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INTRODUCTION TO CONSUMER RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

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Chapter–24

INTRODUCTION TO CONSUME RIGHTS AND


RESPONSIBILITIES

B. SURESH LAL

The Word “consumer” is a derivative of the Latin word


“Consumere” which means, “to take up totally or to eat’.
The consumer is on e who consumes or uses any
commodity or service available to him either from natural
resources or through a market. According to John F.
Kennedy, “Consumer by definition includes every one.
There are the largest economic grope affecting and affected
by almost every public and private economic decision”.
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 defines the consumer
as ‘one who buys any goods, hires any services or partly
paid and partly promised or under any system of deferred
payment”.

Consumer Rights
The Consumer Protection Act enshrines the following rights
to the consumer:
� Right to safely
� Right to be informed
� Right to choose
� Right to be heard Measures for Safety
� Right to redress Protection and empowerment of consumers would
� Right to consumer education depend upon the various measures that are taken by
the Government to enforce. Some of the possible measures
� Right to satisfaction of basic needs
are
� Right to a healthy environment � Establishing measures and standards to ensure
safety and quality of goods and services.
Right to Safety
� Providing facilities for testing and certification of
The wide variety of products and services that are available essential goods and services.
in the market owing to technological advances require safe � Formulating Policies to ensure that manufacturers
handing. The use of some of these products requires compensate for defective or hazardous products.
technical knowledge. Many consumers may not be aware
of the safe use of the products. They may also lack technical United Nations Guidelines
knowledge to assess the safety aspects of products and
The United National Guidelines on consumer protection
services. Therefore, product safety from the consumer’s
which were adopted by the General Assembly in 1985
point of view is a matter of utmost importance. The
specified the following measures to be taken by the
Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has legalized the right to
Government for consumer protection:
safety as one of the consumer rights.
� Government should adopt or encourage the
Meaning adoption of appropriate measures, including legal
The right to safety means the right to be protected against system, safety regulations, national or international
product production process and services which are standards, voluntary standards and the
hazardous to health or life. It includes concern for term maintenance of safety records to ensure that
interests and immediate requirements of consumers. When products are safe in use.
purchased a good or availed a service. � Appropriate policies should ensure that goods
� The consumer has a right to get himself/herself produced by manufacturers are safe in use.
protected against damage to his property and � Those who are responsible for bringing goods t the
person. market – suppliers, exporters, importers, retailers
and the like would ensue that while in their care
� It should not cause any physical danger, health
these goods are not rendered unsafe through
hazard or put the consumer in any difficulty
because of failure. improper handling or storage
� Consumer should be instructed in the proper use
� If should satisfy the consumer in terms of its quality
of goods and should be informed for the risks
and safety
involved in use.
� Vital safety information should be conveyed to possible, to generally accepted international
consumers by internationally understandable standards.
symbols wherever possible. � Where a standards, lower than the generally
� Appropriate polices should ensure that if accepted international standard, is being applied
manufacturers or distributors become aware of because of local economic conditions every effort
unforeseen hazards after products are placed in the should be made to raise that standard as soon as
market, they should notify the relevant authorities possible.
and the public without delay. � The Government should encourage and ensure the
� Governments should also consider ways of availability of facilities to test and certify the safety,
ensuring that consumers are properly informed of quality and performance of essential consumer
such hazards. goods and services.
� The Government should adopt policies under Safety standards are intended to specify protection
which, if a product is found to be seriously defective against different kinds of hazards like:
and or to constitute a substantial and severe hazard � Mechanical hazards
even when properly used, manufacturers and or � Electrical hazards
distributors should replace or modify it, or
� Thermal hazards
substitute another product for it. If it is not possible
to do so within a reasonable period of time, the � Fire or Explosion hazards
consumer should adequately be compensated. � Chemical hazards
� Biological hazards
Safety Standards
� Radiation hazards
The United Nations guidelines also highlighted the
importance of standards for the safety and quality or Standard Certification Marks
consumer goods. The following are some of the measurers Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) plays a vital role in
to be taken by the Government to ensure safety. preparing standards for safety and quality. BIS has a regular
� The Government should, as it is appropriate, interaction with various Governmental and non-
formulate or promote the elaboration and Governmental agencies. The standards and ISI mark are
implementation of standards, voluntary and other, promoted by the Bureau after discussions with various
at the national and international levels for the safety organizations by organizing seminars, participating in
and quality of goods and services and give them seminars and through print and electronic media. A
appropriate publicity. standard or a certification mark on the product is an
� National standards and regulations for product indication of guarantee of safety in its use. It is an assurance
safety and quality should be reviewed from time of the fact that the product has passed through certain
to time, in order to ensure that they conform, where standardized tests and it ensures safety against health
hazards. The BIS formulates standards for all sectors of by state Governments. Strict penalties have been provided
economy. They grant permission to use ISI mark for the for violation of the law. Courts have been empowered to
goods that maintain quality. The Directorate of Marketing punish those found guilty, forfeit their property and also
and Inspection allows the producers and marketers t use impose enhanced penalty. To enable the provisions of the
AGMARK for safe and qualitative products. Vegetable Oils, Act to be applied, the Prevention of Food Adulteration
Butter, Rice, Ghee etc comes within this mark. The Food Rules, 1955 have also been framed. These rules give details
Product Order (FPO) is regulated by the Ministry of Food, about standards of quality of food, duties of public analyst
permitting the manufacturers of fruit and vegetable products and food inspectors, procedure of sealing and dispatch of
such as jams, fruit juices, squashes, jellies and canned foods. samples, use of coloring material in food, packing and
Quality control and standardization are discussed in a labeling of foods, regulations of sales licences, use of
separate chapter. preservatives, prohibition of poisonous metal contaminants,
insecticides and pesticides, irradiation of food etc.
