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Consumer: Satisfaction and Protection

Consumer: Satisfaction and Protection
Consumer: Satisfaction and Protection
* Consumer
The definition of Consumer right is ‘the right to have information about the quality, potency, quantity, purity, price and standard of goods or services’, as it may be the case, but the consumer is to be protected against any unfair practices of the trade. It is very essential for consumers to know these rights.

* Consumption
Consumption is the satisfaction of human wants using goods and services. A consumer is a person who purchases and uses goods and services by paying or agreeing to pay a price. In order to satisfy our wants, we depend primarily on sale outlets and service centres. Production, distribution, and consumption are interrelated economic activities. In reality, all economic activities are meant to satisfy consumers.

* Consumer satisfaction
The act of fulfilling the wants of the consumer through the consumption of goods and services is called satisfaction. 

* There are various circumstances where consumers are exploited or cheated.
• Selling low-quality products
• Adulteration
• Charging an excess price
• Manipulation in weights and  measures
• Delay in making services available
Situations that lead to the exploitation of the consumer's increase with the increase in the extent and intensity of consumption.

* Consumer Protection Act of 1986
The Consumer Protection Act 1986 clearly defines the consumer's rights and sets up special judiciary mechanisms for consumer protection in India.
Let us see some of the rights of the consumer as per the Act.
• The right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property.
• The right to be informed about the quality-related aspects of goods and services.
• The right to have access to goods and services at fair prices.
• The right to be heard and to seek redressal at appropriate forums.
• The right to consumer education.
The consumer courts were established as a result of this Act.

* Consumer courts
There may be situations in which the consumers are not satisfied with the dealings of the producers and distributors. Under such circumstances, they can approach the consumer courts which are mechanisms for assisting or helping them as per the law.
Consumer courts play an important role in ensuring justice to consumers. They settle consumer disputes by various means including ensuring compensation for the consumers. The consumer courts are able to create confidence in the consumers and bring about a qualitative change in their lives.
Today, in India, consumers are utilising the services of consumer courts operating fruitfully at three levels- district, state and national.

* Let us see the structure and jurisdiction of the district, state and national consumer courts.

* The procedures of the consumer courts are different from those of the general courts.  The important features of consumer courts are as follows:
• Simple procedures
• Fast assurance of justice
• fewer court expenses
It is sufficient to submit before the court a written petition about the loss and damages faced by the consumer. A nominal fee is charged on the basis of the value of the compensation claimed by the petitioner. 
* Situations when complaints about consumer disputes can be filed:
• When the purchased product is damaged or defective.
• Defective services received from government/non-government / private institutions.
• Appropriation of price over and above the amount legally fixed or marked on the outer casing.
• Violation of the prevention of adulteration  law
• Sale of products which are  harmful to life and safety
• Loss due to trading methods which lead to unfair practices and limited consumer freedom.
• Giving misleading advertisement for increasing sales 

* The following are the compensations for consumer disputes obtained through consumer courts.
• Replacing the product
• Repayment of cash paid or excess amount appropriated
• Monetary compensation for the loss
• Direction to rectify the defects in services.
• Stopping harmful trade practices
• Prohibition of the sale of harmful food items
• Reimbursement of the expenses incurred in lodging the

* Consumer Forum:
● Non-Government organization
● Spreads awareness among common people
● Help consumer to file a case in court
● Represent individual in court
● Help to get justice to one who is exploited.

* Three-level advisory councils
According to the Consumer Protection Act 1986, apart from the consumer courts, three-level advisory councils have been set up. They are the district consumer protection council, state consumer protection council, and national consumer protection council. The responsibility of these councils is to advise the respective governments on consumer rights.

* Apart from the Consumer Protection Act 1986, there are many other Acts for the protection of the consumers. Important among them are mentioned below.
Sale of Goods Act, 1930
It ensures that the prescribed conditions of sale are met while purchasing products. Violation of guarantee, warranty, after-sale services, etc. comes under this Act.

Agriculture Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937
This Act is meant for determining the standard of agricultural products.

Essential Commodities Act, 1955
This Act protects consumers from supernormal profit, hoarding, black marketing, etc.

Weights and Measures Act, 1976
This Act is helpful in preventing cheating in weights and measures.

