The Consumers in the Marketplace
- Different people work in different sectors. They produce the goods and services and at the same time they are consumers also as they buy goods for their use.
- Looking at the condition of the consumers, rules and regulations are required for – protecting the workers in the unorganised sector, protecting people from moneylenders, protecting the consumers in the market, protecting the environment etc.
- If we look at the condition of the consumers in the marketplace then we see the position of individual consumers are weak in the marketplace.
- The following are some of the examples through which the consumers are exploited in the marketplace : shopkeepers weigh less, they add charges that were not mentioned , they sell adulterated goods, they make false claims etc.
- As consumers were cheated in the marketplace and tehre was no legal system to protect them so they were dissatisfied and this is how consumer movement started in India.
- In 1960s, consumer movement took shape in organised form and worked against the unethical trade practices, hoarding, black marketing, adulteration of food etc.
- Till the 1970s, they were engaged in writing articles and holding exhibitions.
- In 1986, the government of India enacted the Consumer Protection Act, popularly known as COPRA.
There are six rights given to the consumers called consumers rights. These are:
1. Right to Safety:
- Consumers are given the right to safety or right to be protected against the goods and services that are hazardous to life and property.
- For example: Reji Matthew, a boy went for tosillectomy operation by an ENT but due to improper medication he was crippled for life against which his father filed a case in the consumer court by using right to safety.
2. Right to be informed:
- It is important for the producers to provide certain details on the packaging as the consumers have the right to be informed.
- These details are like-ingredients used, date of manufacture, expiry date, address of the manufacturer etc.
3. Right to Information:
- It is popularly known as RTI Act, which was passed in October 2005, which gives us the right to know about the functions of the government department.
- For example : Amritha attended an interview for a job in the government department but did not receive any news regarding the result. Therefore, she filed RTI to know the result so that she can plan ahead.
4. Right to Choose:
- According to this we as consumer have the right to choose what we want to buy in the market and not what the seller wishes to sell.
- For example : if we want to buy toothpaste and the seller says that we will get toothpaste only when we will buy the toothbrush along with it. In this case, our right to choose is denied.
5. Right to see redressal:
- If we are cheated in the marketplace, then as a consumer, we have the right to get compensation depending on the degree of damage.
- For example : Prakash sent a money order to his daughter but she did not receive it. Then he enquired about that in the post office but dit not get any satisfactory answer. Later on with the help of Consumer Forum, he filed a case in the Consumer Court and got the court verdict.
6. Right to represent:
- The COPRA has enabled us to have the right to represent in the different levels of consumer courts according to the compensation amount.
Consumer Forum/Consumer Protection Council
- It was formed due to the consumer movement. It helps the cheated consumers how to file a case.
- Sometimes they represent on behalf on the cheated consumers in the consumer court.
- They get financil help from the government for raising awareness among the people.
- In India, the consumer courts are at three different levels – district, state and national level consumer courts.
a) The district level court deals with claims up to Rs. 20 lakhs.
b) The state court deals with claims between Rs. 20 lakhs to 1 crore.
c) The national level court deals with claims more than Rs. 1 crore.
- If we are not satisfied with the verdict of the lower court, then we can move to the higher level court.
- When we buy a product, we see a logo with letters ISI, AGMARK or HALLMARK etc.
- These logos and certifications are the assurance of the quality product.
- All the products don’t need to have these logos but it is mandatory for the products of mass consumption and health and safety products.
National Consumer’s Day
- 24th December is observed as National Consumer’s Day in India because on this day in 1986 COPRA was enacted by the Indian parliament.
Critical Analysis of Consumer Movement
- The number of organized consumer groups and their activities are rising in India.
- Today, we have around 700 consumer groups out of which 20-25 are well organised and recognised.
- But, even today, consumer redressal is expensive and time consuming.
- In many cases, the consumers do not have the evidences i.e. cash memos.
- Compensation amuont is not clear in the existing laws. Consumer awareness is spreading very slowly.