Legislations Forconsumer Safety
To ensure availability of safe products for consumer Safe Drugs
consumption and use, the Government has enacted pro- The Drugs and Cosmetic Act, 1940 and the amendments
consumer Acts. Food items and medicines are not only made in 1964 regulate the import, manufacture, sale and
essential for survival, but dangerous if these are adulterated distribution of drugs and cosmetics. Its main aim is to protect
or not of specific standards. To protect the consumers and the consumer from sub-standard drugs and cosmetics. The
to ensure safe food and safe drugs, the following laws have Act stipulates that in respect of patented or proprietary
been enacted. medicines there must be list of ingredients or formula
displayed in the prescribed manner on the label or container.
Food Safety Misbranding of drugs is illegal. Drugs are adulterated if they
The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, was passed contain any ‘filthy, putrid or decomposed’ substance or they
by the Parliament to provide for a comprehensive legislation have been stored or packaged in insanitary conditions or
for preventing adulteration of food stuffs. The Act provides contain toxic substances. If the Government is satisfied that
for constitution of a central committee for food standards any of the drugs involve any risk to human beings or animals
and also for a central food laboratory. Certain articles of food or that it does not have the therapeutic value claimed, the
have been prohibited from being manufactured. Adulterated Government may ban it. The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules are
food is examined by public analyst and food inspectors are made under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. They include
appointed to enforce the law. Manufacturers, distributors provisions for licensing of the import, sale, distribution,
and dealers of food need to give warranty for the good packaging, stocking, labeling etc. of drugs and cosmetics.
quality and contents of food. Sellers have to disclose the
name of the person from whom the food was originally Product Safety
purchased. Instances of food poisoning are to be reported There is no comprehensive product safety Act in India. There
by medical practitioners to such officers as may be notified are legislations such as the Insecticide Control Order, the
Environmental Protection Act, the Consumer Protection Act, management of society must be transparent to the people.
1986 and the MRTP Act which deals largely with An absence of access to information seriously limits the
compensation aspect of injury or damage caused. effectiveness of consumer groups whose activities often
It is the duty of the Government to depend on facts and figures usually available with public
� Protect the public against unreasonable risks of and private organizations. The Indian Constitution
injury associated with consumer products guarantees the fundamental rights to free speech and
� assist consumers in evaluating the comparative expression. The absence of authentic information on matters
safety of consumer products of public interest discourages meaningful debate. An access
to information on the hazardous chemical substances stored
� Develop uniform safety standards for consumer
by Union Carbide and the remedial measures in case of an
products and minimize conflicting state and local
emergency might have prevented the avoidable Bhopal gas
regulations.
disaster. Right to information ensure public participation
� Promote research and investigation into the causes in the decision making process of the country which is an
and prevention of product related deaths, illness essential element in a democracy.
and injuries.
� enforce standards through litigation and Meaning
administrative actions The right to be informed means the right to be provided
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 enables a consumer about the facts needed to make an informed choice or
to make a complaint to a redressal agency if his right to safety decision. Consumers must be provided adequate
is not ensured. The consumer can seek redressal against any information enabling them to act wisely and responsibly.
unfair trade practices, or any defective good or goods which More precisely the consumes have a right
will be hazardous to life and safety when used. With � to get a detailed information regarding the products
globalization of the economy and e-commerce, net shopping they are going to purchase
and rapid expansion of markets and goods, the consumers � to get information regarding the quality, quantity,
need greater protection with respect to the safety of potency, purity, composition and prices of goods
products. or services offered for sale
� not to be misled by inaccurate publicity
Right to Information
� to know the ill effects of consumer products if any
Consumers have the right to obtain accurate and adequate
� to get all sorts of information to make a wise choice
information not only on all consumer goods and services,
regarding products and services
but also from any public authority for any development.
