This Chapter proposes to discuss the issue of Consumer Rights within the context of the
ways markets operate in our country. There are may aspects of unequal situations in a
market and poor enforcement of rules and regulations. Hence there is a need to
sensitize learners and encourage them to participate in the consumer movement. Its an
effort to enable students to understand that the awareness of being a well-informed
consumer arose out of consumer movement and active participation of people through
their struggles over a longer period. This chapter also provides details of a few
organisations helping consumers in different ways. Finally it ends with some critical
issues of the consumer movement in India.
Need for Rules and Regulations to Protect the Consumers :
Due to the expansion of the business activities and globalisation there are variety of
goods available in the market and producers are spending a lot of money to influence
the consumers which makes it difficult for the consumers to make a correct choice. So
there is a need for consumer awareness.
Producers do not provide sufficient information to the consumers and sometime even
Consumer awareness is also must because at times greedy traders begin to play with
the health of the people by indulging in adulteration of edible oils, milk, butter, ghee etc.
After 1991, the Government of India has withdrawn itself from most of the productivity
and allowed the private sector to take over. So it was felt that there is a greater need to
enforce discipline and regulations in the market and to make the consumers aware not
only of the commercial aspects of sale and purchase of goods but also the health and
There is a need for rules and regulations because most of goods and services are being
produced by private sector with profit as a main motive.
Forms of Consumer exploitation :
Under measurement: Sellers generally provide under measured goods and charge for
the actual quantity.
Sub-standard goods: Sell inferior quality goods in order to make more profits.
High prices: Sellers dealing in basic necessities generally charge high prices depending
upon the demand & supply.
Adulteration & impurity: Means mixing or substituting undesirable materials in food
materials that causes heavy loses to the consumers, both monetary & health.
False Claims : Sellers make false claim about the durability & quality of their products
mainly through advertisements.
Hoarding & blackmarketing: To make more profit sellers indulge in creating artificial
scarcity through hoarding & black marketing.
Unsatisfactory after sale service : Producers & suppliers do not provide the
satisfactory after sale services despite the necessary payments.
Rough Behavior & undue conditions : Consumers are often harassed and undue
conditions are put before them to get their requirement fulfilled
Forms of Consumer
Factors causing exploitation of consumers :
Limited information: For a correct decision and choice about a product a consumer
needs full information about the price, quality, durability, and composition etc. of the
goods. In the absence of full and correct information he/she will generally be exploited.
Limited supply: When the supply goes less in comparison to demand, the prices will go
high and may also encourage the tendency of hoarding, leading to consumer
Limited competition: When there is limited competition among the producers, the
consumer is left with no choice and the producers have an upper hand in deciding the
price and supply of goods.
Low literacy: In a country like India, an illiterate consumer can easily be exploited and it
also effects the consumer consciousness.
Consumer Movement in India
The Consumer Movement arose out because of -
Unfair practices by sellers, no legal system available to consumers to protect them from
Sellers and Producers not taking the responsibility of ensuring, quality of goods and
Rampant food shortages, hoarding, black marketing, adulteration of food and edible oil
gave birth to the Consumer Movement in an organised form in the 1960s.
In the 1970s Consumer Groups were formed.
Forced Private as well as Public firms to correct business conduct which may be unfair
and against the interests of consumers.
Consumer Protection Act 1986 (COPRA) was enacted.
Safety is Everyone’s Right :
While using many goods and services, we as 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.
Pressure cookers have a safety valve which, if it is defective, can cause a serious
accident. The manufactures of the safety valve have to ensure high quality. Public or
government action is also required to see that this quality is maintained.
Information about Goods and Services :
Consumers have the right to be informed about the particulars of goods and services that
they purchase. Consumers can then complain and ask for compensation or replacement
if the product proves to be defective in any manner. Similarly, one can protest and
complain if someone sells a good at more than the printed price on the packet. This is
indicated by ‘MRP’ - maximum retail price. In fact consumers can bargain with the seller
to sell the product at less than the MRP. In October 2005, the Government of India
enacted a law, popularly known as RTI (Right to Information) Act, which ensures its
citizens all the information about the functions of government departments.
