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Consumer Rights in India

This article examines in detail the origin, establishment and status of Consumer Rights in
India today.
Consumer rights were recognized broadly in many ancient Hindu, Islamic and Christian
religious scriptures; however, no literary work formalized them into a concise set until the
1960s. Consumer rights in India and the modern world owe their origin to the consumer
revolution of the pre-60s in the United States of America.
On March 15, 1962, US President John F Kennedy made a historical speech about consumer
rights as he introduced 'The Consumer Bill of Rights' in the US Congress. Ever since,
countries all over the world have celebrated March 15 as the Consumers Day. However, in
India December 24 is celebrated as the National Consumer Day since the Consumer
Protection Act, 1986 was enacted on this day by the Indian Parliament.
Kennedy strongly believed that it is vital to United States National Interest to ensure the
welfare of the consumers, as it is the consumer who fundamentally drives the economy. He
formulated four rights for consumers, namely the right to safety, right to choose, right to
information and right to be heard which, in 1985, was accepted by the United Nations (UN).
The UN added to this list the right to basic needs, right to representation, right to consumer
education, and right to healthy environment.
In the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 of India, the following six consumer rights have been
recognized.
Right to Safety
As stated in the Consumer Protection Act 1986, this consumer right is defined as the `right
to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and
property. Specifically significant in areas such as healthcare, food processing and
pharmaceuticals, this right spans across any domain that could have a serious impact on
the consumers health or well being such as Automobiles, Travel, Domestic Appliances,
Housing etc. Violation of this right is almost always the cause of medical malpractice
lawsuits in India. Every year, it is estimated that thousands, if not, millions of Indian
citizens are killed or severely hurt by unscrupulous practices by hospitals, doctors,
pharmacies and the automobile industry. Yet the Indian government, renowned for its
callousness, fails to acknowledge this fact or to make a feeble attempt at maintaining
statistics of these mishaps. Indian government is required to have world class product
testing facilities to test drugs, cars, food, and any other consumable that could potentially
be life threatening. It is not a coincidence that Tata Nano sells in India for half of what it
would cost in an industrially developed country; this being a classic case of need for a cheap
product outweighing the need for safety of self and family. In developed countries such as
the United States, stalwart agencies oversee the safety of consumer products; the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) for food and drugs, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) for automobiles and the Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC) for all other consumer products, just to name a few. This right requires each product
that could potentially endanger our lives to be marketed only after sufficient and complete
independent verification and validation. With respect to empowering this right completely
and adequately, India is about 50 years away.
Right to Information
This consumer right is defined as the `the right to be informed about the quality, quantity,
potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, as the case may be so as to
protect the consumer against unfair trade practices in the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.
In the Indian market place, consumers get consumer information through two popular, yet
unreliable means, namely advertising and word of mouth. Due to this, the consumers in
India seldom have accurate and complete information to assess the true value, suitability,
safety or reliability of any product. Mostly we find out hidden costs, lack of suitability, safety
hazards and quality problems only after we have purchased the product. Another right again
trumpeted by our government on paper, this right should ideally ensure that all consumable
products are labeled in a standard manner which contains the cost, the ingredients,
quantity, and instructions on how to safely consume the product. Unfortunately, even the
medicines in India do not follow a standard labeling convention. Unit price publishing
standards need to be established for consumer market places where costs are shown in
standard units such as per kilogram, or per liter. We, as consumers, should be informed in a
precise yet accurate manner of the costs involved when availing a loan. For benefit to the
society from this right, advertisers should be held against the product standards in the
advertisements, pharmaceuticals need to disclose potential side effects about their drugs,
and manufacturers should be required to publish reports from independent product testing
laboratories regarding the comparison of the quality of their products with competitive
products, just to name a few. Consumerdaddy is a website meant to empower the
consumers with the right to information. We do not seek or expect any support from the
government of India in this mission; yet, we ethically, systematically and fearlessly
dissipate consumer satisfaction information to the general public in India. Without websites
