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Consumer Rights

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Consumer Rights in India

The definition of Consumer right is ‘the right to have information about the quality, potency, quantity, purity, price and standard of goods or services’, as it may be the case, but the consumer is to be protected against any unfair practices of trade. It is very essential for the consumers to know these rights.

However there are strong and clear laws in India to defend consumer rights, the actual plight of consumers of India can be declared as completely dismal. Out of the various laws that have been enforced to protect the consumer rights in India, the most important is the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. According to this law, everybody, including individuals, a firm, a Hindu undivided family and a company, have the right to exercise their consumer rights for the purchase of goods and services made by them. It is significant that, as consumer, one knows the basic rights as well as about the courts and procedures that follow with the infringement of one’s rights.

In general, the consumer rights in India are listed below:

  • The right to be protected from all kind of hazardous goods and services
  • The right to be fully informed about the performance and quality of all goods and services
  • The right to free choice of goods and services
  • The right to be heard in all decision-making processes related to consumer interests
  • The right to seek redressal, whenever consumer rights have been infringed
  • The right to complete consumer education

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and several other laws like the Weights, Standards & Measures Act can be formulated to make sure that there is fair competition in the market and free flow of correct information from goods and services providers to the ones who consume them. In fact, the degree of consumer protection in any country is regarded as the right indicator of the progress of the country.There is high level of phistication gained by the goods and services providers in their marketing and selling practices and different types of promotional tasks viz. advertising resulted in an increasing requirement for more consumer areness and protection. The government of India has realized the condition of Indian consumers therefore the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has incorporated the Department of Consumer Affairs as the nodal organization to protect the consumer rights, redress the consumer grievances and promote the standards governing goods and services provided in India. If there is infringement of rights of consumer then a complaint can be made under the following circumstances and reported to the close by designated

consumer court:

  • The goods or services purchased by a person or agreed to be purchased by a person has one or more defects or deficiencies in any respect
  • A trader or a service provider resort to unfair or restrictive practices of trade
  • A trader or a service provider if charges a price more than the price displayed on the goods or the price that was agreed upon between the parties or the price that was stipulated under any law that exist
  • Goods or services that bring a hazard to the safety or life of a person offered for sale, unknowingly or knowingly, that cause injury to health, safety or life.

Right to Safety

According to the Consumer Protection Act 1986, the consumer right is referred to as ‘right to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property’. It is applicable to specific areas like healthcare, pharmaceuticals and food processing, this right is spread across the domain having a serious effect on the health of the consumersortheir well being viz. Automobiles, Housing, Domestic Appliances, Travel etc. When there is violation of the right then there occur medical malpractice lawsuits in the country. It is estimated every year that thousands or millions of citizens of India are killed or seriously injured by immoral practices by doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and the automobile industry. Still the government of India, known for its callousness, does not succeed in acknowledging this fact or making a feeble effort for maintaining statistics of the mishaps.The Government of India needs to have world class product testing facilities to test drugs, food, cars or any other consumable product that can prove to be a menace to life. It does not happen coincidently that Tata Nano is sold in India for half of what it costs in a country which is industrially developed,this is a classic case of requirement of a cheap product that outweighs the need for safety of family and self. The developed countries like the United States have stalwart agencies which oversee the protection of consumer products, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food and drugs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for automobiles and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for various other consumer products etc. This right needs each product which can potentially be a danger to our lives to be marketed after adequate and complete verification as well as validation. India is 50 years away, for empowering this right adequately and completely.

Right to Information

The right to information is defined as ‘the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, as the case may be so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices’ in the Consumer Protection Act of 1986. In the market place of India, consumers get information by two ways namely advertising and word of mouth however these sources are considered to be unreliable but still this word of mouth is quite common here.Because of this, the Indian consumers hardly have precise and complete information for assessing the true value, safety, suitability, reliability of any product. Usually the hidden costs can be found, lack of suitability, quality problems and safety hazards only after the purchase of the product. There is another right claimed by Indian government on paper, this right must ideally make sure that all consumable products have been labeled in a standard manner containing the cost, quantity, the ingredients and instructions given to use the product safely. It is unfortunate that even the medicines in the country do not follow a standardized labeling convention. There should be establishment of unit price publishing standards for consumer market where costs are revealed in standard units like per kg or per liter. The consumers, ought to be informed in an exact yet accurate manner for the cost involved during time of availing a loan. For providing benefit to the society through this right, advertisers must be held against the andards of products in the advertisements. The pharmaceuticals require todisclose potential side effects related to their drugs and manufacturers ought to be required to publish reports from independent product testing laboratories for the purpose of comparing the quality of their products from competitive products.