There has to be a two-way traffic of information between � to get access to issues which directly affect citizens
the development agencies and the people. The right to life
information is an essential part of the right to life, � To get access to welfare schemes of the
development and social justice. The governance and Government.
This right can help consumers to take free and intelligent Nutritional Information
decisions, and cn protect them against fraudulent and Nutrition labeling is now mandatory only for infant foods
misleading information. under the Prevention of Food Adulteration At. It is
Sources of Information important for a consumer to have information about
carbohydrate, protein, fat contents, as also total calories and
Consumers can obtain information from various sources. major vitamins and minerals. Apart from this information,
Depending on the type of product or service the source of the other information on parameters such as type of fact,
information may differ. The major sources of information i.e. saturated, monounsaturated or poly unsaturated fats and
are their dietary fibre, cholesterol etc is also essential. Nutrition
� Labels
supplement for each serving also needs to be supplied in
� Advertisements case of ready to eat foods.
� Print media
Additives
� Electronic media
� Citizen’s charter of organization It is mandatory to mention which additive has been added
� Official records of public and private undertakings to the food and in what quantity.

Labels Use by Date

A label is a simple tag attached to the products that carry Manufacturer should declare a “use by date” or “best before”
the brand name, a great deal of information or an date. Some products will have limited shelf life, in such cases
elaborately designed graphic that is part of the package. from safety point of view this information is very crucial. A
The information on the label helps the consumer to make consumer should know till what date the product is safe.
an informed choice. The current Food Labeling Rules under Similarly storage conditions are also equally important. Ideal
the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 dictates the storage conditions are a must.
information to be provided in the label. The following Processing Techniques
information is essential to be provided by the manufacturer
of food products. Prevention of Food Adulteration Ac requires that details
such as date of irradiation, log, licence number and purpose
Ingredients of irradiation are mentioned in the case of irradiated foods.
Packaged food must give the details of the ingredients. It But it is equally important for the consumer to know when
is basic and important information. Some people other process like leaching, different drying process etc. have
are allergic to certain foods, food combinations of been used and these should be mentioned on labels.
chemical additives. The labels should mention not only the An ideal label should have the following information
names of such hazardous ingredients, but also their � Name of the product
quantities. � Name and address of manufacturer
� Ingredients with quantity honesty of representation and claims made by
� Quantity (net weight, drained weight) advertisements and to safeguard against misleading
� Batch No. advertisements. The code applies to the advertisements not
only in newspapers, magazines but also in television, radio,
� Month and year of manufacturing
cinema on hoardings and posters in shops and on the
� Nutrition information product labels. Advertisements should not give misleading
� Additives along with their names and quantity information. The consumers should be given information
� Ideal storage condition regarding the product safety aspects, nutritional value for
� Processing techniques used money and so on.
� Warnings Official records and Citizen Charter
� Meaningful health claims
Every citizen shall have the freedom to seek information
The information on the label should not mislead the from any public authority. Every public authority shall be
consumer. The label should not contain any statement, claim, under a duty to maintain all its records as per its operational
design, device, fancy name or abbreviation which is false requirements and grant access to information to any citizen
or misleading. requesting for it. It shall also be the duty of the officer
concerned to give reasons for decisions to those affected and
Advertisements, Print and Electronic Media
to disclose the relevant facts and analyses when major
The manufacturer to spread the information regarding a new polices or decisions are announced.
product being launched may use different kinds of media. Public undertakings which provide services to the public
Advertising is a powerful tool to introduce the product. are bound to keep the information open to consumers
Today manufacturers, traders perceive advertising as a through its citizen’s charter. It is a written document and a
necessity for promoting new products and keeping the declaration by service provider about the standards,
consumer informed about availability and choice in the accessibility, and transparency. Consumer can get
market. On the other hand aggressive advertising pushes information regarding the rules and procedures followed
new products into peoples’ lives by promoting them as more in making the services available, details of cost, and its
efficient, stylish or convenient to use. The consumer should standards.
