Consumers are said to be the king in a free market economy, The earlier approach of Caveat Emptor which means ‘Let the buyer beware’ has now changed to Caveat Venditor which means ‘Let the seller beware’.
With growing competition and increased sales and market share, manufacturers and service providers are engaged in unhealthy, exploitative and unfair trade practices. This means that a consumer might be exposed to risk due to unsafe products, misleading advertisements etc. Thus, there is a need for providing adequate protection to consumers against such practices of the sellers.
What is consumer protection
Consumer protection refers to ‘the protection of physical, economic and other interest of the consumers from exploitation by the business community’. The consumers are being protected by restricting the mall practices through legislature and other measures.
Importance of consumer protection
Consumer protection has a wide agenda. It not only includes educating consumers about their and responsibility but also helps in getting grievances redressed.
Consumer protection has a special significance to both consumers and business persons.
From the view of consumers.
The importance of consumer protection from the view of consumers are,
1. Consumer Ignorance
There is a widespread ignorance of consumers about their rights and reliefs available to them, it becomes necessary to educate them about it to achieve consumer awareness.
2. Unorganized consumers
Consumers need to be organized in the form of consumer organizations which would take care of their interest. In India, there are many consumer organizations which are working in this direction, adequate protection is required to be given to consumers till these organizations become powerful enough to protect and promote the interest of consumers.
3. Widespread exploitation of consumers
Consumers might be exploited by unscrupulous, exploitative and unfair trade practices like defective and unsafe products’ adulteration, false and misleading advertising, hoarding, black marketing etc.
From the point of view of business community
A business must also lay emphasis on protecting the consumers and adequately satisfying them because of the following,
1. Long term interest of business
Modern business realizes that it is in their long term interest to satisfy their customers. Satisfied customers not only lead to repeat sales but also provide good feedback to prospective customers and thus helps in increasing the customer base of business.
Thus, business firms should aim at long term profit maximization through customer satisfaction.
2. Business uses society resources
Business organizations use resources which belong to the society. Thus, they have the responsibility to supply such products and render such services which are in public interest and would not damage public conscience in them.
3. Social responsibility
A business has social responsibilities towards various interest groups. Business organizations make money by selling goods and providing services to consumers. So it is important to look after the society to protect their business.
4. Moral justification
It is the moral duty of any business to take care of consumers’ interest and avoid any form of their exploitative action. Thus, a business must avoid unfair trade practices towards consumers at their interest.
5. Government intervention
A business engaging in any form of exploitative trade practices would invite government action. This can damage the company’s image and reputation. Thus, it is advisable that business companies voluntarily follow such practices where a consumer’s needs and interest will well be taken care of.
Legal protection to consumers
The Indian legal framework consists of a number of regulations which provide protection to consumers. The legal protections are,
- The Consumer Protection Act -1986
- The Indian Contract Act -1872
- The Sale of Goods Act -1930
- The Essential Commodities Act -1955
- The Agricultural Produce Grading and Marketing Act -1937
- The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act -1954
- The Standards of Weights and Measures Act -1954
- The Trademark Act -1999
- The Competition Act -2002
- The Bureau of Indian Standards Act -1986
The consumer protection act provides for six rights of consumers such as,
1. Right to safety
The consumer has a right to be protected against goods and services which are hazardous to life and health. Products which are manufactured with substandard products or do not conform to safety norms might cause serious injury. Thus, consumers are educated to use products with safety assurance such as ISI mark etc.
2. Right to be informed
The consumer have right to have complete information about the products, he intends to buy including its ingredients date of manufacture, price, quantity and direction for use etc
3. Right to choose
The consumer has the freedom to choose from a variety of products at competitive prices. This implies that the marketers should offer a wide variety of products in terms of quality brand, prices, size etc and allow the consumer to make a choice from amongst these.
4. Right to be heard
Consumers have a right to file a complaint and to be heard in case of dissatisfaction with a good or service. It is because of this reason that many modern business firms have set up their own consumer services and grievance cells. Many consumer organizations are also working towards this direction and helping consumers in redressal of their grievance.
5. Right to seek redressal
The consumer has a right to get relief in case the product and services fall short of his expectations. The consumer protection act provides a number of reliefs to the consumers including replacement of goods, compensation paid for any loss or injury suffered by the consumer etc.
6. Right to consumer education
The consumer has a right to acquire knowledge and to be a well-informed consumer throughout life. He should be aware about his rights and reliefs available to him in case of products or services falling short of his expectations.
Who can file a complaint
- Any consumer can file a complaint on his own or her own and does not require the services of advocate or professionals.
- Any registered consumer association. The central government or any state government.
- One or more consumers on behalf of numerous consumers having the same interest.
- A complaint under sec-2(B) of the consumer protection act 1986.
After all it’s the responsibility of the business community to look after the consumer rights, safety and interest for a long term functioning of the company so that the company does not drop its increasing consumers. The associations of trade, commerce and business like Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce of India(FICCI) and Consideration of Indian Industries(CII) have laid down their code of conduct for their members, the guidelines in their dealings with the customers. So for every health working of a company to require to follow every code of conduct against the consumers. Consumers are the base of working of a company so it is nearly very important to maintain their protection in every possible way in its scope of working.