When Choice is Denied :
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. Consumer can choose the products from the given alternatives. In case of a
single supplier, consumer must be assured of quality and price of the good.
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, she has the right to get
compensation depending on the degree of damage.
Right to Represent
COPRA has enabled the consumers to have the right to represent in the consumer
courts. The enactment of COPRA has led to the setting up of separate departments of
Consumer Affairs in central and state governments.
Where should Consumers go to get Justice?
The consumer movement in India 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 the consumer courts. These voluntary organisations also receive
financial support from the government for creating awareness among the people.
Under COPRA, a three-tier quasi-judicial machinery at the district, state and national
levels was set up for redressal of consumer disputes. The district level court deals with
the cases involving claims upto Rs 20 lakhs, the state level courts between Rs 20 lakhs
and Rs 1 crore and the national level court deals with cases involving claims exceeding
Rs 1 crore. If a case is dismissed in district level court, the consumer can also appeal in
state and then in National level courts.
Learning to Become Well-Informed Consumers
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 which releases posters and other information's about legal
process which people cause.
Duties of the Consumers :
Consumer must check the quality and quantity, he/she should insist for the warranty card
and should always buy products marked as ISI, AGMARK.
Consumer should ask for cash memo for the items purchased.
Consumer should form consumer awareness organisations.
Consumer must make complaint for their genuine grievances, they should take the help
of consumer organisation in seeking redressal of their grievances.
Consumer must know their rights and must exercise them.
Standardisation of Products :
To protect the consumers from lack of quality and varying standards of goods, institutes
have been created for setting up the standard for making and producing various
products and enforcing them. In India, this has been achieved through Bureau of Indian
Standards (BIS) and Agmark. While BIS caters to the industrial and consumer good, the
Agmark is meant for the agricultural products. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)
earlier known as the Indian standards Institution (ISI), whose headquarter is located in
New Delhi, has the responsibility of laying down the standards for industrial and
consumer goods on a scientific basis and certifying the goods that meet the standards
and the prescribed quality. If we buy a commodity with ISI mark on the product, it I an
assurance of conformity to the specifications. Conformity is ensured by regular
surveillance of the licensee's performance by surprise inspection and testing of
samples, drawn both from the factory and the market.
Agmark is implemented under the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act,
1937, a amended in 1986. This scheme is run by the Directorate of Marketing and
Intelligence (DMI) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. Products , such as
honey, masala and spices, carry such marks.
At the International level also, an institution called International Organisation for
Standardisation (ISO), located in Geneva, serves to provide such a common reference
standard. It is a non-governmental organisation established in 1947. ISO’s work results in
international agreements, which are published as International Standards. For setting
international food standards, there is a similar body called Codex Alimentarius
Commission. This commission was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and located in Rome,
Taking the Consumer Movement Forward :
India has been observing 24 December as the
National Consumers’ Day. It was on this day that the
Indian Parliament enacted the Consumer Protection
Act in 1986. India is one of the countries that have
exclusive courts for consumer redressal. The
Consumer movement in India has made some
progress in terms of numbers of organised groups
and their activities. There are today more than 700
consumer groups in the country of which only about
20-25 are well organised and recognised for their
Taking the Consumer Movement Forward :
The consumer redressal process is becoming cumbersome, expensive and time
consuming. Many a times, consumers are required to engage lawyers. These cases
require time for filing and attending the court proceeding etc. In most purchases cash
memos are not issued hence evidence is not easy to gather. Moreover most purchases
in the market are small retail sales. The existing laws also are not very clear on the
issue of compensation to consumers creates by defective products. After 20 years of
the enactment of COPRA, consumer awareness in India is spreading but slowly.
Besides this, the enforcement of laws that protect workers, especially in the
unorganised sectors is weak . Similarly, rules and regulations for working of markets are
often not followed.
Nevertheless, there is a scope for consumers to realise their role and importance. It is
often said that consumer movements can be effective only with the consumers’ active
involvement. It requires a voluntary effort and struggle involving the participation of one