be guided. The advertisers should be regulated. The Consumer should be provided with factual information
Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) is a body set to make a wise choice. They have the right for information
up by advertisers, advertising, advertising agencies, on proper use and risks associated with certain consumer
newspapers, magazines and others engaged in advising. The products. There should be free flow of information relating
council has formulated a code by which advertisers regulate to issues of consumer concern. Appropriate information
themselves. The council believes that all advertising must enables the consumer act wisely and responsibly. A
be responsible, and to the benefit of all parties concerned. responsible consumer is essential. Consumers should be
The code has been drawn up to ensure truthfulness and empowered with appropriate information. Consumers can
insist on getting all the information about the product or This kind of situation in the market is a form of
service before making a choice or a decision. restrictive trade practices. Restrictive trade practice
obstructs the free flow of capital or resources into the stream
Right to Choose of production or of finished goods in the stream of
A consumer has a right to choose and buy the product of distribution at any point before they reach the hands of the
his choice. He should have access to a wide variety of goods, ultimate consumer. The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade
to choose the product of his choice. A wise consumer tries Practice Act, 1969 (MRTP) was enacted to
to spend the money at his disposal in a way that yields a) Ensure that the operation of the economic system
maximum satisfaction. This involves exercising choice. In does not result in the concentration of economic
other words, the market should be provided with a variety power to the common detriment.
of goods giving an option to the consumer to choose from. b) Prohibit monopolistic, restrictive and unfair trade
In a market where choice is not available, the consumer is practices which are prejudicial to public interest.
forced to buy the available product at the price the seller
offers. The consumer is not given an opportunity to choose Under this Act, the Government of India established a
the product of his choice. The trader has no right to restrict commission known as the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade
the choice of consumer. Practices (MRTP) Commission.

Meaning Powers of MRTP Commission

The right to choose means the right to be assured, wherever In case the trader is following any restrictive trade practices,
possible, of access to a variety of goods at competitive prices. by restricting the choices of consumer goods, or compelling
In other words, the consumer has a right to select and the consumer to choose within the limited variety, The
purchase the product of his choice out of a number of Commission can
products available in terms of quality and price of goods. A i) issue temporary injunctions, i.e. stay order directing
shopkeeper cannot force or impress upon a customer to buy the undertaking to stop indulging in the practice
a particular brand or type of product. Similarly the consumer complained
should not be forced to buy through any sale gimmicks. ii) issue cease and desist order
iii) Issue directions.
Restricted Choice
MRTP Commission is empowered to enquire into any
When the market is not with variety of goods at competitive
restrictive trade practice. In response to the specific
prices the consumer is left with no choice except buying the
complaints by consumer or consumer organization the
product available. In such kind of situations the trade can
Commission will find out whether the said practice is
� Fix the price he likes.
prejudicial to the public interest. If so, the commission may
� create artificial shortage and hike the prices by order direct to discontinue the practice or not to repeat it.
� manipulate the conditions of delivery Thus, the consumer’s right to choose is well protected.
� Affect the flow of goods in to the market. It is the consumer who has to be alert and exercise the right.
Right to be Heard Today most of public and private enterprises do
The right to be heard means the right to advocate consumer’s have consumer grievances redressal cell.
interests with a view to receiving full and sympathetic � Consumers need to have an access to Government
consideration in formulation and execution of economic and to express their views on important issues.
other policies. It includes the right of representation in Government policies are for the people, therefore,
governmental and other policy bodies as well as in the the participation of people are utmost important.
development of products and services before they are Consultation and participation are the two ways
produced or setup. For the welfare of consumers and that consumer voice can be heard. Consultation
individual has a right to be heard. He/she can express his/ means Government approaches people for their
her view in various forums. The consumer is assured that expert views. Participation means people are
his/her interests will receive due consideration. Consumers invited to take part in decision making. People
can express their view in the decision-making bodies. become members of various committees formed for
formulating and implementing policies.
Consumer Voice
Platforms for Consumer Representation
To protect the consumer’s right to be represented, there is a
need to provide necessary forums for consumer’ Various platforms have been created for consumer
participation. The manufactures of goods, traders, service representation. Some of them are
provides, public and private enterprises who provide goods � Consumer Redressal For a
and services to consumers have the responsibility to work � Consumer Protection Councils at District, State and
for the welfare of consumers. They need to provide National Level
opportunities for consumers to be heard. Their suggestion � Advisory Committees at District, State and National
need to be considered for the welfare of consumers the end Level
users.
� Grievances and Redressal Cells of public utilities
� The manufacturing units can have customer care
departments
centres. The consumer should be given a chance to
express his/her opinion regarding the design and � Consumer Care Centres
working of the manufactured goods. Many
Need to be Organised
companies care for their customers. They take the
opinion of the consumers. The feed – back from the To be heard, consumers need to become organized. Consumer
consumers can serve as an input to come up with organizations can raise their voice collectively. They can
the goods that are acceptable to the consumers. � create/provide public forum
� Institutions providing services to the consumers can � take up issues of public interest
have consumer grievance redressal cell. The � initiate public discussions on the subjects of public
consumer complaints can be taken care in time. interest
� insist on safety of consumer products consumer from the exploitative and unfair practices of trade
� organize people through media and to provide inexpensive, easily accessible and speedy
� organize consumer forums for discussions on remedy. Various measures have been provided under the
various subjects of consumer interest law for consumers to exercise their right to redressal.