like Consumerdaddy.com we believe Indian citizens are about 25 years away from being
fully empowered by this right.
Right to Choose
Consumer Protection Act 1986 defines this right as `the right to be assured, wherever
possible, to have access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
Competition, invariably, is the best regulator of a market place. Existence of oligopolies,
cartels and monopolies are counterproductive to consumerism. How often have you noticed
a conglomerate of companies that lobby the government to compromise consumer rights?
Our natural resources, telecommunications, liquor industry, airlines have all been controlled
by a mafia at some point. Coming from a socialistic background, tolerance of monopolistic
market forces are ingrained in the blood of Indian Consumers. It is not very often we can
say we are going to switch the power company, when we have a blackout at home!
Interestingly, even micro markets such as the fish vendors in particular cities have known to
collude to drain the bargaining power of the consumers. In any size, any form, or any span,
collusion of companies selling a similar type of product is unethical, less illegal. We estimate
that India has about 20 years more of stride to empower our citizens fully in this right.
Right to be Heard
According to the Consumer Protection Act 1986, `the right to be heard and to be assured
that consumer's interests will receive due consideration at appropriate forums is referred to
as the right to be heard. This right is supposed to empower Indian consumers to fearlessly
voice their complaints and concerns against products and companies to ensure their issues
are handled efficiently and expeditiously. However, to date the Government of India has not
created a single outlet for the consumers to be heard or their opinions to be voiced. There
are several websites that strive to do this, and the underlying mission of Consumerdaddy is
to ensure that the voices of the consumers are heard by the corporate world. At the
Consumerdaddy.com website, consumers can upload criticisms and file complaints. Each
criticism filed will slightly lower the overall score of the product being criticized, and each
complaint will be independently evaluated by an investigator from the Consumerdaddy.com
website. Consumerdaddy.com gives the consumers the benefit of doubt always, in that their
voice is heard over that of the company. We, at Consumerdaddy.com, strongly believe that
a consumer is always right, and that customer is king. If a consumer makes an allegation
about a product, the onus is on the dealer, manufacturer or supplying company to disprove
that the allegation is false. In other words, the consumer is heard, and the burden of proof
rests with the company. Feeble attempts have been made by the government to empower
our citizens with this right, and we believe we have 10-15 years more to go on this route.
Right to Redressal
The right `to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices or
unscrupulous exploitation of consumers is defined as the right to redressal in the Consumer
Protection Act 1986. The Indian Government has been slightly more successful with respect
to this right. Consumer courts such as District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums at the
district level, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions and National Consumer
Disputes Redressal Commissions have been established through the consumer protection
act. Each of these consumer grievance redressal agencies has fiduciary and geographical
jurisdictions to address consumer cases between consumers and businesses. Consumer
cases less than 20 lakhs are heard in the district consumer forum, between 20 lakhs and
one crore are heard in the state consumer court and cases more than one crore are heard in
the national consumer court. On paper these sound nice; but hold on before you rejoice.
Once started as the guardians of consumer protection and consumer rights in India, these
courts have today been rendered ineffective due to bureaucratic sabotages, callousness of
the government, clogged cases and decadent infrastructure. Very few of the district forums
have officials appointed in a timely manner, and most of them are non-operational due to
lack of funding and infrastructure. Estimates put the open legal cases in India at 20-30
million, which will approximately take 320 years to close. With the legal system in this
manner compromised, consumer cases that form mere civil litigations will be pushed down
the bottom of the priority list. We estimate that India is 10 years behind in effectively
ensuring this right to every Indian consumer.
Right to Consumer Education
The right of each Indian citizen to be educated on matters related to consumer protection
and about his/her rights is the last right given by the Consumer Protection Act 1986. This
right simply ensures that the consumers in India have access to informational programs and
materials that would enable them to make better purchasing decisions. Consumer education
may mean both formal education through school and college curriculums and also consumer
awareness campaigns run by both governmental and non governmental agencies (NGO).
Consumer NGOs, with little support from the Indian government, primarily undertake the
ardent task of ensuring this consumer right around the country. India is 20 years away from
ensuring this right empowers the common citizen consumer.
OTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS


