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UNIT 19 CONSUMER RIGHTS AND THEIR MANIFESTATIONS


Objectives Introduction Rights of Consumer
19.2.1 Right to Safety 19.2.2 Right to be Informed 19.2.3 Right to Choose 19.2.4 Right to be Heard 19.2.5 Right to Seek Redressal 19.2.6 Right to Consumer Education 19.2.7 Other Rights

Structure

Manifestations of Consumers' Rights Certain Problems relating to Consumers' Rights Duties of Consumers as (I Corollary to Consumers' Rights Let Us Sum Up Key Words Some Useful Books Answers to Check Your Progress

19.0 OBJECTIVES
After studying this unit, you should be able to: know the statutory and other rights available to consumers identifying situations in which consumers can exercise their rights know the manner in which such rights can be availed of identify the problems associated with consumers' rights.

19.1 INTRODUCTION
Each of one of us is a consumer. Every day we buy goods or services. While buying goods or services, we are concerned with our money, health, safety, environment, etc. However, generally we feel that we are always in a sellers' market, It's because the sellers attitude towards the consumer is take it or leave it. We, thus, feel at the receiving end. To a great extent it is true also. Consumer being the weaker party in the commercial dealing is either taken for granted or taken for a ride. Fleecing the customer has become so widespread that no share remains untouched by this malady. False or misleading advertisements or representation, bargain price, offering of gifts, prizes, contest, etc., non-compliance of product safety standards, hoarding of goods, etc. make us victims in one way or the other knowingly or unknowingly. But, there is other side of the picture also, that is. lack of awareness, lack of a sense of responsibility and undue feeling of be:plessness on our part. Most of us believe that we act rationally. We see ourselves as being well informed by social . trends or commercial tactics. But in reality it is not so. Our buying behaviour is often irrational, influenced by social trends, sales pressure, salesmanship and advertisements. As a result, we often purchase goods or services without paying sufficient attention to price and quality. Many of us do not realise the environmental consequences of ourconsumption. The anonymity of urban living has been responsible for large scale unfair trade practices on the part of the unscrupulous manufacturers and traders. As a consequence, ill-informed and

unorganised consumers have to bear the brunt of exploitation by the manufacturers and traders. India is a seller's paradise being a county of shortages. Exploitation of consumers is therefore more conspicuous. Legislations protecting the interests of consumers, therefore, were much too warranted.

Consumer mghts end their Manifestations

19.2 RIGHTS OF CONSUMER


For the first time in the history of consumers legislation in India, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 extended a statutory recognition to the rights of consumers. Section 6 of the Act recognises the following six rights of consumers :

19.2.1 Right to Safety


Right to safety means the right to be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.

19.2.2 Right to be Informed


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. The right to be informed now goes beyond avoiding deception and the protection against misleading advertising, labelling or other practices. Consumers should be provided with adequate information enabling them to act wisely and responsibly.

19.2.3 Right to Choose


It means light to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of goods and services at competitive price. In case of monopolies, say, railways, telephones, etc., it means right to be assured of satisfactory quality and service at a fair price.

'19.2.4 Right to be Heard


The consumers' interests will receive due consideration at appropriate fora. It also includes right to be represented in various fora formed to consider the consumers' welfare.

19.2.5 Right to Seek Redressal


It means the right to seek redressal against unfair practices or restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. It also includes right to fair settlement of the genuine grievances of the consumers.
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19.2.6 Right to Consumer mucation


It means the right to acquire the knowledge and skill to be an informed consumer.

19.2.7 Other Rights


1) The right to a Healthy Environment
It means the right to a physical, environment that will enhance the quality of life. This right involves protection against environmental problems over which the individpal consumer has no control. It acknowledges the need to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.

2) Rade Codes
In view of rising consumer consciousness, State interest and market competition during last few years some noticeable change has also taken place among business organisations and their Associations or Federations. As result many of them have formulated certain trade codes and ethics for improving the general image of the business community. These organisations also

Consumer Protection'Act
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promise to look into the complaints of the Consumers against violation of these codes. As such, here also, consumers get some rights. In the context an example can be cited of a code of conduct evolved by the Council for Fair Business Practices, a prominent organisations of business. The code consists of the following fundamental obligations of the businessmen. 1)
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They charge only fair and reasonable prices and take every possible step to ensure that prices to be charged to the consumer are brought to his notice. To take very possible step to ensure that the agents or dealers appointed by him do not charge prices higher than what are fixed. In times of scarcity, not to withhold or suppress stocks of goods with a view to hoarding and/or profiteering. Not to produce or trade in spurious goods; or goods of standards lower that specified. Not to adulterate goods supplied. Not to publish misleading advertisements. To invoice goods exported or imported at their correct price, To maintain accuracy in weights and measures of goods offered for sale. Not to deal knowingly in smuggled goods.

