In modern era the consumers are called the king of the market but this concept of consumer field is not beyond a shadow of doubt because in reality the consumers are still the most deprived part of the market and are in a disadvantageous position due to non-fortification of their rights. They are suffering from lots of undesired elements such as misleading advertisements, underweight goods, unsatisfied services etc.
On 15 March 1962 former US President John F. Kennedy said: “Consumers by definition include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group… whose views are often not heard.” According to oxford advanced learner’s dictionary the word consumer means “A purchaser of goods or uses services”. And In Black’s Law Dictionary, it is explained to mean „one
who consume, individuals who purchase, use, maintain, and dispose of products and services‟. A member of that broad class of people, who are affected by pricing politics, financing practices, quality of goods and services, credit reporting, debt collection and other trade practices for which state and federal consumer protection laws are enacted.
In India, the concept of consumer protection is not new, it is as old as trade and commerce itself. It therefore, comes a no surprise that references to the protection of consumer’s interest against exploitation by trade and industry, underweight and measurement, adulteration were made in Kausalya’s Arthashastra. The need of punishment was also recognized by him. However, an organized and systematic movement to safeguard the interest of consumers is a recent phenomenon. The consumers have to be aware not only of the commercial aspects of sale and purchase of goods, but also of the health and security aspects. Food safety has become an important element of consumer awareness these days. In case of food products, its quality depends not only on its nutritional value, but also on its safety for human consumption. Consumption of contaminated or adulterated food is a major cause of human illness and suffering.
There are 500 consumer associations, which are working in the field of consumer protection. They deal with various aspects of consumer exploitation. Some of the prominent are: Consumer Guidance Society of India, Mumbai; Citizens Action Group, Mumbai; Common Cause, New Delhi; Voice, New Delhi; Consumer Utility and Trust Society, Jaipur. This called for strong legal measures to ensure that the manufacturers and sellers observe uniformity and transparency in prices, stocks and quality of their goods. Enactment of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was one of the most important steps taken to protect the interests of consumers. The provision of the Act came into force, with effect from July 1, 1987.
Who can file a complaint?
A complaint on a plain paper either handwritten or typed, can be filed by a consumer, a registered consumer organization, central or State Government & one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interest.
Consumers can make complaints in the following cases: (A) Any unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice adopted by the trader; (B) Defective goods; (C) Deficiency in
service; (D) Excess price charged by the trader; and (E) Unlawful goods sale, which is hazardous to life and safety when used.
How to file a complaint?
There are no legal formalities for filing the complaint. Suppose, one find himself cheated by trader or a manufacturer and wish to make a complaint to consumer court, he can write the details on a plain paper. Attach the supporting documents, that is, guarantee or warrantee card and cash memo, notice to opposite party, required fees, if his claim falls under the category for which a negligible amount of fees in the form of demand draft is to be payable, with the complaint (in quadruplicate in case of District Forum and State Commission) and submit it in the District Forum. He needs not to go to any lawyer or professional for legal assistance. He himself can plead the case in the consumer court. Generally complaint should be decided within 90 days from the date of notice issued to the opposite party. Where a sample of any goods is required to be tested, a complaint is required to be disposed off within 150 days.
SOCIAL ERRANDS OF CONSUMERS FOR THE CONSUMERS-
Consumers have the social responsibility of exposing the manufacture/supplier or the service provider for resorting to illegal trade practices. Unethical noting like “Goods once sold will never be taken back” are in sharp contrast to the practice in some of the developed countries, where the sellers declare, “In case you are not fully satisfied with our product, you can bring the same to us within a month for either replacement or return of your money.” This is the result of consumer consciousness. Consumers have to realize their role and importance. The consumer movements can be winner movements only with our active involvement by knowing our rights and enforcing them. It requires a voluntary effort involving the participation of one and all. If the consumers remain passive, they will continue to be exploited. It is necessary that consumers take action with solidarity to get a fair deal and timely redressal. An alert consumer is a safe consumer.
The Government acts as the manager for the delivery of services in certain sectors like drinking water supply, health, education, electricity municipal services etc., The consumer for these services is community at large, The efficiency of service delivery and consumer satisfaction is largely not evaluated. Social audits and user feedbacks are sometimes discreetly carried out for various services, which throw significant light on improvements required in these services.
Engagement of consumers or users for feedback and management are two basic factors which generally lead to efficiency of service delivery mechanism. For instance the Government of Gujrat took up the initiative of decentralized community managed in village water supply management, wherein a local community institution is developed at the village level for infrastructure development for drinking water services delivery and its operation and maintenance. The approach was taken up in a mission mode by creating an autonomous institution named Water and Sanitation Management Organization (WASMO) for taking up social processes at the village level for institution building and its capacity enhancement. The mission mode has now resulted in the state having more than 13,000 Village Pani Samities which are acting as Managers of service delivery at the village level.
