Consumer Protection Part 1

Download PDF of This Page (Size: 247K)

‘Consumerism’, which is a movement aimed at making consumers aware of their problems and their rights, so that they may seek remedies for their losses and sufferings. In this lesson, we shall discuss why consumers need to be protected and what are the ways and means of protecting them from the unfair practices of businessmen.

Meaning of Consumer Protection

We are familiar with the fact that consumers have certain basic rights like the right to safety, right to be informed, right to choose, and the right to be heard. But do we always remember these rights while buying goods? Perhaps not, but even if we are aware of these rights, sellers very often take advantage of our position and supply goods which are defective or harmful or unsafe and cause injury.

Consumer protection refers to the steps necessary to be taken or measures required to be accepted to protect consumers from business malpractices. It may be regarded as a movement like consumerism. This is necessary primarily because businessman aim at maximising profits and this is often done at the expense of consumers.

Let us consider the nature of business practices which prevail in our country causing monetary loss and injuries to health and life of people.

Objectives

After studying this lesson, you will be able to:

Image of Objectives

Image of Objectives

Image of Objectives

Problems Faced by Consumers

Consumers may be deceived in various ways by unscrupulous businessmen including traders, dealers, producers and manufacturers as well as service providers. Some of the following unfair practices must have come to your notice sometime or the other:

  • Adulteration that is, adding something inferior to the product being sold. This is a practice we come across in the case of cereals, spices, tea leaves, edible oil, petrol, etc. For example, mustard oil may be adulterated with rape seed oil or argemone oil, black pepper is known to be adulterated with dry papaya seeds, petrol is mixed with kerosene oil, vanaspati may be mixed with ghee/butter. Sometimes, the inferior material used with the product may be injurious to health.

  • Sale of spurious products that is, selling something of no value instead of the real product. This is often found in the case of medicines and drugs or health care products. Cases have been reported where ampules for injections contained only water or glucose water in bottles contained only distilled water.

  • Use of false weights and measures is another malpractice which some traders adopt while selling the goods. Goods which are sold by weight (kg.) like vegetables, cereals, sugar, etc., those sold by measures (meter) like textile fabrics, suit pieces, are sometimes found to be less than the actual weight or length. False weights (1Kg, 500 grams, 250 grams, etc) or measuring tapes or sticks having false markings are used for the purpose and buyers are cheated. Sometimes packaged goods and sealed containers (tins) contain less quantities, than what is stated on the label or packet. This cannot be easily verified. Sweets are often weighed along with the card board box which may weigh up to 50-100 grams. You pay for it at the same rate as the sweets.

  • Sale of duplicates, that is, goods that indicates a mark which shown it is of superior quality than what it actually is. For example, goods which are locally made, are sold at a higher price as imported items expected to be of superior quality. Certain products like washing soap, detergent powders, tube lights, jams, edible oil, even medicines, carry well-known brand names although these are made by others.

  • Hoarding and black-marketing is another problem that consumer often faces. When any essential commodity is not made available in the open market and stocks are intentionally held back by dealers it is known as hoarding. Its purpose is to create an artificial scarcity, to push up the prices. Black marketing is the practice of selling hoarded goods, secretly at a higher price. These practices are sometimes adopted when there is short supply of any product. You may have read in the newspapers sometime back about scarcity of onions in the open market in some states and high prices being charged by traders who had stocks.

  • Tie-in-Sales Buyers of durable consumer goods are sometimes required to buy some other goods as a pre-condition to sale or may be required to pay after-sales service charges for one year in advance. You may have heard about tying up of new gas connections with the sale of gas stoves (burners). Also, TV sets are sometimes sold on the condition that the buyers will make advance payment of a year’s service charge.

  • Offering gifts having no additional value, or coupons to collect a gift on the next purchase of some product are practices aimed at alluring consumers to buy a product. Often gifts are offered after the price of the product on sale has been increased. Dealers also announce contests or lottery among buyers of a product without the intention of awarding any prize.

  • Misleading advertisement is yet another practice by which consumers are deceived. Such advertisements falsely represent a product or service to be of superior quality, grade or standard, or falsely asserts the need for or usefulness of a product or service. A pharmaceutical company advertised that use of its paracetamol tablet did not have any side effects like aspirin, but it suppressed the experts’ report that the use of paracetamol had adverse effect on the liver. A company announced in its advertisement that it was manufacturing 150 cc. scooters in technical collaboration with a foreign company, although no such collaboration had been entered into. In another case, a company used the trademark of a well-known company ‘Philips’ in its advertisement for TV sets, on enquiry it was found that the company did not have the necessary permission from Philips for the use of its trade mark on TV sets. It was a case of misrepresentation of facts although that company was authorised to use the trademark ‘Philips’ on its audio products (radio sets) only.

  • Sale of sub-standard goods i.e., sale of goods which do not conform to prescribed quality standard particularly for safety. Such products include pressure cookers, stoves, electric gadgets (heaters, toasters, etc.), and cooking gas cylinders.

Developed by: