This Article is written by Priya Singh Rathore (currently pursuing an LL.B from BVP)
A consumer is a person who order or purchase goods and services for his consumption not for resale or commercial purpose. Consumer is the largest economic group in the economy. Reliance Industries, SBI, Wipro, ITC etc are the companies which produce the goods & services for its consumers. Without consumer there is a big question mark on its existence of these companies. Once upon a time consumer is treated as a king of the market. Caveat Emptor means let the buyer beware is the example of this. But as the changing era or trend now the king that is consumer is facing many problem or issues. There is a U- turn in this. Now to survive in the market these companies are doing anything even on the cost of harming the consumer.
More income of consumer leads to more consumption. Due to more unfair trade practices towards consumer there is need to enact rules & regulation to safeguard the interest of the consumer. We have consumer protection act 2019, which was introduced on 8 July 2019 by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan. Later it was passed by Lok Sabha on 30July2019 & later passed in Rajya Sabha on 6August2019.
Still it does not means that the struggle of consumer ends here. Consumer has some rights and duties to perform. No law can help the consumer unless they cannot help themselves.
There are still some issues and challenges they are facing. We cannot expect that after one act all wrong practices will end but they are just to protect the consumer under a shelter. We have to create more awareness among the consumer so that they can understand their right and duties in a more efficient manner. We are experiencing that it changes seller perspective now they are actually competing to get their customer. Because of this consumer are getting more options in products and services. Companies like ITC performing their corporate social responsibility by contributing Rs1 with every copy, by introducing new products, by making attractive offers in occasion like Diwali, Holi etc. We can compare the position of consumer as before consumer is running behind seller and now seller are running behind consumer.
Keywords: consumer, king, caveat emptor, awareness.
Get closer than ever to your customer so close that you tell them what they need before they realize it themselves.
Consumer is part and parcel of economy. Economy law of demand and supply regulate the market. In the scenario of market where demand is more than the supply than consumer is neglected as the case in India till 80’s. It was totally the seller market and at that time there is not much strategies, advertisement for customer. On the other hand countries in west and Japan facing opposite situation. In those countries sellers are competing with each other, strategies are followed earning more customers. The Indian industry has ignored the consumer and facilitated them towards repair and replacement only. We can say sellers are dominating the customer.
Consumer feels helpless as laws are complex, time consuming and endless procedure. So they are ready to spend more or its maintenance rather than for the complex procedure of law. These issues are getting more problematic for government and consumer as well. Finally government should take step to simplify rules and regulation and make them consumer friendly to eradicate monopoly of seller. Considering the facts narrated above, government has amended consumer protection act several times. Latest version of amended consumer protection act 2019 is implemented.
Laws don’t guarantee that wrong practices are fully ended but it just provides a platform where a consumer can avail help if any problem arises. We cannot stop any exploitation by just making rules and regulation; it should be either sided contribution. There are some rights and duties which they have to perform. Consumer rights are as follows:
1. RIGHT TO SAFETY
This right is to protect the consumer from the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
EXAMPLE– Maggi Noodles case
it contained lead beyond permissible limit which was proved in test and labeled no MSG (flavor enhancer). After this Maggi (NESTLE) has lost consumer trust. Earlier it was one of the favorite products of consumer.
Even the Street food has the same condition not complied with the safety standard. The solution of this are BIS marks, periodic upgrading BIS mark.BIS mark is a standard for industrial product since 1955 certifies the product quality. AGMARK is a certification mark for agricultural products in India.
CASE- DONOGHUE VS STEVENSON (1932)
In this Mrs. Donoghue has purchase the ginger beer and during consumption she observed that beer is contaminated having snail. She suffered a shock and sued the manufacturer. She claimed that manufacturer owes a duty of care towards the consumer. But manufacturer failed to do so. It was the first case which held that that law can safeguard the interest of consumer for defective product.
2. RIGHT TO BE INFORMED
this right is to inform the consumer about the essential details of the product like expiry, ingredients, manufacturing date, expiry etc. Some legislation is there regarding RTI as follows-
-The consumer protection act 2019
-The standard of weight and measures act 1976
-The bureau of Indian standard act 1926
-Competition ACT 2002
In Maggi case
Maggi has been introduced with changes that they labeled it no MSG(enhance flavor) but still contained LEAD which is within permissible limit.
3- Right to choose
this means we cannot force customer to buy the product unless they are convinced by make a decision by himself. Otherwise sellers are convincing them with free product with it (buy one get one free) or influencing the consumer by dishonest behavior. Sometimes they forced customer to buy particular product so that they can earn more also monopoly practices are not lawful.
4-RIGHT TO HEARD
It means consumer interest is utmost importance of they are not satisfied can complain in consumer forum and their right cannot be violated by anyone.
5-RIGHT TO SEEK REDRESSAL
The issue or problem should solved by the concerned authority there are some remedy available to them as follows
– product replaced
-return the amount invested in product
In consumer protection act 2019 there is three tire system –National Commission (above 10cr), State Commission(up to 1cr) ,District Consumer Forum (up to 20 lakh).
5- RIGHT TO CONSUMER EDUCATION
Consumer has the right to understand and aware about their rights and duties. Laws are not only sufficient to eliminate the exploitation firstly they need to learn to help themselves if their right are violated they can take the help of remedy available.
There are some issues which they are facing are as follows-
* SUPPLY IS LIMITED
In economy supply and demand chain is maintained. If there is limited supply means consumer have to struggle to get the product and services which is the major loophole for them. At that time sellers are in a dominance position to consumer such as they can charge high prices more than the MRP, black marketing etc.
*COMPETITION IS LIMITED
Market where sellers are limited it leads to limited competition which creates a situation of monopoly in the market. Sellers are exploiting them and at greater advantage.
*LITERACY RATE IS LOW
Kerala where the literacy rate is high as compare to any other state. Whereas the other state like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh etc due to these sellers are taking benefit of this situation in their favor by charging more than the MRP, sell expired product, selling inferior quality product as superior quality, by keeping free offers to limited to themselves etc. The victim of this condition is helpless as their knowledge and awareness is not that much that they can use their right and performs their duties. The accessibility of consumer protection act is still far from those.
DUTIES OF COMSUMER
‘JAGO GRAHAK JAGO’ is one of the successful campaign of the government and advertisement regarding ISI MARK and AGMARK standard are shown.
There are also duties for the consumer also to perform:
*asking for the bill for every purchase does not matter if its money value is less or more.
*go through with all terms and conditions if any.
*can ask any question or doubt if arises as their satisfaction is matter of utmost importance.
*ensure that product has ISI MARK (industrial product), AGMARK (agriculture product).
*check the important details on product package such as manufacturing date, expiry, ingredients, price etc.
Changes cannot be easily accepted but are required after some time. The consumer is facing challenges and issues. But as every problem comes with a solution but we want to solve it. Laws are wasted if the consumer is not fulfilling their rights and duties. Today consumers are not merely puppets in the hand of sellers they are more aware but still struck by attractive advertisements with big brand ambassadors like Katrina Kaif (actress), Virat Kohli(cricketer) etc . Government should take action against any advertisement which ensures some but it cannot ensure such as fairness creams or any advertisement which mislead consumers. There is still a longer way to go for improvement as the era changes issues and problem changes. Small steps or changes make a big difference like many people understand their rights and duties as responsible consumers. What we can do is fulfilled all our duties and responsibility as changes should begin with us if we want to change our condition.