Needs and Reasons of Consumerism in India-
The need of strong consumerism in our country is on account of the following reasons:
- In vast country like India, it is very difficult to organize the consumers. The people besides being the backward have linguistic, cultural and religious difference which makes the problems quiet intricate or complex;
- Majority of our population is illiterate, uneducated, ignorant and ill-informed;
- Poverty, lack of social awareness, accepting life as it is and passive outlook are some of the factors which make consumer movement difficult to increase;
- There may not be a positive common objective for the consumers except their desire for safe quality products, for reasonable price and a feeling of strong negative reactions against the products. In wake of large scale production and the variety and choice conferred on the consumers, a consumer needs guidance which can only be appropriately provided by a consumer organization;
- The advertisement bombarded on the consumers make them quite confused and hence again a need for consumer guidance.
RIGHTS OF THE CONSUMER-
- Right to safety: It is Right to safety against such goods and services as are hazards to health, life and property of the consumer. For example, spurious and sub-standard drugs ; appliances made of low quality of raw material, such as, electric press, pressure cooker, etc. and low quality food products like bread, milk, jam, butter etc. Consumers have the right to safety against loss caused by such products.
2. Right to be Informed/ Right to Representation: Consumer has also the right that he should be provided all those information on the basis of which he decides to buy goods or services. This information relates to quality, purity, potency, standard, date of manufacture, method of use, etc. of the commodity. Thus, producer is required to provide all these information in a proper manner, so that consumer is not cheated.
- Right to choose: Consumer has the full right to buy goods or services of his choice from among the different goods or services available in the market. In other words, no seller can influence his choice in an unfair manner. If any seller does so, it will be deemed as interference in his right to choice.
4. Right to be heard: Consumer has the right that his complaint be heard. Under this Right the consumer can file complaint against all those things which prejudicial to his interest. First there rights mentioned above (Right to Safety; Right to be Informed; Right to choose) have relevance only if the consumer has right to file his complaint against them. These days, several large and small organizations have set up Consumer service cells with a view to providing the right to be heard to the consumer. The function of the cell is to hear the complaints of the consumers and to take adequate measures to redress them. Many newspapers like The Economic Times have weekly special columns to entertain the complaints of the consumers.
5. Right to Seek redress: This provides compensation to consumer against unfair trade practice of the seller. For instance, if the quantity and the quality of the product do not confirm to the promise of the seller, the buyer has the right to claim compensation, such as free repair of the product, taking back of the products, changing of the product by the seller.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CONSUMER-
A) Consumer should exercise his right- Consumers have many rights with regard to the goods and services. They must be aware of their rights while buying. These rights are: Right to safety, Right to be informed, Right to representation, Right to seek redressal, Right to consumer education, etc.
B) Cautious consumer/ Do not buy blindly- The consumers should make full use of their reason while buying things. They should not take the seller’s word as final truth. In other words, while buying consumer must get information regarding the quality, quantity, price, utility etc. of goods and services.
C) Filing complaint for the redressal of genuine grievances- It is the responsibility of a consumer to approach the officer concerned there is some complaint about the goods purchased. A late complaint may find that the period of guarantee/warrantee has lapsed. Sometimes, consumers ignore the deception of businessmen. This tendency encourages corrupt business practices.
D) Consumer must be quality conscious/Do not compromise on quality- The consumers should never compromise on the quality of goods. Therefore, they should not buy inferior stuff out of greed for less prices. If the consumers behave like this, there cannot be any protection for them from any quarter. It is also the responsibility of the consumers only to buy goods with the ISI,
Agmark, Woolmark, FPO, Hallmark etc. printed on them. All these symbols are indicative of
the good quality of the goods.
E) Advertisements often exaggerate/Beware of false advertisement-The seller informs the consumer about their things through the medium of advertisement. The sellers exaggerate the quality of their goods. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the consumers to recognize the truth of advertisement.
F) Do not forget to get Receipt and Guarantee/warrantee card- One should always get a receipt or bill for the things purchased. In case a guarantee/warrantee card is also offered by seller, it should also be taken. In case the goods purchased are of inferior quality or some defects appears and bothers the customers, these documents will be of great help in settling all kinds of dispute with the seller.
It is apparent believe that more guidelines are required because there are always two sides of a coin, each instance of Consumer affairs could be easily termed as another „Consumer mistreatment‟. By the time market forces have time to operate, far too many consumers are dead, maimed, or impoverished. Within a nation-state, national laws may prevent some of this harm, but once national boundaries are crossed, their effectiveness is limited, and consumers can hope for very limited protection, If online trade proliferates and consumer fraud becomes a major problem, nation-states and commercial interests that provide online access are fairly restricted in the action they may take to curb unacceptable and deleterious practices. Certainly if consumers perceive online commerce as a hazardous place to make purchases, they will not choose this alternative, and a major opportunity for electronic commerce may be forfeited.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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