Chapter 5. Consumer Rights

• Consumers participate in market when they purchase goods and services that they need. These are final goods that people as consumers use.
• Rules and regulations are required for protection of consumers in marketplace.
• Individual consumers often find themselves in a weak position.
• Whenever there is a complaint regarding a good or service that had been bought, seller tries to shift all responsibilities on to buyer.
• consumer movement arose out of dissatisfaction with consumers as many unfair practices were being indulged in by sellers.
• In India, consumer movement as a ‘social force’ originated with necessity of protecting and promoting interests of consumers against unethical and unfair trade practices.
• Rampant food shortages, hoarding, black marketing, adulteration of food, and edible oil gave birth to consumer movement in an organised form in 1960s.
• Till 1970s, consumer organisations were largely engaged in writing articles and holding exhibitions. They formed consumer group to look into malpractices in ration shops and overcrowding in road passenger transport.
• A major step taken in 1986 by Indian Government was enactment of Consumer Protection Act 1986, popularly called COPRA.

Consumer Rights

Right to be Informed
• When you buy any commodity, you will find certain details given on packing. These details are about ingredients used, price, batch number, date of manufacture, expiry date, and address of manufacturer.
• These rules have been made because consumers have Right to be Informed about particulars of goods and services that they purchase.
• Consumers can then complain and ask for compensation or replacement if product proves to be defective in any manner.
• Similarly, one can protest and complain if someone sells a good at more than printed price on packet.
• It is indicated by ‘MRP’ — Maximum Retail Price. Consumers can bargain with seller to sell at less than MRP.
• In October 2005, Government of India enacted a law, popularly called RTI [Right to Information] Act, which ensures its citizens all information about functions of government departments.

Right to Safety
• We, as consumers, have right to be protected against marketing of goods and delivery of services that are hazardous to life and property.
• Producers need to strictly follow required safety rules and regulations.
• There are many goods and services that we purchase, that require special attention to safety. For example, pressure cookers have a safety valve, if it is defective, can cause a serious accident. manufacturers of safety valves have to ensure high quality.

Right to Choose
• Any consumer who receives a service in whatever capacity, regardless of age, gender, & nature of service, has right to choose whether to continue to receive service.

Right to Represent
• Under COPRA, three-tier quasi-judicial machinery at district, state, & national levels were set up for redressal of consumer disputes.
• district-level court known as District Forum deals with cases involving claims up to ` 1 crore, state-level court known as State Commission, between ` 1 crore and ` 10 crore, and national-level court known as National Commission deals with cases involving claims exceeding ` 10 crore.
• If a case is dismissed in district-level court, a consumer can appeal in state and then in national-level courts.
• Act has enabled us as consumers to have right to be represented in consumer courts.

Right to Seek Redressal
• Consumers have right to seek Redressal against unfair trade practices and exploitation. If any damage is done to a consumer, he/she has right to get compensation depending on degree of damage.
• consumer can file a complaint before appropriate consumer forum on his/her own, with or without services of lawyers.
• consumer movement in India has led to formation of various organisations, locally called consumer forums or consumer protection councils. They guide consumers on how to file cases in consumer court.
• These voluntary organisations receive financial support from government for creating awareness among people.

Consumer Movements
• India has been observing 24 December as National Consumers’ Day. It was on this day that Indian Parliament enacted Consumer Protection Act in 1986. India is one of countries that have exclusive courts for consumer redressal.
• consumer redressal process is becoming cumbersome, expensive, and time-consuming. Many a time, consumers are required to engage lawyers.
• COPRA was amended in 2019 to further strengthen consumers in India. Buying through internet is now included. If there is any service deficiency or defective product, service provider or manufacturer is held responsible and would be penalized or even imprisoned.
• Settlement of disputes with help of a neutral intermediary outside consumer, court known as a mediator, is now encouraged at all three tiers of consumer courts.

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