Consumer awareness is about making the consumer aware of his/her rights.It is a marketing term which means that consumers are aware of products or services, its characteristics and the other marketing P’s (place to buy, price, and promotion).Though the first consumer movement began in England after the Second World War, a modern declaration about consumer’s rights was first made in the United States of America in 1962, where four basic consumer rights (choice, information, safety and to be heard ) were recognized. Ralph Nadar, a consumer activist, is considered as the father of ‘consumer movement’. March 15 is now celebrated as the World Consumer Rights Day. The United Nations in 1985 adopted, , certain guidelines to achieve the objectives of maintaining protection for consumers and to establish high level ethical conduct for those engaged in production and distribution of goods and services.
High prices, duplicate articles, underweight and under – measurements, rough behavior, undue conditions, artificial scarcity are some of the ways by which consumers are exploited by manufacturers and traders. Limited information, limited supplies and low literacy are factors causing exploitation of consumers.
In India, the concept of consumer protection is not new. References to the protection of consumer’s interest against exploitation by trade and industry, underweight and measurement, adulteration and punishment for these offences, were made in Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’. 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.
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. The act recognizes consumer’s right to seek redresses and right to consumer education. The salient features of the Act are as follows:-
- Applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted by the Union Government;
- Covers all the sectors whether private, public or cooperative;
- Enshrines the consumer’s rights related to safety, information, choice, representation and redress and consumer education.
- The act gives consumers an additional remedy besides those which may be available to them under the provisions of other existing laws and they are free to choose the remedy.
- Empower consumers seeking discontinuance of certain unfair and restrictive trade practices, defects or deficiencies in services and stopping in services or withdrawal of hazardous goods from the market.
There are no legal formalities for filing the complaint. Suppose, you find yourself cheated by trader or a manufacturer and wish to make a complaint to consumer court, you can write the details on a plain paper. Attach the supporting documents, that is, guarantee or warrantee card and cash memo with the complaint and submit it in the district consumer court. You do not have to go to any lawyer or professional for legal assistance. You yourself can plead the case in the consumer court.Since, the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act and even before that, newspapers and magazines have been responding to the needs of consumers. Apart from publishing articles, columns etc newspapers have also tried to come to the rescue of harassed consumers. The Indian Express was one of the first newspapers to start a consumer complaint column.
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 ones are: Consumer Guidance Society of India, Mumbai; Citizens Action group, Mumbai; Common Cause, New Delhi; Voice, New Delhi; Consumer Utility and Trust Society, Jaipur.
So next time you find yourself at the wrong end of a purchase don’t just sit back and blame, go to a consumer court and make your claim.
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