The right to be heard pertains to the right of the Redressal Agencies
consumer to express his opinion, observation and grievances
To help the aggrieved consumer, Consumer Dispute
at appropriate for a, which should be accessible to the
Redressal Agencies known as Consumer Fora are established.
consumers. Whenever a consumer has a complaint, he has
They are District Forum at district level, State Commission at
a right to be heard and also to be assured that his interest
State Level and National Commission at National Level.
will receive due consideration at appropriate for a. The
These are quasi-judicial bodies. They have been empowered
Consumer Protection Act has established a very effective
to give reliefs of a specific nature and to award compensation
Quasi-judicial mechanism to tackle with such complaints
wherever appropriate. The services of these consumer fora
and assured about the protection of interests of consumers,
cover all public and private business, and service sector which
in a fair, economical and expeditious manner.
includes banking, Finance, Transport, Electricity,
RIGHT TO REDRESSAL Telecommunications, Entertainment and so on.

Introduction Types of Grievances


Redress means to ‘put things right’. When consumers have The consumer can seek redressal for various kinds of
a problem with goods or services they have paid for, they grievances. A consumer can launch a complaint in the
have a right to seek redressal. The consumer has the right appropriate consumer forum if
to fair settlement of the genuine grievances. If the � a trader adopts unfair or restrictive trade practice;
performance or quality of a good or service is short of � goods bought are defective;
expectations, consumer can launch a complaint. Consumer � services of any kind suffer from deficiency;
can complain against any unfair trade; practice or � the trader collects price in excess then the fixed
unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. price, or the price displayed on goods or package,
The Right to seek redressal provides an opportunity or the price displayed on the price list;
for the consumer to seek redressal against unfair trade
� goods which are hazardous to life and safety are
practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. It also
being offered for sale;
provides right to fair settlement of grievances that are
genuine. The right ensures compensation for faulty goods � Services hazardous to life are being offered for sale.
or services. Redressal is the natural follow-up of hearing of
Remedies Available to Consumers
complaints and making a settlement in a manner that is
acceptable to consumer as well as the seller. The Consumer In case of a genuine complaint the Consumer For a can direct
Protection Act, 1986 was enacted in order to protect the the trader
� to correct the defects of a good; Consumer education may mean anything from the
� to replace the defective good with another free from development of a known sense of buymanship to more
similar defects; complete realization economic and social possibilities of the
� to return the price or the charges paid by the modern industrial economy. It is an organized movement
consumer; to improve the method of preparing people to assume
� to pay compensation; matured consumer role within the society.
� to remove defects or deficiencies in services; Aim of Consumer Education
� to discontinue unfair trade practices;
The aim of consumer education is to
� Not to offer hazardous goods for sale.
� increase consumer awareness
For effective exercise of this right, various laws and
redressal mechanisms have been provided. Consumer must � develop confidence
make complaints for genuine grievances. It is the � assist in making sound decisions
responsibility of the consumer to seek redressal. Consumes � realize the role of consumer in market economy
alone, or the organizations working for the welfare of � Understand legal system that helps consumer
consumers should come forward to register complaints exercise their rights.
against greedy traders who exploit consumers.
� assist consumer to become a wise buyer
RIGHT TO CONSUMER EDUCATION � assist consumer to become a better manage of
resources
Introduction
� Help consumer to become a better consumer
The right to Consumer education means the right to acquire
citizen.
the knowledge and skills to be an informed consumer
throughout life. The right to consumer education United Nation Guidelins
incorporates the right to knowledge and skills needed for
taking action to influence factors which affect consumer The Guidelines issued by the United Nations for consumer
decisions. Consumer education provides the knowledge protection are very useful, regarding the consumer
necessary to develop citizens into intelligent buyers. In a education.
broader sense, Right to Consumer Education is consumers’ � The Government (Central as well as States) should
right to know and be aware of all developments concerning develop or encourage the development of general
his environment which might affect his choices. Consumer consumer education and information programmes,
education has many sources and caters to different age nearing in mind the cultural tradition of the people of
groups and sections of the society through various systems this country. The aim of such programmes should be to
of education. One of the pressing needs of consumer enable people to act as discriminating consumers,
empowerment today is to initiate the younger generation capable of making an informed choice of goods and
into the consumer education mainstream. services, and cons cious of their rights and
responsibilities. In developing such programmes, special • information on weights and measures, prices,
attention should be paid to the needs of disadvantaged quality, credit conditions and availability of basic
consumers and those with low or non-existent literacy necessities; and
level. • Pollution and environment.
