LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two- Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “Consumer Rights” was held by Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam, an Advocate, Author, Researcher under the themes of Gender and Human Rights and visiting senior fellow at IMPRI.
Inaugurating the session Nikita Bhardwaj, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panelists.
Why are Consumer Rights Important?
The speaker started the session by answering the most important question, why are Consumer rights important? The speaker emphasized on three key points:
Consumer Ignorance: In the light of widespread ignorance of consumers about their rights qand reliefs available to them, it becomes necessary to educate them about the same so as to achieve consumer awareness.
Unorganized Consumers: In India, consumers are unorganized. Though we do have consumer organizations working in this direction, adequate consumer protection is required to provide power and rights to these organisations to protect and promote the interests of the consumers.
Protection Against Exploitation of the Consumers: Unaware ignorant consumers are exploited by unscrupulous/ exploitative and unfair trade practices like defective goods, adulteration, false and misleading advertising
The Historical Representation of Consumer Rights
During the Indian Freedom Struggle, the Britain Salt law was wrongfully imposed on Indians, against which a Satyagrah Mass Movement was organized for 24 days, 12 March 1930 to 5 April 1930. Mahatma Gandhi, who led the March, said that this is a “Poor Man’s Struggle”. In 1931 the Salt Law was ended and political prisoners were released. This movement pressurized the British government and shook its very core. Non cooperation and Civil Disobedience showed the government, that people won’t submit easily to unjust rule, the outlook of the general public widened which eventually along with other factors lead to the freedom of India in 1947.
During the 70s as drought affected, Rural India areas faced conditions of high inflation. In 1973 the United Women’s Anti Rise Front and Mehngai Pratikar Sanyukt Mahila Samiti were formed to mobilize women against inflation and thereby, raised the livelihood issues. It was seen as a assertion of citizenship rights. This movement was led by the coalition of left and socialist parties to protest against inflation, and in particular demanded accessibility of foodgrains, sugar, cooking oil and kerosene.
It means protecting consumer from the unfair trade practices and from the clutches of fraud producers and sellers. Consumer protection provides safeguard to the consumers from exploitation.
Consumer Protection Act 1986 was enacted to safeguard buyers of goods and services against unfair practices in the market. The law provides the steps to protect consumers from corrupt and unscrupulous malpractices by the sellers, manufacturers, services providers etc.
The Act helped in providing remedies in cases where the rights of the consumer are violated the main objective is to protect the interests of the consumers and to establish a mechanism for the settlement of consumer disputes. The Act also promotes consumer education in order to educate the consumer about their rights, and responsibilities. The new act in 2019 contains various provisions which incorporate the challenges faced by modern and technology dependent consumers. The act contains various provisions for the protection and promoting the rights of the consumers. It provides speedy and effective disposal of consumer complaints through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Who is a Consumer?
A consumer is an individual or group of individual who buy and purchase goods and hire services for their own personal use, in exchange of and not for the purpose of manufacturing or resale or commercial use, includes all online transactions conducted through electronic means or direct selling or teleshopping means or multi level marketing.
Six Rights of the Consumers
Adv Nigam listed the six rights of a consumer:
- The right of the consumers to be protected from the marketing of goods and services that are hazardous and detrimental to life and property.
- The right of the consumer to be protected against unfair trade practices by being aware of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and prices of goods, products or services.
- The right of the consumer to have access to a variety of goods, services and products at competitive prices. The right of the consumer to a variety of goods, services and products at competitive prices.
- The right to seek redressal at the respective forums against unfair and restrictive trade practices.
- The right to receive adequate compensation or consideration from respective consumer forums in case they have been wronged by the seller.
- The right to receive consumer education.
The Redressal Mechanism in Place
The District Comminions, State Commissions and National Commissions are in place as Central Authorities to satisfy that infringement of consumers rights or unfair trade practices has occurred then it may: recall the goods and services which are hazardous and detrimental to the consumers, reimburse the prices of the goods and services to the consumers and discontinue the practices that are preductal and harmful.
Complaint can be registered in writing or electronic form and there is no need for an advocate in consumer courts product liability under section 83 of the act a product liability action may be brought by a complaint against a product manufacturer, product service provider or product seller. Liability can also be levied on the product manufacturer, if the product is defective, liability is levied on the service provider act of negligence, faulty, fails to confirm to the condition of the contract.
The speaker ended the session with some cases, mentioning how consumer rights were violated and how consumers had to fight back. To mention some cases, Horlicks Ltd, V. Zydus Wellness Products Ltd. (2020), in Connaught Plaza Restaurants Ltd. Versus Kapil Mitra 2020 “Mcdonalds mein khao har bar prize le jao”. Consumer activism is a process by which activists seek to influence the way in which goods and services are produced or delivered in order to make the production process safer and ethical environmentally friendly products. The speaker emphasized that shopping and consumption are political actions.
Acknowledgement: Abhivyakti is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
Youtube Video of Inaugural session for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship Programme: https://youtu.be/fT0XLKGJ6LY
Read more session reports for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship: