Need for Consumer Protection Part 2

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The necessity of adopting measures to protect the interest of consumers arises mainly due to their helpless position and the unfair business practices. No doubt consumers have the basic right to be protected from the loss or injury caused on account of defective goods and deficiency of services. However, consumers are unable to make use of their rights due to lack of awareness and ignorance. For example, as consumers we have the right to choose the goods of right quality from a variety of similar goods available in the market. But often we fail to make the right choice because of misleading advertisements by which we are carried away and buy sub-standard goods.

Under certain circumstances, we are helpless in the sense of our inability to verify the quality of products. The clever shopkeeper can deceive us by his persuasive words. If the date of expiry on a strip of medicinal tablets is not legible, we may be in a hurry and depend on what the seller tells us. If the medicine does not have the desired effect, we may go to the doctor again and request him to prescribe some other medicine, we forget that the medicine we bought might not have had the effect as we were supplied the medicine after its date of expiry.

Often, we are guided by some of our beliefs without any basis. For instance, many of us believe that ‘higher price indicates better quality’ and so do not mind paying higher price for a product if the salesmen recommend it to be of good quality. Again, it is a common belief that imported goods are inevitably of a superior quality. So, if there is a printed label or a mark that shows a product is made in a foreign country, we may buy it at a higher

Need for consumer protection

Need for Consumer Protection

Need for consumer protection

Producers of goods often put standard certification marks like ISI on the package which are genuinely certified. Similarly, if packaged good are sold short of weight we pay for, it is very difficult to verify always the weights before buying. Sometimes the weighing machines are defective.

Above all, consumers are not fully aware of remedies open to them if goods are defective or there is deficiency of service.

So, you can very well realise why steps must be taken to protect consumers from business practices which are unfair and may cause loss and injury to health and other dangerous effects.

Parties to Consumer Protection

You have realised the need for steps to protect consumer interest. The question is, who will take those steps? Can consumers alone do it? Or, should we depend on the government? Can businessmen do anything? Actually, for effective consumer protection, it is essential that all the three parties must be involved, that is,

  • Consumers;

  • Businessmen; and

  • Government.

Let us consider what each of the parties can do:

Self-Help is the Best Help,

so consumers should, as far as possible, take care of their own interest and protect themselves from market malpractices. For this purpose, it is necessary that they should try to know about their rights and exercise them. They should not depend on the good sense of businessmen. Consumers have a right to education and also a right to be heard. They should attend training programmes for consumers arranged by local consumer associations or by their own association and invite consumer activists to speak to them on consumer rights and remedies available under the law to protect them.

As Regards Businessmen

it is expected that producers, distributors, dealers, wholesalers as well as retailers should pay due regard to consumer rights in their own interest. They should ensure supply of quality goods and services at reasonable prices. To prevent unfair practices, associations of traders, chambers of commerce and industry, and manufacturers’ associations should entertain consumer complaints against their members and take proper action against those guilty of malpractice.

For Government

Consumer protection is a responsibility to be undertaken in the general interest of society. Enforcement of various laws and amending existing laws to protect consumer interests are required to be taken up in the light of viewpoints of consumer associations. Representations of consumer groups should also be associated with the policymaking bodies set up by government at the centre and the states. A number of measures have been taken by Government from time to time.

A number of laws have been passed by the Government of India over the years to protect the interest of consumers. A brief outline of the purpose of these laws in given below:

Agricultural Products (Grading and Marketing) Act, 1937

This Act provides for grading and certifying quality standard of agricultural commodities which are allowed to be stamped with AGMARK seal of the Agricultural marketing department of the Government.

Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951

This Act provides for control over production and distribution of manufactured goods. According to this Act, the Central Government may order investigation of any industry, if it is of the opinion that there has been substantial fall in the volume of production, or a marked decline in the quality of a product, or any unreasonable rise in price. After due investigation, the Government may issue directions to set things right. If the directions are not acted upon, the Government may take over the concerned undertakings.

Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954

This Act provides for severe punishment for adulteration of food articles. In the case of sale of adulterated food which is injurious to health and likely to cause death, life imprisonment with a minimum fine of Rs 3000 may be payable. Food inspectors are appointed and they have powers to lift samples and send them for analysis. Penalties are also provided under the act for offences committed by persons with regard to manufacture, import, storage, sale and distribution of adulterated food articles.

Essential Commodities Act, 1955

Under this Act, the Government has power to declare any commodity as essential in the public interest. Thereby the Government can control the production, supply and distribution of the trading of such commodities. It also provides for action against anti-social activities of profiteers, hoarders and black-marketers.

The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1956

This Act provides for the use of standard weights and standard measures of length throughout the country. ‘Metre’ has been specified as the primary unit for measuring length, and ‘kilogram’ as the primary unit for measuring weight. Before this act came into force, different system of weights and measures were used in different parts of the country like ‘Pound’, ‘Chhatak’ and ‘Seer’ as Weights, Yard, Inch and Foot for length, etc. These differences provided opportunities for traders to exploit the consumers.

Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969

Under the provisions of this Act, as amended in 1983 and 1984, consumers and consumer groups can exercise their right of redressal by filing complaints relating to restrictive and unfair trade practices. The Government has constituted the MRTP commission which is empowered to deal with consumer complaints after due investigation and enquiry. The Commission has power to award compensation for any loss or injury suffered by consumers.

Prevention of Black-Marketing and Maintenance of Essential Supplies Act, 1980

The primary objective of this act is to provide for detention of persons with a view to prevention of black-marketing and maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community. The maximum detention for persons acting in any manner against the intention of the act can be imprisonment up to 6 months.

Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986

The Bureau of Indian Standards has been set up under this Act, replacing the Indian Standards Institution (ISI), to protect and promote consumer interest. It has two major activities: formulation of quality standards for goods and their certification through the BIS certification marks scheme by which manufacturers are permitted to use the standardisation mark (ISI) on their products after due verification of conformity with prescribed quality standards of safety and performance. The Bureau has set up a consumer affairs department to create quality consciousness among ordinary consumers. There is also a public grievances cell to which consumers can make complaint about the quality of products carrying ISI mark.

Consumer Protection Act, 1986

This Act provides for consumer protection more comprehensively than any other law. Consumers can seek legal remedy for a wide range of unfair practices not only with respect to goods but also for deficiency in services like banking, insurance, financing, transport, telephone, supply of electricity or other energy, housing, boarding & lodging, entertainment, amusement, etc. This Act also includes provision for the establishment of consumer protection councils.

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