CBSE NCERT Class X (10th) | Social Studies | Economics
Chapter – 5 Consumer Rights
Consumer: Why consumer movements?
Rules and regulations are required to protect people who are in a weak position. Consumers also need to be protected through legislation and action that ensure them their rights. Individual consumers are often scattered and not united. This makes them easy targets for unscrupulous elements to exploit.
Sellers usually refuse to take any liability for goods once they are sold. Consumers also get cheated when shopkeepers use incorrect weights and measures, put extra charges in the bill, adulterate the foodstuff that they intend to sell, sell defective goods, or sell goods whose expiry dates have passed.
Big companies can also manipulate consumers who are individual, scattered and make small purchases. Big companies spend a lot of money on advertising to give out misleading information about their products. The consumer movement was born out of consumer dissatisfaction. Initially, consumers had no means or rules and regulations to address the malpractices of manufacturers and sellers or if they were not pleased with a product.
In the post-independence period in India, there were artificial food shortages and adulteration in India. The first consumer’s forum was formed in the 1960’s. Until the 1970’s, the role of the consumer movement was limited to exhibiting and writing in magazines and papers. Later, consumer groups started looking into malpractices.
The movement got a boost from the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection formulated in 1985. In India, the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 boosted the movement.
Consumers themselves have to come forward and fight for their rights in consumer forums and courts.
Consumers’ rights include the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, the right to seek redress, and the right to represent in consumer courts.
When producers sell any goods or services, it is their responsibility to ensure their safety for the consumer. It is the right of the consumer to be offered only products that are safe. In case of any damage, the producer should compensate the consumer.
Consumers also have the right to be informed about the goods and services they buy including price, ingredients, batch number, expiry dates and manufacturer’s address.
Certain medicinal drugs need to be handled with care. Their packing must have directions about usage printed on them. Any side effects or risk to potential users must also be mentioned.
In case of any misleading or false information, consumers can take the producer to the consumer court.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act, of 2005 gives citizens the right to know about the functioning of any government department.
Consumers have the right to select or choose any product that they wish to buy.
Consumers possess the right to seek redress and to demand compensation. While seeking any redress, the consumers have the right to represent in consumer courts.
In case of help required, consumers can seek help from consumer forums or councils and Resident Welfare Associations.
In 1986, the government passed the Consumer Protection Act (COPRA), which ensures that consumers have the right to represent in consumer courts.
COPRA establishes a three-tier structure. They are district level, state level and national level.
Strengthen Consumer Movement to Protect Consumer Rights
Consumers need to be aware of the choices available to them.
The Consumer Protection Act enacted in 1986, independent departments of consumer affairs were formed in the Central and state governments. The departments regularly put out advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and on television to make consumers conscious of their rights. Several agencies like BIS, Hallmark and Agmark test the quality of various products sold in the market.
Only products that pass the test of quality are certified. For products that are crucial from a health or safety angle, certification is mandatory or compulsory. 24th December, 1986, is celebrated as the National Consumer Day.
There are over 700 consumer groups in the country, but only about 30 of them work efficiently. The process of redress might be difficult as consumers do not often take cash memos, and hence it is very difficult to prove anything conclusively against the wrongdoings of shopkeepers. The laws relating to compensation are often vague and their enforcement is weak. The progress in consumer awareness has been slow, but positive.