Chapter 5 Consumer Rights
Why are rules and regulations required in the marketplace ? Illustrate with a few examples.
Rules and regulations are required in the marketplace to protect consumers. Sellers often abdicate responsibility for a low-quality product, cheat in weighing out goods, add extra charges over the retail price, and sell adulterated/ defective goods. Hence, rules and regulations are needed to protect the scattered buyers from powerful and fewer producers who monopolize markets. For example, a grocery shop owner might sell expired products and then blame the customer for not checking the date of expiry before buying the items.
What factors gave birth to the consumer movement in India ? Trace its evolution.
(1) The following factors gave birth to the consumer movement in India :
- There was the dissatisfaction of the consumers as many sellers indulged in various unfair practices such as less weight and measurement, more prices, and defective goods.
- There was no legal system or law available to consumers to protect themselves from unethical and unfair trade practices and exploitation by the sellers.
- In case of any defective product or deficiency of services, it was considered to be the responsibility of the consumer to be careful while buying a commodity or service.
(2) Evolution :
- It took many years for organisations in India and around the world, to create awareness amongst people. This has also shifted the responsibility of ensuring quality of goods and services on the sellers.
- In India, the consumer movement as a ‘social force’ originated with the necessity of protecting and promoting the interests of consumers against unethical and unfair trade practices.
- Rampant food shortages, hoarding, black-marketing, adulteration of food and edible oil were also responsible for the rise of consumer movement in an organised form in the 1960s.
- Till 1970s, consumer organisations wrote articles and held exhibitions.
- Consumer groups were formed to look into the malpractices in ration shops and overcrowding in the road passenger transport.
- In 1986, the Government of India enacted Consumer Protection Act 1986, popularly known as COPRA to protect the interests of the consumers.
Explain the need for consumer consciousness by giving two examples.
There is a need for consumer consciousness so that the buyers themselves can take action against cheating traders. The ISI and Agmark logos are certifications of good quality. Consumers must look for such certifications while buying goods and services. Secondly, to be able to discriminate and make informed choices, a consumer needs to have adequate knowledge of the goods or services purchased by him/her.
Mention a few factors which cause exploitation of consumers.
A few factors which cause exploitation of consumers are as mentioned below :
- Individual consumers often find themselves in a weak position whenever there is a complaint regarding a good or service that had been bought, the seller tries to shift all the responsibility on to the buyers.
- Consumers purchase in small amounts and are scattered. They do not bother about products of small value even if they are cheated.
- Consumers do not take receipt for products of small value. Sometimes the shopkeepers too don’t give receipt for products of small value due to rush of customers as they don’t find time to issue receipts to each and every customer.
- Limited supplies : Limited supplies ‘Of goods and services are made to exploit the consumers who are compelled to pay more than the actual price.
- Limited competition : When one or a group of producers control the production of any product, they exploit the consumers by manipulating the prices. For example in the housing sector, where the producers and consumers are few, the sellers exploit the consumers.
- Low literacy : Illiteracy too leads to exploitation of the consumers because they are unable to have complete knowledge about the products.
- Life of the people is so busy that they do not find time for such matters. People have become habitual and exploitation by traders does not make any difference in their lives unless they suffer a substantial loss.
What is the rationale behind the enactment of Consumer Protection Act, 1986?
The rationale behind the enactment of Consumer Protection Act of 1986 is to protect the consumer against unethical and unfair trade practices. Also, it recognises the consumer’s right to be informed, right to choose, right to seek redressal and right to represent himself/herself in consumer courts.
Describe some of your duties as consumers if you visit a shopping complex in your locality.
Some of our duties as consumers are as given below :
- While purchasing the goods, consumers should look at the quality of the products as well as on the guarantee of the products and services.
- Consumers should ask for cash memo for the products purchased.
- Exercise your right to choose a product of your liking without any conditions.
- Wherever possible, consumers should insist for the warrantee card.
- Consumers should preferably purchase products with ISI, Agmark etc.
- Consumers should ask for expiry date about any eatables/biscuits etc. before buying the product.
- Consumer should ask about the MRP of the product and should not pay more than MRP. On the other hand, it is his duty to ask the shopkeeper to reduce the rate.
Suppose you buy a bottle of honey and a biscuit packet. Which logo or mark will you have to look for and why?
Agmark, because it is meant for agricultural products.