There is a website: Consumerdaddy.com, for the purpose of empowering the consumers withright to information. Without help of these types of websites it is difficult to spread awareness among the consumers of India. The right to information gives the power to the consumers to have an easy access to information which is necessary for the consumer.

Right to Choose

The definition of Right to Choose as per the Consumer Protection Act 1986 is ‘the right to be assured, wherever possible, to have access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices’. For regulating the market place, there is just one factor required and that is competition.The existence of cartels, oligopolies and monopolies prove to be counterproductive to consumerism. The natural resources, liquor industry, telecommunications, airlines etc all are being controlled by a mafia to some or the other extent.Since the Indian consumers come from a socialistic background, the tolerating of monopolistic market is found in their blood. It is seldom seen that people want to switch the power company, in the times when they have a blackout at home.It is interesting to know that even micro markets like fish vendors in some cities are known to collude and discourage the consumers’ bargaining power.No matter what size or form, or span, but collusion of various companies which sell a similar kind of product is unethical or say less legal. It can be estimated that India has to stride for about 20 more years for empowering its citizens fully in this regard.

Right to be Heard

As stated in the Consumer Protection Act 1986, ‘the right to be heard and to be assured that consumer’s interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums’ is the definition of the right to be heard. This right helps to empower the consumers of India for putting forward their complaints and concerns fearlessly and raising their voice against products or even companies and ensure that their issues are taken into consideration as well as handled expeditiously. However, till date the Indian Government has not formed even one outlet for hearing the consumers or their issues to be sorted out.There are a number of websites striving to do this. The major objective of Consumer is to ensure that their voices are heard by the corporate world. There is a website, Consumerdaddy.com, where consumers can upload their criticisms as well as file complaints. Every criticism filed gradually lessens the overall score of the product which is being criticized therefore each complaint is independently checked by an investigator who belonged to Consumerdaddy.com website. This website provides the consumers the benefit of doubt always, so their voice is considered over that of the company. It is believed at consumerdaddy.com, that consumer is always right, and that he is the king. In case a consumer makes an allegation regarding the product, the onus goes to the dealer, orsupplying company or manufacturer to disprove that allegation is not true.To be precise, the consumer is heard, and the load of proof goes to the company. Various attempts are made by the government for empowering the citizens with this right, and it is believed that about 10-15 years more are required for the accomplishment of this goal.

Right to Redressal

The right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers’ is referred to as the right to redressal according to the Consumer Protection Act 1986.

The government of India has been bit more successful with regard to this right. The Consumer courts like District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums at district level, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions have been incorporated with the help of the consumer protection act. These consumer grievance redressal agencies have fiduciary as well as geographical jurisdictions which address consumer cases between businesses and consumers.About 20 lakhs Consumer cases are heard in the district consumer forum, and around one crore can be heard in the state consumer court while more than one crore cases are heard at national consumer court. It has been found that if one becomes guardian of consumer protection or consumer rights in the country these courts today are found to be ineffective because of bureaucratic sabotages, clogged cases, callousness of government and decadent infrastructure. Only some of the district forums have appointed officials for time being and majority of them are non-functional because of funding and infrastructure constraints. There are around 20-30 million open cases in India which remain unsolved and would take around 320 years to wind up. Having such type of compromised legal system the consumer cases form just civil litigations and are carried forward to the bottom of the priority list. It is estimated that India is 10 years away in effectively ensuring the right to redressal to every consumer of India.

Right to Consumer Education

The right of every Indian citizen to have education on matters regarding consumer protection as well as about her/his right is regarded as the last right provided by the Consumer Protection Act 1986. The right makes sure that the consumers in the country have informational programs and materials which are easily accessible and would enable them to make purchasing decisions which are better than before. Consumer education might refer to formal education through college and school curriculums as well as consumer awareness campaigns being run by non-governmental and governmental agencies both. Consumer NGOs, having little endorsement from the government of India, basically undertake the task of ensuring the consumer right throughout the country. India is found to be 20 years away from giving this right that gives power to the common consumer.