Consumer Rights - NCERT Notes UPSC
Consumer rights refer to a consumer’s right to safety, to be informed, to choose and to seek redressal, concerning their products when they make a purchase.
Read further to know more about the topic and enhance your UPSC CSE preparation with this detailed article.
The Consumer in the Marketplace
People participate both as consumers as well as producers in the marketplace, while acting as a consumer they may be vulnerable to certain exploitative exposures such as:
- Unfair trade practices like adulteration, wrong measurement etc. by the producer.
- Evasion of responsibility by the producer post sales of the product.
- Passing off false information about the product through media etc.
Due to this, a need for consumer protection in the marketplace arose, giving rise to the consumer movement.
- In 1985, the United Nations adopted the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection. This was a tool for nations to adopt measures to protect consumers and for consumer advocacy groups to press their governments to do so.
- At the international level, this has become the foundation for consumer movement. Today, Consumers International has become an umbrella body to over 220 member organisations from over 115 countries.
- It arose out of dissatisfaction of the consumers as many unfair practices were being indulged in by the sellers.
- No legal system was available to consumers to protect them from exploitation in the marketplace. Hence there arose a movement for the protection of consumer rights.
- As a result, the responsibility of ensuring the quality of goods and services shifted to the sellers.
- Rampant food shortages, hoarding, black marketing, and adulteration of food and edible oil gave birth to the consumer movement in an organised form in the 1960s, in India.
- In India, the consumer movement as a ‘social force’ originated with the necessity of protecting and promoting the interests of consumers against unethical and unfair trade practices.
Due to these efforts, in India, the government enacted Consumer Protection Act 1986, popularly known as COPRA.
Also read: Theory of Consumer Behaviour
Consumer Rights under COPRA
Right to safety
While using many goods and services, consumers have the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and delivery of services that are hazardous to life and property.
- Producers need to strictly follow the required safety rules and regulations.
- For example, pressure cookers should have a safety valve.
Right to be informed
- Consumers have the right to be informed about the particulars of goods and services that they purchase (for example, ingredients used, price, batch number, date of manufacture, expiry date and the address of the manufacturer).
- Consumers can then complain and ask for compensation or replacement if the product proves to be defective in any manner in comparison to the details informed.
Right to choose
Any consumer who receives a service in whatever capacity, regardless of age, gender and nature of service, has the right to choose whether to continue to receive the service or not.
Right to seek redressal
- Consumers have the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices and exploitation.
- If any damage is done to a consumer, s/he has the right to get compensation depending on the degree of damage.
- The consumer can file a complaint before the appropriate consumer forum on his/her own with or without the services of lawyers.
Right to represent
- The Act has enabled the consumers to have the right to represent in the consumer courts.
- This has led to the formation of various organisations, locally known as consumer forums or consumer protection councils.
- They guide consumers on how to file cases in the consumer court. On many occasions, they also represent individual consumers in consumer courts.
- They also receive financial support from the government for creating awareness among people.
Right to consumer education
- When we as consumers become conscious of our rights, while purchasing various goods and services, we will be able to discriminate and make informed choices.
- This calls for acquiring the knowledge and skill to become a well-informed consumer.
- The enactment of COPRA has led to the setting up of separate departments of Consumer Affairs in central and state governments to spread awareness.
Taking the consumer movement forward
The consumer movement in India has made some progress in terms of a number of organised groups and their activities. However, there are certain gaps which are:
- The consumer redressal process is becoming cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming.
- Consumers are required to engage lawyers which requires time for filing and attending the court proceedings etc.
- In most purchases, cash memos are not issued hence gathering evidence is not easy.
- The existing laws also are not very clear on the issue of compensation to consumers injured by defective products.
- Consumer awareness in India is spreading but slowly.
- Enforcement exercises of laws that protect workers, especially in the unorganised sectors is weak.
- Rules and regulations for the working of markets are often not followed.
Important links for UPSC Mains preparation:
- The Right to Information Act (RTI) has expanded the right to be informed to even the government as a provider of services.
- December 24 is observed as National Consumers Day.
- ISI, Agmark or Hallmark logos and certification help consumers get assured of quality while purchasing the goods and services. For some products like LPG cylinders, food colours and additives, cement, and packaged drinking water, it is mandatory on the part of the producers to get certified by the certifying organisations.
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