World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated every year on 15 March as part of an initiative by Consumer International, a membership organisation for consumer groups around the world. The group brings together over 200 member organisations in more than 100 countries to "empower and champion the rights of consumers everywhere." The aim behind marking an international date to celebrate consumer rights is to build a world where everyone has access to safe and sustainable products and services.
"World Consumer Rights Day was inspired by President John F Kennedy, who sent a special message to the US Congress on 15 March 1962, in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. He was the first world leader to do so. The consumer movement first marked that date in 1983 and now uses the day every year to mobilise action on important issues and campaigns," declares the Consumer International website.
This year's theme is "Trusted Smart Products" chosen in view of the increased popularity of smart gadgets like smart phones to wearable fitness trackers, to voice-activated assistants and smart TVs which make our lives simpler, but inadvertently connect one aspect of it with another, establishing a sort of interdependency on previously unrelated avenues of life.
Consumer International wants to highlight what consumers want and need from a connected world and how important it is to put them at the heart of the development of these digital products and services.
In India too, the Government of India has undertaken several initiatives to protect the rights of consumers, which stem from the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 that gives Indian consumers some basic rights. However, lack of awareness remains a key issue in citizens benefitting fully from their rights as protected by our Constitution. On this World Consumer Rights Day, here are some of the rights you hold as a consumer in India.
By definition, consumer rights mean that each consumer has the right to have information about the quality, potency, quantity, purity, price and standard of goods or services. The consumer is also to be protected against any unfair practices of trade under the Indian law. Hence it becomes essential that the people are aware of their rights, which broadly include:
- The right to be protected from all kind of hazardous goods and services
- The right to be fully informed about the performance and quality of all goods and services
- The right to free choice of goods and services
- The right to be heard in all decision-making processes related to consumer interests
- The right to seek redressal, whenever consumer rights have been infringed
- The right to complete consumer education
In case of a rights' violation, there are several channels for grievance redressal as well. According to the Government of India, an aggrieved consumer can approach one of the following channels.
National Consumer Helpline: Consumers can call on a toll-free number 1800-11-4000 or 14404, which provides advice, information and guidance to empower consumers and addresses their concerns. An Integrated Grievance Redress Mechanism (INGRAM) portal was also launched for bringing all stakeholders such as consumers, Central and state government agencies, private companies, Ombudsmen and call centers etc. on to a single platform.
Smart Consumer Application: The government has launched a mobile application "Smart Consumer" to enable the consumer to scan the bar code of the product and get all details of the product such as name of the product, details of manufacturer, year and month of manufacture, net content and consumer care details for making complaint in case of any defect. This is in line with the protection of right to be fully informed about the performance and quality of all goods and services.
Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA): In its endeavor to address the problem of misleading advertisements, the government has launched a portal called "Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA)".for registering complaints online. A Consumer can register a complaint along with a copy / video / audio of such advertisement through the web portal.
Online Dispute Resolution: This is an online consumer mediation centre, established at the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru under the aegis of Ministry Of Consumer Affairs, which aims to provide for a state-of-the-art infrastructure for resolving consumer disputes both through physical as well as online mediation through its platform. "The center provides innovative technology for consumers and organisations to manage and resolve conflicts and to propel online mediation as a first choice to resolving consumer disputes. This is an innovative tool that affords consumers better access to justice through quick and easy redressal mechanism and at the same time provide opportunity for businesses to maintain good customer relations," according to the government portal on consumer protection.