Introduction to Rights and Duties of Consumer
Consumers are the ones who buy or avail commodities or services. In the process of buying the goods and services till the time they use those goods and services; they have certain rights and duties as a cosumer which he or she is not always aware of. This might happen due to lack of knowledge and ignorance.
Apart from the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, we use a wide variety of things in our daily life such as cell phones, digital cameras, soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, etc. Thus, we are all consumers in the literal sense of the word when we buy.
As a consumer of things from the market, we expect value for money, i.e., quality, quantity, exact price, information about how to use, etc. However, there may be examples where the consumer is cheated.
In such cases, most of us do not know who to contact for redressal. In addition, most of us are also unaware of our “rights” as a consumer and are often hesitant to make a complaint or even protest for inappropriate behaviour. We don’t even have expensive support litigation to demand justice and we continue to tolerate such injustice.
What are the rights of a consumer?
Every country prescribes its own set of consumer rights to its people to ensure maximum protection to the citizens of a country. The meaning of consumer awareness extends to knowing the meaning of consumer rights. There are six important consumer rights that have been listed down for the people of India by the government of India;
The rights of a consumer are given under Section 6 in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The rights of a consumer are as follows: –
- Right to Protection: – It means the right to be protected from the marketing of goods and services dangerous to life and property. The benefits of the goods and services purchased should meet not only their immediate needs, but also their long-term interests. Before buying, consumers should emphasize on the quality of the products as well as the guarantee of the products and services. They should preferably buy quality marked products like ISI, AGMARK, etc.
- Right to Choose: – It means the right to have access to a wide variety of goods and services at a competitive price. In the case of a monopoly, it means the right to be assured of satisfactory quality and service at a reasonable price. It also includes the right to basic goods and services. This is because the unrestricted right of the minority to choose can mean the denial of its fair share to the majority. This right can be better exercised in a competitive market where a wide variety of goods are available at competitive prices.
- Right to Information: – It means the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of the goods so as to protect the consumer from unfair trade practices. The consumer should insist on getting all the information about the product or service before making a choice or decision. This will enable him to act wisely and responsibly and also prevent him from falling prey to high pressure selling techniques.
- Right to Consumer Education: – It means the right to acquire the knowledge and skills to be an informed consumer throughout life. Ignorance of consumers, especially rural consumers, is mainly responsible for their exploitation. They should know their rights and exercise them. Only then can real consumer protection be achieved with success.
- Right to be Heard: – This means that the interests of the consumer will be given due consideration at the appropriate forums. It also includes the right to be represented in various forums constituted to consider the welfare of the consumer. Consumers should form non-political and non-commercial consumer organizations which can be given representation in various committees constituted by the government and other bodies in matters related to consumers.
- Right to Seek Redressal: – It means the right to redress against unfair trade practices or dishonest exploitation of consumers. It also includes the right to fair disposal of genuine consumer complaints. Consumers should complain for their genuine complaints. At times their complaint may be of little value but its impact on the society as a whole can be huge. They can also take the help of consumer organizations for redressal of their grievances.
What is the meaning of Consumer Awareness?
Meaning of Consumer Awareness: – Consumer Awareness is the process of making the consumer of goods and services aware of his rights. It involves educating a consumer about safety, information and the redressal options available to him.
Consumer Awareness is an act of making sure the buyer or consumer is aware of the information about products, goods, services, and consumers rights. Consumer awareness is important so that buyer can take the right decision and make the right choice. Consumers have the right to information, right to choose, right to safety.
As previously discussed consumer awareness is one of the most persistent problems the government faces when it comes to consumer protection. To resolve this problem the government has come up with various methods over the years. In fact, it is the main aim of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Consumer Redressal Forum
As markets are globalizing, the direct link between the manufacturer and the end user is fading away, with post-purchase complaints being heard through a robust redressal system. For this, Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies (popularly known as Consumer Forums or Consumer Courts) are established under the Act at District, State and National level to provide simple and affordable speedy redressal against consumer complaints.