What legal measures were taken by the government to empower the consumers in India ?
Legal measures taken by the government to empower consumers in India are plenty. First and foremost being the COPRA in 1986. Then, in October 2005, the Right to Information Act was passed, ensuring citizens all information about the functioning of government departments. Also, under COPRA, a consumer can appeal in state and national courts, even if his case has been dismissed at the district level. Thus, consumers even have the right to represent themselves in consumer courts now.
Mention some of the rights of consumers and write a few sentences on each.
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 the trade. It is therefore very essential for the consumers to know their rights which are given below:
(1) Right to safety:
- According to this right the consumers have the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
- This right is important for safe and secure life.
- This right includes concern for consumer’s long term interest as well as for their present requirement.
- Sometimes the manufacturing defects in pressure cookers, gas cylinders and other electrical appliances may cause loss to life, health and property of customers.
- Thus right to safety protects the consumers from sale of such hazardous goods or services.
(2) Right to information :
- According to this right the consumer has the right to get information about the quality, quantity, purity, standard– and price of goods or services as to protect himself against the abusive and unfair practices.
- The producer must supply all the relevant information at a suitable place preferably on the product itself.
- Since October 2005, the Right to Information Act ensures its citizens all the information about the functions of government departments.
(3) Right to choice :
- A consumer has the right to choose the goods or services of his/her likings.
- The right to choice means consumer’s access to variety of goods and services at a competitive price.
- A consumer cannot be forced to buy things he may not wish to and is left with no choice.
(4) Right to be heard or right to representation :
- In case a consumer has been exploited or has any complaint against the product or service then he has the right to be heard and be assured that his/her interest would receive due consideration.
- This right includes the right to representation in the government and in other policy making’
- Under this right the companies must have complaint cells to attend the complaints of customers.
(5) Right to seek redressal :
- A consumer has the right to get compensation or seek redressal against unfair trade practices or any other exploitation.
- This right assures justice to consumers against exploitation.
- The right includes compensation in the form of money or replacement of goods or repair of a defect in the goods as per the satisfaction of consumer.
- Various redressal forum e., three-tier quasi-judicial bodies under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 has been set at district, state and national level.
(6) Right to consumer education :
- It is right of the consumer to adquire the knowledge and skills to be informed so that even the illiterate consumer may seek information about the existing acts, and agencies.
- The government of India has included consumer education in the school curriculum and in various university courses.
- Government is also making use of media to make the consumers aware of their rights and make wise use of their money.
By what means can the consumers express their solidarity?
Consumers can express their solidarity by forming consumer groups that write articles or hold exhibitions against traders’ exploitation. These groups guide individuals on how to approach a consumer court, and they even fight cases for consumers. Such groups receive financial aid from the government to create public awareness. Participation of one and all will further strengthen consumer solidarity.
Critically examine the progress of consumer movement in India.
- It was on 24 December 1986 that the Indian Parliament enacted the Consumer Protection Act. This day i.e., 24th December is celebrated as National Consumers’ Day in the country.
- The consumer movement has made progress in terms of numbers of organised groups and activities. There are more than 700 consumer groups in the country. Out of these groups 2025 are well organised and recognised for their work.
However, the progress of the consumer movement in India has been slow. Even after twenty seven years of the enactment of COPRA in 1986, consumers are being exploited by the shopkeepers or traders. Defective or substandard home appliances are sold in the market. Duplicate articles are also being sold. There is adulteration and impurity in edible items. Incomplete information is found printed on various products. LPG gas cylinders with less weight are supplied to the housewives.
But the main reason for this state of affairs is that the consumers have not realised their role and importance. Most of the people do not make a complaint to redress their grievances. To make consumer movement effective, it is necessary that every complaint, even for a small amount of money, should be made. People should actively get involved in the movement to protect their interests.
Match the following :
(i) (e), (ii) (c), (iii) (a), (iv) (b), (v) (f), (vi) (d).
Say True or False :
COPRA applies only to goods.
India is one of the many countries in the world which has exclusive courts for consumer redressal.
When a consumer feels that he has been exploited, he must file a case in the District Consumer Court.
It is worthwhile to move to consumer courts only if the damages incurred are of high value.
Hallmark is the certification maintained for the standardization of jewellery.
The consumer redressal process is very simple and quick.
A consumer has the right to get compensation depending on the degree of the damage.