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The above mentioned obligations of businessman automatically imply rights of consumers. To help consumers in this regard a number of large organisations have also set up Consumer Grievances Cells, as in-house redressal mechanisms. Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), for instance, has set up a Consumer Business Forum which meets quarterly in different metropolitan and large cities of the country. Check Your Progress 1
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Note : i) Use the space below for your answers. ii) Check your progress with the model answers given at the end of the unit.
1)

Right to safety means ..........................................................................................................

2)

Right to be informed means the right to be informed about the quality, .................................. of goods or services. Right to choose means .......................................................................................................

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4)

Right to be heard means that the consumers interests will receive due considerations at Right to seek redressal is available against ..........;.............................................................. Right to consumer education means ...................................................................................
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5)

6)

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19.3 MANIFESTATIONS OF' CONSUMERS' RIGHTS


Rights of consumers manifest themselves in remedies and reliefs made available to them. Since the passing of the Consumer Protection Act, a large number of cases have been reported to the Consumer Courts and other parallel fora like MRTP Commission. In many cases relief was made available to the consumer. Reliefs provided include replacement of defective goods, refund of excess price charged, compensation for deficiency in service, compensation for loss due to unfair practices, et. al. A few exemplary cases are being presented hereunder to give you an ideal of the malpractices

of producers/suppliers/distributors, etc. and the reliefs granted to the affected consumers.


1)

Consumer tightsand their Manifestations

A courier agreed to deliver consignment on a particular day. The goods reached there, but were quarantined for inspection there. The courier failed to inform consignor about it. It was held that this is deficiency in service. Compensation was awarded even though the standard condition mentioned 'limited liability' upto US $100 only. It was held that liability clause is printed in very small print and not necessarily read by party. In any case, courier is liable for neligence and deficiency in performance of service irrespective of any clause in the contract. Sudhir Deshpande v. Elbee Services Ltd. (1 993) 12 CLA 68 (NCDRC). Again, in Airpack Couriers (India) (P) Ltd. vs. Suresh, (decided on 1 1.03.1993), NCDRC awarded compensation of Rs. 1,000, a sum mentioned as per term incorporated in the consignment note as maximum liability of courier, for loss of important papers, as nature of contents were not disclosed to the courier. In Telc-Communication Dept. v. Shanmugham Chemical Industries - (1995-CS Sept. 95), telephone department accepted application for telephone connection. However, after three years, the department replied that the application should be signed by working partner or all partners and not by a attorney holder. These were the internal instructions to department and outsiders cannot be aware of such instructions. It was held that rejection of application after three years creates a suspicion that the objection is not bona fide, but only to defeat the priority claim of applicant. In this case, departmental officers were personally asked to pay compensation of Rs. 10,000/-

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You are advised to study the aforesaid case-law alongwith the case-law given in U n i t 3 under the 'Meaning of Consumer' and 'Deficiency of service'.

19.4 CERTAIN PROBLEMS RELATING TO CONSUMERS' RIGHTS


?be discussion on consumers rights is suggestive that consumer today enjoys a good arnouht of statutory protection. But, even today, a large number of us remain exploited. Some of the reasons for continued exploitation are :

1. Lack of Awareness
There is an utter lack of awareness especially among rural populations of their rights and particularly the way of putting them into practice. Therefore, there is a need for spreading consumer awareness among various sections of society, particularly the illiterates and more so the helpless and unorganised sections among them. As n~enlioned earlier even some of thewell educated consumers are ncither aware of their rights as consumers nor of the existence of consumer dispute Redressal Fora. The Goveinment, both at the centre and the states and voluntary organisations, in both urban and rural areas, are doing a lot and spending good amount of money for spreading this awareness. These cfforts need to be strengthened by informed citizens, teachers, students and journalists in particular.
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2) Responsibilities

Apart from lack of awareness there is also lack of sense of responsibility. This responsibility is of two types. One responsibility to cnforce our rights and second responsibility to do our duties related to rights. It is well known fact that laws by themselves do not serve any purpose. Therefore, unless we make ourselves aware of laws, make the traders know of our awareness, have the ncccssary ability to lodge complaints against violation of rights and confinue to follow the complaints lodged, these rights will remain only on paper.