The District Forum deals with complaints where the compensation sought is less than 23 lakhs. This limitation is commonly referred to as the ‘economic jurisdiction’ of the Consumer Redressal Forum. The State Forum deals with complaints where the value of goods and services and the compensation claimed does not exceed one crore rupees and the National Forum deals with complaints where the value of the goods or services and the compensation claimed exceeds one crore rupees.
The Consumer Forum may, after hearing the complaint, order the Company to take the following action and determine that the Company is at fault: –
- Correct the deficiencies in the product as they claim;
- Repair defect free;
- Replace the product with a similar or better product;
- Issue a full refund of the price;
- Pay compensation for loss/cost/inconvenience;
- Completely withdraw the sale of the product;
- To discontinue or not to repeat any unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice; and
- Issue corrective advertisement for any prior misrepresentation.
To file the complaint: –
- Complaint must be filed within two years of purchasing or using the product or service;
- It must be in writing. Letters must be sent by registered post, delivered by hand, email, or fax;
- The name and address of the complainant should be mentioned in the complaint and the person/entity against whom the complaint is being filed. Copies of relevant documents must be attached;
- The consumer should mention the details of the company’s problem and demand;
- This may be a replacement of the product, removal of defects, a refund, or compensation for expenses incurred, and for physical/mental torture;
- However, there needs to be a proper claim;
- Consumer must preserve all bills, receipts and proof of correspondence relating to the matter;
- Avoid using voicemail or the telephone as such conversations are usually difficult to prove;
- Complaint can be in any Indian language, but it is better to use English;
- There is no compulsion to have a lawyer. The main cost includes correspondence and go to consumer forum for hearing; and
- Maintain complete records of emails and documents sent and received.
Consumer Protection Act
An Act to establish authority for timely and effective administration for the protection of the interests of consumers and for the said purpose and for settlement of consumer disputes and matters connected therewith.” (As per the Consumer Protection Act, 2019).
“An Act to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to provide for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consumer disputes and for matters connected therewith.” (According to Consumer Protection Act, 1986).
The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 seeks to promote and protect the interests of consumers against defects and defects in goods or services. It also seeks to secure the rights of the consumer against unfair or restrictive trade practices. The Act was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 9, 1986 and in the Rajya Sabha on December 10, 1986 and was approved by the President of India on December 24, 1986 and published in the Gazette of India on December 26, 1986.
What are the duties of a Consumer?
Just as the government has given each consumer a set of rights, it is the consumer’s responsibility to perform the many duties provided to them. Consumer responsibilities or duties are as important as consumer rights. In the way that the government has given each and every consumer a set of rights, it is the responsibility of the consumer to also follow through on several duties provided to them. Consumer responsibilities are just as important as consumer rights.
Following are some important consumer responsibilities or duties of consumers: –
- Consumers should ensure that the product they are buying is of good quality, and is quality marked like Agmark, ISI, Hallmark etc;
- Consumers should always ensure that they have seen and understood all available information about the product and make an informed choice;
- Consumers should follow the rules while purchasing the goods and should not be illegal;
- Consumers should always insist on bills of purchase from the seller so that if there is a problem with the purchase, the problem can be resolved immediately;
- Consumers have a responsibility to call for exploitative behaviour and unfair trade practices on the part of the seller; and
- Consumers should form organizations that are non-political to express consumer needs and requirements.
Importance of Consumer Rights and Consumer Responsibilities
Everything that we own today is a result of us being a consumer who purchases certain commodities. This is why we must all be aware of our consumer rights as well as consumer responsibilities. We all have to go to the market and be a consumer at least once in a while, and it is vital to know the meaning of consumer rights to help us realise if we are ever being exploited by a seller.
Consumers must know their rights and what they are protected from. Following are some facts which you might not know about your right: –
- A consumer can choose a product and have the full right to negotiate the price;
- A consumer can rightfully demand a healthy environment;
- Consumers can file a complaint from literally anywhere;
- The consumers can seek a hearing via video conferencing as well; and
- Also, the consumer can know why his/her complaint was rejected.