� Consumer education should become an integral part of
the basic curriculum of the educational system, Benefits of the Right
preferably as a component of the existing subjects. The right encourages consumer
� The Government (Central as well as State) should � to acquire the knowledge and skills to be an
encourage consumer organizations and other interested informed consumer throughout life
groups, including the media to undertake education and � critical thinking
information programmes, particularly for the benefit of
� imparts life skills
low-income consumer groups in rural and urban areas.
� improves understanding
� Businessmen should, where appropriate, undertake or
participate in factual and relevant consumer education The ignorance of consumers is mainly responsible for
and information programmes. their exploitation. Consumer Protection Act provides the
right to consumer education. Therefore, it becomes the duty
� Bering in mind the need to reach rural consumers and
of the Government to keep consumers informed of their
literate consumers, Governments (Central as well as
rights. Consumer education helps a consumer to protect
State) should develop and encourage the development
himself/herself against fraudulent, deceitful and grossly
of consumer information programmes in the mass media
misleading information, and other practices. Consumer
� The Government (Central as well as State) should education brings alertness and ability to question about price
organize or encourage training programmes for and quality of goods. Right to consumer education is an
educators, mass media professional and consumer important means to make use of other consumer rights.
advisers, to enable them to participate to carry out Therefore, right to consumer education should be given due
consumer information and education programmes. importance.
� Consumer education and information programmes
should over such important aspects of consumer RIGHT TO BASIC NEEDS
protection as the following Introduction
• health, nutrition, prevention of food-borne diseases
Right to Basic Needs ensures the consumer the basic goods
and food adulteration;
and services, which guarantee survival. It includes adequate
• product hazards; food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation
• product labeling to lead a decent life. The right to satisfaction of basic needs
• relevant legislation, how to obtain redress, agencies has different meaning for different societies and countries.
and organizations for consumer protection; In the developing world, basic needs of a consumer would
be interpreted as adequate food, clothing and shelter, It is the right of citizen, in fact, to lead a decent and
whereas the American or European Continent would healthy life. The Government should take appropriate steps
interpret basic needs of a consumer as fair quality of to ensure basic needs to its people. The welfare programs
consumers goods or prompt, ensured and accountable should aim at enabling the citizens to fulfill their basic needs.
services. In a broader sense
� Every consumer has the right t basic needs and RIGHT TO HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
services, which guarantee dignified living. Introduction
� It includes adequate food, clothing, shelter,
The right to healthy environment means the right to a
healthcare, drinking water education sanitation,
physical environment that will enhance the quality of life.
energy and transportation.
It includes protection against environmental dangers over
which the individuals have no control. It acknowledges the
Measures to Enforce the Right
need to protect and improve the environment for present
The following are some of the measures that can be and future generations.
undertaken: The right to healthy environment is in fact implicit in
� Adopting food safety measures, including safety all rights that human beings have n every aspect of life. It is
criteria, food standards and dietary requirements, the right to lead a healthy life style without dangers of water,
effective monitoring, inspection and evaluation air, soil and noice pollution. Healthy Environment includes
mechanisms both global and local environmental conditions. The Ozone
� Adopting food standards of Food & Agricultural depletion, global warming and increase in toxic wastes are
Organization (FAO), World Health Organization as much infringement of the right to healthy environment
(WHO), CODEX Alimentarius or generally as polluted ground water supply or air laden with toxic gases
accepted international food standards. at local levels. Recently, the purview of healthy environment
� Improving the quality and appropriate use of for consumers has been extended to the natural disaster
pharmaceuticals through integrated national drug occurrences which have increased manifold owing to
policies. unsustainable development and unchecked growth.
� Developing national drug policies that could Consumers are now demanding the right to a safe and
address procurement, distribution, licensing natural environment.
arrangements, registration systems and availability � Consumers has the right to live and work in an
of reliable information on pharmaceuticals taking environment which is neither threatening nor
into consideration the relevant work and dangerous but permit a life of dignity and well
recommendations of the WHO. being.
� Developing, maintaining and strengthening � They should get protection from environmental
national policies to improve the supply, distribution dangers or ill effects of the pollution of air, earth,
and quality of drinking water. water etc.
Consumer Responsibility In short, the components of consumer’s responsibilities
It is a consumer’s responsibility to build a healthy include:
environment. Consumption pattern of consumers can � Recognition of one’s power and ability to control
influence the production of goods. Wasteful consumption own consumption practices.
of natural resources by some section of consumers has a � Creation of an environmental friendly life-style, or
negative impact on the natural environment of specific what is known as, “green consumer life-style”.
regions. For example, consumption of wood in urban areas � Awareness of accountability for one’s actions and
is directly related to deforestation. The excessive use of purchase decisions.
energy by industry and urban-consumer is the reason for � capacity for rationale thought
building of large scale dams in the hilly regions. � Being a watchdog over the activities of the
It is essential to reduce, reuse, recycle and reject the use industries and businesses.
of non-biodegradable consumer products. A responsible � Demanding the standards and quality of the
consumer should switch over to products which re- products.
environment friendly. Consumers should respect the
interdependence of man and environment and does not have Consumer Citizen
an exploitative or wasteful attitude towards natural resources.
