for, so that one is
not cheated by unfair trade practices.
· Right to Choose: To be assured, wherever possible,
access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
· Right to be heard: To be heard and to be assured
that the interest would receive due consideration at appropriate fora.
· Right to Seek Redressal:
To seek legal redressal against unfair or restrictive
trade practices or exploitation.
· Right to Consumer Education: To have access
to consumer education.
The success of consumer movement depends
upon the level of consumer awareness generated among the masses about their rights
and responsibilities. It has been observed
that where literacy rate is high and social awareness is better, the consumer
can not be easily exploited. Being a nodal department for Consumer Protection,
the Department of Consumer Affairs has taken several steps to strengthen consumer
movement in the country and protect consumer interest by involving State Governments,
Voluntary Consumer Organisations, and Consumer Activists
Consumer Protection in India received a shot in the arm in recent
times with the Department of Consumer Affairs, introducing new schemes like setting
up of Consumer Clubs in schools and the launching of Jagriti Shivir Yojana for spreading
consumer awareness. The setting up of a
National Consumer Helpline in Delhi University, to be run by the students and faculty
with financial assistance from the Department is a major step in this direction.
It has a toll free number 1800-11-4000, which allows a consumer anywhere
in the country having a problem to ring up this number and get proper advice.
Children are the backbone of any society.
Children in India constitute 18.7% of the World kids population and one-third of our country’s population is
under the age of 15 years. Thus in India, children form a massive 30% of the
total population and this segment is growing at a rate of 4% per annum. This means
a huge target market of 300 million is available to advertisers and they are already
focusing on the kid channels.
A survey by A C Nielsen UTV’s research partner showed that an average child watches
TV for about three hours on week days and 3.7 hours on weekends, the time spent
on television goes up with age, and the preferred language of viewing is Hindi
across all age groups. Apart from the programmes children
also view a lot of the advertisements.
In India the advertising expenditure per year
on products meant for children but purchased by parents, like health drinks, is
12 to 15 per cent of the total Rs. 38,000 million. Ad
expenditure per year on products meant for children and also bought by them such
as chocolates is seven to eight per cent. By promoting awareness among them the
Consumer Movement in the country will be further strengthened.
Many schemes have been started by the
Government to empower the Indian Consumer. Like setting up of
To provide simple, speedy and inexpensive
redressal to consumer grievances .
Under the Act, a 3-tier quasi-judicial machinery have
been set up at national, state and district
levels. The National Consumer Disputes
Redressal Commission (NCDRC) referred to as National
Commission is the apex consumer redressal forum
and is located in New Delhi. Each
state has a Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission known
as the State Commission. Similarly, every
district in the country has a Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum known as the District Forum.
Consumer -On Line
Another intervention is the “Consumer
Online Resource and Empowerment Centre (CORE Centre)” for providing consumer related
information, guidance and an online consumer complaint redressal mechanism. It is being run by the Consumer Coordination
Council (CCC), which is a coalition of 51 consumer organizations of this country.
The country now has exclusive special law to protect the
interest of the consumer with a foolproof redressal
mechanism in case of defective goods and unsatisfactory services. Hence the welfare of consumers now remains in
their own hands. If the consumers are responsible,
vigilant and are able to assert their rights and responsibilities, resist/reject
substandard goods/services wherever required and do not hesitate to seek justice
through consumer courts if needed, the manufacturers, traders and service providers
cannot afford to take them for granted while selling a product or rendering service
on payment or to adopt any unfair trade practice. An alert consumer aware of his rights and responsibilities
not only can protect himself but can also make consumer sovereignty a reality.
A Brief History
March has a historic importance as it was on this day in 1962, when the Bill for
Consumer Rights was moved in the US Congress. During his speech President John
F. Kennedy had remarked: “If a consumer is offered inferior products, if
prices are exorbitant, if drugs are unsafe or worthless, if the consumer is unable
to choose on an informed basis, then his dollar is wasted, his health and safety
may be threatened, and national interest suffers.”
John F. Kennedy had equated the rights
of the ordinary American consumer with national interest. He gave the American
consumer four basic rights such as, right to safety, right to choose, right
to information, right to be heard. Kennedy recognised
that consumers are the largest economic group in the country’s economy, affecting
and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. But they were
also the only important group who were not effectively organised, whose views were not heard. These were the
political circumstance in USA when the US economy was growing after the second world war and the middle class was expanding. As consumers
faced exploitation by business, Kennedy the politician used consumer rights as
a political opportunity during his election campaign. He received support from
the American public. When he was elected as US President he took a series of steps
to ensure the implementation of consumer rights.
Therefore, the US Federal Government,
by nature the highest spokesman for all people, had a special obligation to the
consumer’s needs. Thirteen years later President Gerald Ford felt that the four
rights constituted in Kennedy’s Bill of Rights were inadequate for a situation
where most consumers are not educated enough to make the right choices. So he
added the Right to Consumer Education to these rights. An informed consumer cannot
be exploited easily.
The Consumers International (CI), formerly
known as International Organisation of Consumer Unions
(IOCU), the umbrella body, for 240 organisations in
over 100 countries, expanded the charter of consumers rights contained in the
US Bill to eight, which in a logical order reads: 1.Basic Needs 2.Safety
3.Information 4.Choice 5.Representation 6.Redress 7.Consumer
Education and 8. Healthy Environment.
This charter had a universal significance
as they symbolised the aspirations of the poor and disadvantaged.
On this basis, the United Nations, in April 1985, adopted its Guidelines for Consumer
*Reader, Department of Commerce, Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi
The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely her own and not
necessarily reflect the views of PIB.
(Release ID :36534)
(This is an archive of the press release and has not been edited by our staff.)