Herald: Observing and enforcing consumer rights

Observing and enforcing consumer rights

21 Mar 2019 04:16am IST

Report by
Shanti Maria Fonseca

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21 Mar 2019 04:16am IST

Report by
Shanti Maria Fonseca

World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated every year on March 15 to celebrate consumer rights and build a world where everyone has access to safe and sustainable products and services. The Consumer International is the moving spirit behind this initiative, worldwide. It is an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the ranks of the global consumer movement. People celebrate this day by promoting basic rights of the consumer and protesting against the market abuses and social injustices that could undermine their rights. The Government of India has also undertaken several steps to protect the rights of consumers, which flow from the consumer Protection Act, 1986 that gives Indian consumers significant rights. However, lack of awareness remains a big challenge on the way to secure benefits from these rights to reach all the people. 

World Consumer Rights Day is our opportunity to highlight what consumers want and need from a connected world and place them at the heart of the development of the digital products and services. World Consumer Rights Day was first mooted by President John F. Kennedy, on March 15, 1962.  It is an opportunity to deliver real impact for the consumers and remind the world about the importance of celebrating consumer rights. The theme of 2019 World Consumer Rights Day was ‘Trusted Smart Products’.  The most popular consumer smart products are smartphones.  There are currently 23.1 billion connected devices installed globally as of now, this figure is expected to triple by 2025.

BUYER AWARENESS:  In this era of corporate capitalism and globalisation, the main objective of each producer is to maximise one’s profit.  The producer is geared to increase the sale of their products in every possible manner. In their relentless quest for profits they forget the interests of consumers and start exploiting them. For example: overcharging, under weighing, selling of adulterated and poor quality goods, misleading the consumers through false advertisements and campaigns etc.  Thus in order to save oneself from being cheated, it is necessary for every consumer to be aware. Consumer awareness thus means creating awareness of a consumer towards her/his rights and duties.  There are four ingredients to the concept of consumer awareness: information, choice, safety and the ‘right to be heard’. 

Consumer awareness refers to the understanding by a customer of their rights about a product or service being marketed or sold, enabling buyers to get the most from what they purchase. The protection and promotion of consumer rights and their best interests is an important function of the government of every economy. CONSUMER CRUSADE:  People expect the government to protect the consumer.  In the present circumstances, there are instances and areas in our everyday life where the consumer needs to be protected from a brazen, dysfunctional apathetic and lazy government.  People must be supplied adequate quantities of unadulterated and reasonably priced food-rains and essentials through the Public Distribution System (PDS).  The electricity and water supplied by the public works department (PWD) should be of quality, correctly metered, timely supplied and reasonably priced for the common man. How often we hear citizens lament over erratic power while on the other hand they receive exorbitant electricity bills to pay and what about the erratic water supply and the spurious and inferior food grains supplied to them through the PDS. Last but not the least let us not forget the delayed justice system of this country. Justice when delayed is justice denied.

QUESTIONS RAISED: Several pertinent questions were raised by those in the audience at a celebration of the World Consumer Rights Day 2019, held in Panjim. Nelly Rodrigues, President of the Mahila Shakti Abhayan asked why this forum could not take up the issue of Ms Iva who had risked her career in the interest of health and consumer rights and was now being victimised and deprived of many benefits due to her, as a government servant. This question was politely turned down by the organisers who said that this matter was sub-judice and therefore could not be entertained.  There were complaints from others present about the number of illegal gaddos and kiosks that had mushroomed and were providing unhygienic street food. The answer given to this query was that those selling unhygienic food to the general public could not be prosecuted in the absence of complaints received by the department. To this one participant  Angelo Pais asked why has the department, together with its staff not taken up such issues ‘suo motto’, when such violations were right under their nose.

Spurious and adulterated food products cause abundant loss to a country both in loss of productive man-days and health. Adulterants mean any material which is or could be used for making the food unsafe or sub-standard or misbranded or containing extraneous matter. Adulterated food is dangerous and toxic. Mere visual inspection does not serve the purpose especially when adulteration has assumed a high degree of sophistication.  

It is precisely here the consumer awareness is the antidote and remedy for eliminating the evil of adulteration and sale of sub-standard food articles. Those in the service industry must remember that customers don’t expect you to be perfect but they expect you to fi

(The writer a social scientist and practicing criminal lawyer).

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