A consumer is a citizen. As a consumer, his range of activities
How to Exercise the Right and interactions extends from home to the market place. But
as a citizen, the area of his activity expands to encompass
� Consumers individually and collectively reject the use
not only what he can carry from the market to his home for
of non-biodegradable consumer products
personal use, but what he can give in return to society and
� Reduce the wasteful consumption to the environment. This involves not only action but also
� Conserve natural resources the decision to ct in a certain established or acceptable
� Encourage the production of products that can be manner. For example, as a user of market commodities he
recycled. takes partial responsibility for garbage disposal. As a user
of natural resource he takes less care to conserve them. It is
Consumer Responsibilities the responsibility of a consumer to assume responsibility s
A responsible consumer is consumer is one who ensures a citizen and act accordingly.
value for the money spent on the purchase of goods or Consumer’s responsibility towards the society is fulfilled
services and marks the other fellow consumers aware of only when he/she assumes responsibility as an aware and
their rights and responsibilities. A responsible consumer’s alert citizen. He/she must behave knowing fully well that
actions or choices do not affect the rights and responsibilities the environment is fragile enough and that it has to be
of the other fellow consumers. In other words, any carefully nurtured by each generation. Similarly with natural
responsible consumer must not act in a selfish manner for resources and national resource, conservation of resources
getting short term pleasure or profit. is his major responsibility. By doing so, the future
generations can benefit. The consumer’s responsibility as a Critical Awareness
global citizen involves to think and act for not only nurturing � To be alert and questioning about the goods and services
the environment but also to reverse the damage caused. used
A responsible consumer is a person who exercises his
discretion with full awareness of the implication of his right � Not to be tempted by clever and misleading
to choice, and is accountable to other consumers as well as advertisements with exaggerated claims of products and
to the environment for his purchase decisions. services, but to critically examine the utility of the
product or services and the guarantees and warranties
Responsible Consumer attached to them.
To be an effective consumer and further his/her interests, � Examination of products and offer for services
and to make a proper choice, the consumer must be � Exercising of choice on the basis of comparison of
knowledgeable and empowered. The consumer intervention relative merits of products and services, wherever such
can influence the market. Therefore, the consumer should choice is available
act responsibly. The consumer should
� Adopting an attitude of non-compromise in case of
� be alert in the market
quality of goods and services to ensure full value for
� should always check correctness of weights and the money paid.
measures
� be conscious about date of manufacture and expiry Being Prepared to Act
� observe pricing and ingredient labeling minutely To raise one’s voice and protest against any form of
� check the standards marks like ISI, Agmark, Eco- exploitation by Trade and Industry or violation of any of
mark the consumers’ rights in regard to quality of goods and
� See the terms and conditions of warranties and services, he/she should be prepared to take action to enforce
guarantees before making a purchase. fair and just demands.
� assert but not abuse, the consumer rights when Social Responsibility
seeking value for the money in market place
To be concerned about the impact if his/her
transactions
consumption on other citizens, particularly in relation to
� know what and when to ask questions disadvantaged groups, in local, national or international
environment.
Consumer Responsibilities
A responsible consumer should take active part in consumer Environmental Awareness
protection. Consumer International, a world body of To be sensitive to environmental degradation and pollution
consumer organizations, has identified the following in order to prevent waste and ensure conservation of natural
consumer responsibilities. resources.
Solidarity � assume personal responsibility for normal
To be ready to join forces and act together to strengthen precautions when using a product
consumer movement and consumer protection measures � inform retailers, manufacturers, industry and
through networking and campaign and advocacy Government agencies when a product does not
programmes on various consumer issues. satisfy safety standards
� Support efforts to improve safety for all consumers.
Consumr Rights and Associated Responsibilities
To make the children as responsible consumers is the main Responsibilities in association with Right to Information
Moto. To be more clear to young minds consumer The consumer should be provided with facts needed to make
responsibilities are discussed in terms of each right. an informed choice or decision. Consumer must be given
Consumers have a responsibility to exercise their rights and adequate information enabling them to act wisely and
not to be victims. These rights have value if the associated responsibly. They must also be protected from misleading
consumer responsibilities are exercised. More precisely, or inaccurate publicity material, whether included in
consumer responsibilities are the expectations of the advertising, labeling, and packaging or by other means. It
consumers while exercising their rights. is responsibility of a consumer to
Specific consumer responsibilities in the light of each � use available information and make sound choices
right are listed below.
