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CONSUMER ADVOCACY & THE 8 CONSUMER RIGHTS. Adv. Shirish V. Deshpande Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP - India). The 8 Consumer Rights. Right to Satisfaction of Basic Needs, Right to Safety Right to Information Right to Choose Right to Redressal Right to be Heard

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consumer advocacy the 8 consumer rights

CONSUMER ADVOCACY & THE 8 CONSUMER RIGHTS

Adv. Shirish V. Deshpande

Chairman, Mumbai GrahakPanchayat (MGP - India)

the 8 consumer rights
The 8 Consumer Rights
  • Right to Satisfaction of Basic Needs,
  • Right to Safety
  • Right to Information
  • Right to Choose
  • Right to Redressal
  • Right to be Heard
  • Right to Consumer Education
  • Right to Healthy Environment
consumer rights as bench mark
Consumer Rights as Bench Mark
  • 8 Rights served as Bench mark for protecting and promoting consumer interest against:
    • Unethical & abusive business practices adopted by powerful business houses,
    • Unscrupulous methods adopted by traders,
    • False & misleading claims by advertisers
    • Inaction and apathy of all-powerful governments.
consumer rights as bench mark1
Consumer Rights as Bench Mark
  • Consumer Rights are not ornamental.
  • They need to be codified in statute so that they have a legal sanctity and then can be enforced effectively.
  • Consumer groups have to be watch-dogs to detect any violation of consumer rights.
  • Assertion of consumer rights and protesting against violation of consumer rights are two major planks of Consumer advocacy.
consumer rights
Consumer Rights
  • The 8 Consumer Rights need to be implemented, asserted and exercised at all levels.
  • Consumer groups have a major responsibility on this front.
  • Let us have a quick look at how these 8 rights of the consumers were asserted and established from time to time in India.
right to satisfaction of basic needs
RIGHT TO SATISFACTION OF BASIC NEEDS
  • Central and State Governments through Public Distribution System (PDS) provide essential commodities like rice, wheat, sugar at highly subsidized rates to consumers below poverty line and just above poverty line.
  • Lot of malpractices in operation of this system. Items supplied are often diverted in open market for sale at higher prices and poor consumers get adulterated and sub-standard food items.
right to satisfaction of basic needs1
Right to Satisfaction of Basic Needs
  • Consumer groups have a definite role to play to ensure that this right is meaningfully enjoyed by economically weaker consumers by ensuring efficient operation of PDS.
  • MGP operates a unique Distribution Model based on “Collective Buying” by organizing consumers in “Buying Groups” and supplies them essential commodities (grocery) on “No Loss No Profit” basis. Largely based on voluntary efforts and self-help, the members save 15 to 20 % in their monthly grocery bills.
  • This MGP model has been acclaimed as Role Model for sustainable consumption by UN Commission on Sustainable Development and Norwegian Environment Ministry .
  • MGP has recently launched its Distribution System for Economically Weaker Section.
right to safety
Right to Safety
  • Business and Industry are often seen trampling the consumer’s Right to Safety.
  • Multi-national Pharma giant Glaxo (India) was caught for re-cycling sub-standards drugs (Betnesol) in Indian markets.
  • MGP vigorously pursued the case with FDA authorities.
  • An honest and fearless FDA Commissioner investigated the matter, found Glaxo guilty of violating various safety norms.
  • Ordered 10- day closure of all three Glaxo factories in India.
  • Glaxo’s legal challenge in High Court also failed and Consumers’ Right to Safety was upheld.
  • Glaxo had to close its factories for 10 days for trampling consumers’ Right to Safety.
right to information
Right to Information
  • In 1994, MGP asserted consumers’ Right to Information through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against US based Enron Power Company.
  • Enron had refused to show to MGP their proposed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Government of Maharashtra stating that it was a “complicated & confidential” document.
  • MGP relied on consumers’ Right to Information included in the Consumer Protection Act based on UNGCP and thus High Court directed Enron Company to give access to their PPA.
right to choice
Right to Choice
  • In June 2009, monopoly power distributor ‘Reliance’ was allowed a steep increase in its power tariff by the regulator.
  • MGP used all possible legal provisions and called upon the consumers to exercise their Right to Choice and switch over to another power distributor “Tata Power” who was in a position to offer power at much cheaper tariff.
  • MGP launched a massive campaign “Say TATA to Reliance”. (In Indian language ‘Tata’ also means ‘Good-bye’).
  • As thousands of consumers came out to support this campaign, MGP prevailed upon the Regulator to immediately work out modalities for switching over from Reliance to Tata.
  • So far 142,000 consumers have shifted from Reliance to Tata and every day about 800 consumers are still shifting to Tata Power.
  • Monopoly in the power sector abolished for the first time. Paved way for fair competition in the power sector.
right to redressal
Right to Redressal
  • MGP filed a Complaint against a Scooter company LML before National Consumer Commission and obtained refund of scooter deposits with penal interest, for more than 400,000 consumers aggregating to more than Rs 40 million.
  • This case also resulted in Parliament amending the CPA and further allowing a single consumer to espouse the cause of several unknown consumers. This is a further vindication of consumers’ Right to Redressal.
  • Even Supreme Court of India has taken due cognizance of UN Guidelines for consumer Protection in several important cases and urged the lower courts and Consumer Forums/Commissions to interpret the provisions of the CPA in a liberal manner to achieve the objective of “better protection” of consumers.
right to redressal1
Right to Redressal
  • Notwithstanding all these positive achievements, the Government apathy and indifference has led to long delays in disposal of consumer complaints in major cities of India. Strong and joint consumer advocacy by various consumer groups in India is a need of the hour to ensure speedy and effective implementation of the CPA.
right to be heard
Right to be Heard
  • In India, thanks to strong consumer advocacy and pressure by various consumer groups, Consumers’ Right to be Heard is not only accepted but also implemented by the Central & State Governments.
  • As a result, consumer groups are given representation at various Regulatory Authorities in the field of power, telecom, insurance, transport, housing, etc.
  • In fact, now it is a challenge before the consumer groups to ensure able, persuasive and effective representation of the consumers before these Regulatory authorities.
right to consumer education
Right to Consumer Education
  • Most of the consumer groups in India are actively pursing the consumer awareness programmes through various ways.
  • Government of India itself has been actively promoting the awareness programmes among consumers through mass advertising on TV and Radio.
  • Consumer Groups like MGP and many others have been setting up Consumer Clubs in schools to create awareness among young consumers.
  • Government gives special grants for promoting consumer awareness among young consumers, disadvantaged consumers, rural consumers etc.
right to healthy environment
Right to Healthy Environment
  • India has a separate Environment Protection Act
  • Thanks to strong advocacy by consumer groups and environment groups, there is a widespread awareness among consumers for protection of environment and sustainable lifestyle.
  • Indian media playing a very positive and supportive role.
  • Even Indian judiciary has shown adequate sensitivity on environmental issues
  • Supreme Court of India has laid down several guidelines for the governmental authorities & private industries with a view to protect environment and thereby protect consumers.
thank you
Thank You

Presented by:

Adv. Shirish Deshpande,

Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, India