* There are different departments and institutions working for the protection of consumers' interests.
• Legal Metrology Department ----> ensures the weights and measures standards
• Food Safety Department ----> ensures the quality of food products
• Central Drugs Price Control Committee ----> controls the price of medicines 
• Drugs Control Department ----> ensures the quality and safety of medicines.
• Food Safety and Standard Authority of India ----> ensures the quality of food products at various stages like production, distribution, storage, sale and import.
* There are some symbols that are given on the basis of assessing the standard of products and institutions. 
The symbols help the consumers in ascertaining the quality of products and institutions. Let us see some of them.

* Intervention of society
Official mechanisms and laws alone cannot ensure the satisfaction of the consumers. The intervention of an alert society is necessary for this.
What are the ways in which the intervention of society can be made possible?
• Functioning of consumer organisations
• Consumer awareness
• Public interest litigation 
Consumer education

* Everyone is a consumer. 
Variety in products, personal interest, increasing demands, the influence of market forces, etc. have complicated and widened the scope of consumption. Consumer education is necessary for the acquisition of right habits by the consumers.
What are the ways by which consumer education can be ensured?
• Awareness programmes
• Inclusion in the curriculum
• Observance of the National Consumer Day 

* National Consumer Day 
In India, December 24 is observed as the National Consumer Day. In 1985, the United Nations Organisation passed a resolution on the guidelines regarding consumer protection. On that basis, the Government of India passed an Act on consumer protection. This Act came into force on 24 December 1986. 

* Consumer movement
The consumer movement is an effort to promote consumer protection through an organized social movement which is in many places led by consumer organizations. It advocates for the rights of consumers, especially when those rights are actively breached by the actions of corporations, governments, and other organizations which provide products and services to consumers. The dissatisfaction of the consumers as many unfair practices were being indulged in the sellers.
In the word Consumerism, “Consumer” means the user or customer and “ism” means movement”, and hence, consumer movement is popularly known as “Consumerism. It is an organized and collective movement of consumers.
The main object of this movement is to educate and unite consumers and to fight for the protection of their rights. The consumer movement is similar to trade unions because it is a collective approach to solve the malpractices and injustice done by any organization.

* What are the ways in which consumers are empowered through consumer education?
• Helps to consume sensibly as per the wants.
• Helps to acquire information regarding products and services
• Enables the consumer to make the right choices. 
• Makes the consumer aware of his/her rights
• Makes  them capable of intervening  in consumer disputes

* Let us see what habits will be formed as a result of consumer education programmes.
• ask for the bill for every purchase made
• make sure that the weights and measures are accurate
• make sure, while purchasing packed items, that the name of the product, date of packing, expiry date, weight, price, and producer's/distributor's address are stated
•  note the symbols representing the standard of the products
•  understand how to use and operate the products purchased 

* Consumer Rights and Responsibilities
Consumer rights are a set of rights governed by the law that gives allows customers to have the necessary information about goods and services while purchasing.
Similarly, consumer responsibilities indicate that customers have a specific responsibility towards the society and other consumers and help them to fight against the unfair practice or at least be aware of it. These rights and responsibilities are registered under the Consumer Protection Act 1986.
* Consumer Rights
Right to Safety- Before buying, a consumer can insist on the quality and guarantee of the goods. They should ideally purchase a certified product like ISI or AGMARK.
Right to Choose- Consumer should have the right to choose from a variety of goods and in a competitive price
Right to be informed- The buyers should be informed with all the necessary details of the product, make her/him act wise, and change the buying decision.
Right to Consumer Education- Consumer should be aware of his/her rights and avoid exploitation. Ignorance can cost them more.
Right to be heard- This means the consumer will get due attention to express their grievances at a suitable forum.
Right to seek compensation- The defines that the consumer has the right to seek redress against unfair and cruel practices or exploitation of the consumer.
* Consumer Responsibilities
Responsibility to be aware – A consumer has to be mindful of the safety and quality of products and services before purchasing.
Responsibility to think independently– Consumer should be well concerned about what they want and need and therefore make independent choices.
Responsibility to speak out- Buyer should be fearless to speak out their grievances and tell traders what they exactly want
Responsibility to complain- It’s consumer responsibility to express and file a complaint about their dissatisfaction with goods or services in a sincere and fair manner.
Responsibility to be an Ethical Consumer- They should be fair and not engage themselves with any deceptive practice.
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