19.5 DUTIES OF CONSUMERS AS A COROLLARY TO CONSUMERS' RIGHT


It is also a fact of social life that rights and duties are ~ w sides of the same coin. As consumers o we have two types of duties. One, duties which are required for enforcement of our own rights. For instance, for meaningful enforcement of rights to safety and healthy environment it is our

Consumer.ProtectionAct

duty to ba y only ISI. marked goods particularly where safety is most important, for example, electric/< :lectronic items, helmet, etc. Similarly, for eatables, particularly, spices, oils, ghee, atta, etc. It is our duty to buy packed foods with an AGMARK certification. The AGMARK products ensure the four rights (I) the right to safety; (2) the right to be informed (3) the right , to choos~ and (4) the right to he heard. It is also our duty to check out the batch number and e; date of nmanufacturing etc. when buying packed items. -0, dulies towards others. These can be called our social and ecological responsibility. It means th\at as consumers we should make responsible choices about our purchases and consump,tion in relation to society and the environment. Pollution, exhaustion of resources and energy, a~nd proliferation and hazardous wastes are all problems associated with the irrespon:sible consumption. Purchase of a sub-standard vehicle emitting too much smoke affects others' right fur healthy environment. Over purchasing of goods which are in short affects othen rights to availability and fair price, etc. Therefore, let us not forget that the choices we make as consumers affect others and in particular the environment.

Check k'our Progress 2


Note : i) Use the space below for your answers. ii) Check your progress with the model answers given at the end of the unit. ate the need for consumer protections.

bnsumers remain exploited inspite of the various rights conferred upon them under the )nsumerProtectionAct, 1986. Do you agree? Give reasons for your answers.

3)

Consumers should not only seek rights but also behave as responsible consumers. Do you agree? State the duties of consumers.

19.6 LET US SUM UP


India is a country of shortages thus a sellers' market. Many a time, sellers t a k consumers for a ride. A large number of unfair practices prevail. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 confers six rights upon consumers, viz., right to safety, right to be informed, right to choose, right to be heard, right to seek redressal and right to consumer education. Besides these statutory rights, consumers also have certain other rights including right to healthy environment, right arising out of trade codes: These rights of the consumer manifest themselves in remedies and reliefs made available to them. Inspite of certain rights having been made to consumers, exploitation of consumers continues unabated because of lack of awareness of these rights and the lack of sense of responsibility to

seek enforcement of these rights.

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Consumers do have certain duties also which are necessary for enforcement of their own rights. These include duty to buy IS1 or AGMARK products and also not to buy polluting items.

Consumer Rights and th>ir Manifestations

19.7 KEY WORDS


Defect
:The word 'defect' as used in the Act means any fault, imperfections or

shortcoming in the quality, quantity, potency, purity and standard that is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or under any conlract, express or implied, or as is claimed by the trader in any manner whatsoever in relation to any goods.

Deficiency :Whereas 'defect' relates to goods, the expressions 'deficiency' is used in relation to services. It means any fault, imperfections or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, potency, purity or standard which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undzrtaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise is relations to any service.

19.8 SOME USEFUL BOOKS


Gubax Singh, 1993 : Law of Consumer Protection, New Delhi. Ram J. Markin, 1980 : Marketing, New York. S.S. Gulshan, 1994 : Consumer Protection and Satisfactior~- Leg41 and Managerial Dimensiori, New Delhi.

19.9 ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


Check Your Progress 1
1)

The right to be protected against goods and services which are hazardous to life and property. quantity, potency, purity, standard and price. the right to be assured, wherever feasible access to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices. appropriate fora. unfair and restrictive trade practices or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers. the right to acquire the knowledge and skill to be an informed consumer.

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Check Your Progress 2

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Consumer protections are necessary because of the malpractices, practised by the unscrupulous producers, traders, etc. of the goods and services.

Yes. Consun~ers exploited because of are

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i)

ignorance of law,

ii) corruptions in the law enforcing machineries iii) lengthy legal process 3)

Yes, Consunier duties are :


i) thcy should check properly before purchasing or hiring the goods and services.

ii) they should be aware about the existing consumer laws and law enforcing machineries. iii) they should have the courage to protest and knock at the door of the law enforcing machineries.