‘Empowering consumers: Understanding rights, safeguarding interests’

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When making a purchase, most people primarily focus on whether the price fits their budget, often neglecting other crucial considerations such as durability or expiry dates. This tendency marks the starting point of consumer awareness. Consumers frequently face exploitation from traders who provide incomplete or incorrect information, manipulate weights, overcharge, or sell substandard goods. These practices can harm customers not just financially but also pose health risks and mental stress.

In today’s competitive, globalized landscape, manufacturers prioritize profit maximization, often resorting to aggressive and misleading advertising that disregards consumer interests. Therefore, it becomes crucial for consumers to be well-informed about the products or services they purchase, safeguarding their interests by understanding their rights, checking product details, scrutinizing legal documents before signing, and taking precautions, especially in significant purchases like property.

For items like groceries and food products, checking manufacturing and expiry dates and the contents list becomes imperative to avoid health hazards like food poisoning. Understanding consumer rights in the realm of services is equally complex. Many are unaware of their rights, leading to instances where hospitals or financial entities manipulate individuals into signing incomprehensible forms, later using these as evidence of consent, much to the detriment of the consumer.

Major Legislations for Consumer Protection in India 

  • The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940
  • The Drugs (Control) Act, 1950
  • The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954
  • The Essential Commodities Act, 1955
  • The Agriculture Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937
  • The Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976
  • The Standards of Weights and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 1977
  • The Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980
  • The Consumer Protection Act, 1986
  • The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986
  • The Competition Act, 2002
  • The Trade Marks Act, 1999 (w.e.f. September 2003)
  • The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003
  • The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006

Consumer protection, however, is not a new concept. It has historical roots, dating back to ancient texts that emphasized regulating trade and safeguarding consumer interests. In modern India, the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 was a significant step, providing clauses for consumer protection in both goods and services. Amendments to this act are underway, highlighting the government’s continued efforts to strengthen consumer protection, as seen in the upcoming Consumer Protection Bill.

Moreover, the government has introduced standards and measures such as ISI marks, Hallmarks for jewelry, and RERA for real estate, aiming to shield consumers from malpractices. Government initiatives like DBT and Ujjawala also aim to protect citizens from falling victim to fraudulent schemes.

However, while the government implements schemes, consumers must also familiarize themselves with available grievance redressal mechanisms. Consumer redressal mechanisms, integrated into the Consumer Protection Act, include forums like lok adalats, district and national consumer dispute redressal authorities, where consumers can seek redressal for grievances.

Ultimately, while the government takes steps to protect consumers, individuals must actively engage with protection mechanisms and exercise their rights when purchasing goods or services. Consumer protection is a shared responsibility, and individuals must take an active role in safeguarding their interests.

Nov 30,2023

Source: Times Of India

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