History of Consumer Protection in India
A Blog on Consumer Rights in India
A Blog on Consumer Protection in India
A Blog on Consumer Complaints in India
A True Story on Consumer Rights Violation in India

hLLp//wwwconsumerdaddycom/a13consumerrlghLslnlndlahLm
8ead blogs for addlLlonal lnformaLlon lf requlred


uupllcaLe medlclnes A LhreaL Lo consumers
AugusL 20 2010 osLed by lekshmldarsan
All of us mlghL have Laken medlclne for some dlseases and wheLher we have Laken Lhe orlglnal one or
noL? we may noL know lL can also be a dupllcaLed one whlch may be harmful your healLh As Lhe
populaLlon ls huge Lhere ls a vasL consumer markeL for medlclne ln lndla and a parallel markeL for
adulLeraLed medlclnes Lo earn mllllons of money A recenL lnvesLlgaLlon by Lhe reporLers of a leadlng
newspaper revealed Lhe dangerous aLLempLs of unauLhorlzed manufacLurers 1here are a number of
facLorles LhaL are engaged ln Lhe repacklng of explred medlclnes MosL of Lhem were ln 1amllnadu and
Plmachal radesh 1he explred medlclnes are comlng back Lo Lhe consumers ln new pack by changlng
Lhe explry daLe Cne should purchase Lhe medlclne only from repuLed reglsLered medlcal shops Lo avold
Lhe consumpLlon of dupllcaLe medlclnes Also one should lnslsL for Lhe same brand whlch Lhe docLor has
prescrlbed ln Lhe adulLeraLed medlclne someLlmes Lhe chemlcal or drug conLenL wlll be less buL lL cosLs
equlvalenL Lo Lhe orlglnal one MosL of Lhe medlclnes are Lhe repacks of explred one wlLh new uLlllLy
perlod

MosL of Lhe unauLhorlzed manufacLurers are havlng a very close Lle up wlLh governmenL offlclals and
docLors and Lhls helps ln spreadlng Lhelr producLs ln Lhe markeL All Lhose offlclals and docLors en[oy
many beneflLs by pushlng dupllcaLe ones Lo Lhe consumers Mass quanLlLy of dupllcaLed medlclnes are
supplled Lo Lhe poor paLlenLs aL governmenL hosplLal aL free of cosL whlle Lhe manufacLurers are pald
for Lhe dupllcaLed medlclne from Lhe governmenL fund MosL of Lhe commonly used medlclnes llke
paraceLamol are manufacLured ln dlfferenL brand names and Lo have an exLra proflL some of Lhe brands
are prepared wlLh less chemlcal conLenL Lhan requlred Lven Lhough Lhls pracLlce ls noL LhaL harmful lL
wlll noL cure Lhe lllness upon consumpLlon

normally all Lhe manufacLurers Lake back Lhelr explred medlnes from Lhe shop and nobody knows whaL
ls happenlng Lo lL Slnce Lhe reLallers are pald back Lhls money Lhere ls a llLLle chance for Lhelr
lnvolvemenL ln Lhe lssue 8uL one quesLlon whlch remalns ls LhaL whaL manufacLurer do wlLh explred
medlclne 1here ls a posslblllLy LhaL manufacLurer Lhemselves are lnvolved ln Lhe adulLeraLlon dlrecLly or
lndlrecLly All Lhe explred medlclnes are repacked ln dlfferenL brand names and Lhe besL pracLlce Lo
avold Lhe consumpLlon of adulLeraLed medlclne ls Lo choose only hlghly repuLed manufacLurer's
producLs As adulLeraLed or dupllcaLed medlclnes are harmful Lo Lhe healLh of Lhe consumers lL ls Lhe
prlme responslblllLy of Lhe manufacLures Lo ensure Lhelr producLs are noL dupllcaLed MosL of Lhe
companles are spendlng mllllons on 8u of new medlclnes and some amounL should be kepL Lo flghL
agalnsL such malpracLlces

l have a personal experlence and wlsh Lo share Lhe same wlLh you lor fever l have Laken medlclne from
a medlcal shop and afLer a day rashes were found on my skln l have done a Lhorough medlcal checkup
and all Lhe resulLs were negaLlve 1he docLor flnally concluded LhaL lL can be due Lo allergy Slnce l am
noL allerglc Lo anyLhlng l doubL LhaL Lhe problem ls wlLh Lhe medlclne l have reglsLered a complalnL
agalnsL Lhls ln Lhe manufacLures web slLe and unforLunaLely Llll Loday l have noL recelved any reply 1hls
klnd of lrresponslblllLy promoLes Lhe adulLeraLed medlclne ln Lhe markeL 1here are many consumer
complalnLs ln Lhe socleLy regardlng Lhls lssue My suggesLlon ls LhaL Lhe consumers should Lake
medlclnes only ln unavoldable slLuaLlons and Lry Lo use herbal producLs as much as posslble

hLLp//consumerdaddyblogcom/2010/08/20/dupllcaLemedlclnesL28093aLhreaLLoconsumers/