Consumer rights in India

Another Consumer's rights day, came and went unnoticed here. India has been observing March 15th, as a National Consumer's day, since 1989. The day is of historic importance, and is celebrated since 1962, when the Bill for Consumer's Rights was moved in the United States, by president John F. Kennedy. World Consumer's Day, was first observed on 15th March 1983.
Two years later, the consumer's rights were finally elevated to a position of international recognition and legitimacy, when on april 9th, 1985, the United Nation, adopted the general guidelines of consumer protection, following a decade long hard lobbying, by the Consumer's international, and other consumer rights group.
For the uninitiated, Consumer's rights can be broadly defined into 8 parts:     
  • The right to satisfaction of basic needs  - To have access to basic, essential goods and services: adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation.
  • The right to safety  - To be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or life.
  • The right to be informed  - To be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling.
  • The right to choose  - To be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.
  • The right to be heard  - To have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services.
  • The right to redress  - To receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
  • The right to consumer education  - To acquire knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.
  • The right to a healthy environment  -To live and work in an environment which is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations.

Indian Consumer's rights movement can be traced back to 1986, with the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act, or the COPRA, but it recognised only six of these eight international rights. (Safety, Information, Choice, Representation, Redress, and Consumer Education). Other than the statutory recognition, the COPRA also provides, for small causes consumer courts and quasi judicial forums, for redressal of the consumer rights and grievances, and speedy adjudication within 90-150 days.  
  This year, the focus was on controlling and stopping the sale of Junk food to kids, and among young people.  A reason that consumer rights organisations are focusing on children as consumers may be that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is preparing recommendations on the marketing of food and drink items for children.  "WCRD, this year, takes place at a critical time in the international debate, as WHO is working on its recommendations on the marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages to children," claims Consumers International, an organisation for the promotion of consumer rights across the globe, on its official website.  
Still, the problems are high, and there is still a long way to go. According to S. Pushpavanam, the secretary of consumer protection council, of Tamil Nadu, - "  The problem with Indian consumers is that they have low expectations, improper perception and lack of awareness about solution-options. For example, when a student leaves an institution soon after joining, getting back the certificates is not enough.
He is entitled to a refund of the fees paid. It is the shopkeeper who is answerable for defective goods but not service centres or distributors. Instead of forcing the municipality to fight mosquito menace, we buy at least three mats, coils or liquid-containers for three rooms and spend nearly Rs 1,500 per annum. Instead of forcing the municipalities to clear the garbage, we would rather pay organisations like Exnora to clear the garbage, besides paying taxes to the municipality.   " Rights awareness, is still a long story...