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Consumer Rights

In the human society, people play a dual role. On one hand, they directly participate in producing the goods and services in the economy. On the other hand, they are the consumers of these commodities. By purchasing the finished commodities and services, it is the consumers who form the market for the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors. A consumer is an individual who purchases products or services for his personal use.


It is necessary to formulate proper rules and regulations for the people in the development processes. Many workers in the unorganised sector are paid low wages. They work for long hours and the conditions under which they work may be very harmful for their health. No protection is provided to these workers. In the informal sector, moneylenders charge exorbitant interest rates against loans given to farmers. There are many instances in which the poor farmers are compelled to sell their produce at very low rates or even sell their agricultural land. Suicide by farmers due to their inability to pay back their loans is an unfortunate truth in India.


There is an urgent requirement to protect the rights of the consumers against exploitation in the market place. Once a commodity is sold, the seller usually avoids entertaining any complaints against the good or service. Often they shift the responsibility to the consumer. There have been instances of companies advertising their goods in the media under false information to attract the customer. A very relevant example is the advertisement of tobacco based products and the long battle which had to be fought in courts for the manufacturers to acknowledge that their products are hazardous to health.


Unfair practices like using incorrect weights to give the customer less than what he is paying for, adding charges without mentioning them while quoting the price, selling defective or adulterated items including food products, etc. amount to ‘cheating’ the customer. Adulterated food can pose serious health hazards. The dissatisfaction of the consumers and absence of any legal system to protect them created a need to spread awareness amongst the consumers against these unfair means adopted by unscrupulous traders. In India, the movement of consumers to protect themselves from unfair and unethical trade practices arose as a ‘social force’. Consumer movements began in the 1960s as a protection against food adulteration, hoarding, black marketing and creating shortages of food artificially for the economic gain of a few traders. Consumer groups were formed to spread awareness through newspaper articles and exhibitions as well as to check malpractices in ration shops. Under the pressure created by such consumer organisations to protect the rights of the consumers, the Indian government introduced the Consumer Protect Act in 1986, popularly known as ‘COPRA’. The right to have information about the quality, potency, quantity, purity, price and standard of goods and services is called consumer right.

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