� see out accurate information about products and
Responsibilities in association with Right to Safety services
A consumer has a right to be protected against product, � read advertisements and promotional claims
production process and services, which are hazardous to � question the sellers about products and service
health or life. To exercise this right, it is the responsibility when information is not available or not clear
of consumer to � support sellers who make serious efforts to provide
� use products with reasonable caution and care and useful information to all consumers
report defects
� carefully read product labels and use products as Responsibilities in association with right to choose
intended A consumer should have access to a variety of products and
� read the instructions manual and follow and services at competitive prices. An option should be available
instructions carefully t the consumer. It is the duty of the consumer to see that he
� read warning labels if any has been given an option to
� question sellers about the safety attributes of � Exercise the right to make a wise purchase
products � Understand their personal motivations for buying
� examine merchandise for safety features before certain products and services.
buying � Recognize persuasive selling techniques
� Compare products for both price and quality � seek to set right the wrong practices at the market
� Exercise independency of judgment in decision place
making � assist others in asserting their consumer rights
� Avoid buying by habit � Support efforts to increase the ability of consumers
� Choose carefully to participate effectively in industry and
government decision making.
� Practice comparative shopping in an effort to get
the best product or service that in the buyer’s
Responsibilities in association with Right to Redress
opinion represents acceptable quality at a fair and
a low price. It is the right of a consumer to receive compensation for
misrepresentation of shoddy goods or unsatisfactory
� Consider the cost of time and other resources in
services. It is the responsibility of a consumer to seek
decision making
redressal in case a trader or manufacturer has cheated. The
� Continue to buy when products and services are consumer should act in time. He/she should not let the
satisfactory trader take him for granted. A responsible consumer should
� Discontinue to buy when products and services are � Know where and how to go about seeking
unsatisfactory redressal.
� Recognize the ecological consequences of choices
� Speak up when errors occur, when safety problem
� Be honest in dealing with sellers is apparent and when the quality of products or
� Make purchases from sellers, who support services is inferior.
consumer rights. � Make suggestions for product and service
improvement.
Responsibilities in association with Right to be heard
� Complain to or compliment sellers as appropriate.
It is the right of a consumer to advocate consumer’s interests
� Seek satisfaction directly from the sellers before
with a view to receiving full and sympathetic consideration
using other forms of redressal.
in formulation and execution of economic and other policies.
It includes the right of representation in governmental and � Utilize informal dispute redressal mechanism when
other policy-making bodies as well as in the development available
of products and services before they are produced or set up. � Seek out and utilize third party complaint handing
The consumer should take responsibility of offering sound procedures where available.
suggestion. He should � At appropriate time use the legal system to get
� become informed and speak about issues that affect redressal.
all types of consumers
� Support efforts to broader access to redressal
� seek remedies to consumer problems mechanism for all consumers.
Responsibilities in association with Right to Consumer Responsibilities in association with Right to Healthy
Education Environment
Consumer has a right to acquire the knowledge and skills Consumer has a right to a physical environment that will
to be an informed consumer throughout life. The right to enhance the quality of life. It includes protection against
consumer education incorporates the right to knowledge environmental dangers over which the individuals have no
and skills needed for taking action to influence factors which control. It acknowledges the need to protect and improve
affect the consumer decision. A responsible consumer the environment for present and future generations. A
should responsible consumer should see that his actions have no
� become more informed about how to get money’s adverse effect on the environment. It is his responsibility to
worth from the market � be informed about environmental issue
� learn to assert all the consumer rights � Learn the environmental effects of alternate
� become more knowledgeable about the market product/service choices.
place and the consumers role in it � compare products for their effects on the
� learn how to protect and assist the consumer environment
interest � make reasonable and environmentally sound
� become an educated consumer consumption choice
� Support efforts to make consumer information and � support sellers who practice healthy environmental
education accessible to all. policies
� Support efforts to stop the use of consumer
Responsibilities on association with Right to Basic Needs products that are harmful to the environment and
Consumer has a right to basic goods and services which to enhance the availability of environmental
guarantee survival, i.e. to get adequate food, clothing, friendly goods.
shelter, health care, education and sanitation. On the other A responsible consumer should understand his role in
hand, it is the responsibility of a consumer to consumer protection to act positively in time. A responsible
� become aware of goods and services that guarantee consumer should think critically, act positively, be aware
decent living of his activities, act with environmental concern and
� acquire knowledge about the quality of goods and shoulder the responsibility of organizing fellow consumers
services available for the welfare of well being of the humanity.
� gather information on the availability of goods and
services of various kind
� demand for prompt, ensured and accountable
services
� demand for proper sanitary conditions

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