A consumer movement is a movement whose main objective is to provide security to the consumers and provide them with a proper method of redressal in case they are exploited. Each country has its own set of consumer movements, India has witnessed some of the very popular movements in this domain.
The consumer movements emerged as a social force for the protection and empowerment of the consumers in an economy. It also focused on reducing the unfair trade practices that harm the consumers. The origin of the need of consumer’s movement can be traced back to olden times. In Kautilya’s Arthshastra, many references are cited which indicate the need for the protecting consumers from the malpractices in trade. These malpractices included underweight, adulteration etc. However, a properly organized movement did not start until the 1960s. A major step taken by the government of India is the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act 1986. The Consumer Protection Act 1986 is an Act of Parliament to protect the consumer’s interest. It makes certain separate councils for the consumers, lay down their rights. And if any right is violated, the consumers may file a case in these councils.
A consumer is an important participant for the market and has five rights under the Consumer Protection Act 1986. These are Right to safety, right to choose, right to information, right to be heard, right to seek redressal, right to consumer education, consumer forum, etc.
To solve the issues, it is important that the consumers are made aware of their rights. Only then, any consumer movement can be successful.
A market is a place where goods are bought and sold between the buyer and the seller. It is often seen that the seller is unfair on his part. This makes the consumer a victim of the seller’s misdoings. Defective and substandard products are available all over the market now. Many shops sell duplicate cosmetics; many online businesses sell garments which are different than their advertisements, many chemists are selling fake medicines. All of these prevail when there is an absence of rules and regulations in the market. Rules and regulations are of utmost importance in a marketplace. Without them, the market will be a chaotic place and will harm both the producer and the consumer. The consumer groups can enforce such rules and protect the consumers from a number of malpractices such as:
1. FALSE INFORMATION: At times, false information is passed through social media, advertisement etc. about a particular product. But it is not of the same quality when used in real life. For example, many products of hair care and skin care claim to give the best results.
2. ADULTERATION: The rich traders often adulterate consumer items for their own benefit. For example, items like milk, oil, butter, etc. are adulterated with harmful items, in rural areas.
3. WEAK CONSUMER: Rules are also necessary to protect the consumers who have no knowledge of the different elements of market and are often exploited by the producer.
4. CHARGING ABOVE MRP: Every product has an MRP-Maximum Retail Price. This price is fixed by the government. Often, sellers are seen selling these goods above the MRP. For example, a bottle of juice may be for 45 rupees (MRP), but, the seller is selling it for 49 rupees. The additional 4 rupees will be an illegal profit for the seller.
5. SELLING LOW-QUALITY PRODUCT: A seller may at times sell a low-quality product to the consumer. If the latter does not have proper knowledge, he might buy it and incur a loss. For example, a seller may sell an expired bottle of milk to the consumer and later blame the consumer for not checking the expiry date before purchasing.
These can be solved by creating awareness. The consumers often do not have adequate knowledge. It is, thus, important to establish certain rules, create a place for redressal of their grievances and provide compensation.
It is extremely important for consumer groups to raise voices against malpractices so that they can be stopped, and the interests of everyone can be protected.
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