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Phenomenon of Consumerism

Written by: Abhishek Vinod Deshmukh-IInd year Student of Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur
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This paper tries to elucidate the nuances involved in the consumerism and its effect on Indian society. It tries to throw some light on benefit gained by peoples in society. The Aim of this paper is to enlighten the reader about the complications of this system with out going into technicalities. In all it is an analysis of consumerism in India. A general attempt has been made to understand this system.

Today, consumer is called the king of the market. He is at the centre stage of all market activities. It is constant endeavour of producers that the production of product must conform to the needs of consumer. In addition to the satisfaction of consumer, it also the endeavour of producer that their sale should be maximum. They, therefore try to increase their sales by all possible means. Some of the means adopted to increase sale are such as to serve both the producers and the consumers. On the other hand, some of the methods adopted to increase the sale are such as to sub serve the interest of producers but the same against the interest of consumer. In other words the consumers are exploited.

The last two decades have witnessed an over expanding interest in CONSUMERISM and which is in a very critic condition. The word CONSUMERISM has to be fully understood in its historical retrospect with reference to the consumer’s position in common law, main areas of regulations, controls on advertising, labelling standards, etc. The word consumer means a person who uses goods and services.

And In our Indian system the consumer has six rights given for his protection from exploitation from the shopkeepers or sellers. Consumer exploitation means mistreatment or cheating with consumer by adulteration, Thagi or in any other unfair form. To prevent consumer from exploitation our governments have passed many Acts from time to time.
Some of them are as follows
1. Drug and Cosmetics Act, 1940
2. Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
3. Essential Commodity (supply) Act, 1955
4. Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969
5. Standard of Weights and Measures Act, 1976
6. Consumer Protection Act, 1986

Consumer / Customer

Defining Consumer:
According to oxford advanced learner’s dictionary the word consumer means “A purchaser of goods or uses services”. And In Black’s Law Dictionary, it is explained to mean ‘one who consume individuals, who consume, individuals who purchase, use, maintain, and dispose of products and services’. A member of that broad class of people, who are affected by pricing politics, financing practices, quality of goods and services, credit reporting, debt collection and other trade practices for which state and federal consumer protection laws are enacted. But the definition of the term ‘consumer’ given in clause (d) of section 2(1) of the Act is comprehensive one so as to cover not only consumer of goods but also consumer of services.

The definition is wide enough to include in consumer that only the person who buys any goods for consideration but also any uses of such goods with the approval of the buyer. Similarly, it covers any person who hires or avails of any services for consideration and also includes any beneficiary of such services, when availed with the approval of the hirer. Thus, any user of goods or any beneficiary of services, other than the actual Buyer or hirer is a consumer for the purpose of the Act. And he is competent to make a complaint before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forums under the Act. The Act aims to protect the economic interest of a consumer as understood in commercial sense as a purchaser of goods and in the larger sense of user and service . The important characteristic of ‘goods’ and ‘service’ under the Act is that such goods are supplied at a price to cover the costs, which consequently result in profit or income to the seller of goods or provider of service . It includes anyone who consumes goods or services at the end of the chain of production.

User of Goods

The definition of ‘consumer’ given in the Act makes it clear that it includes not only the person who buys any goods for consideration but also any user of such goods when such use is made with the approval of the buyer. This was necessary because the goods purchased by a buyer are most likely to be used by his family members, relatives, and friends. Under the general principles of the Law of contract, such user of goods is not entitled to sue the supplier or trader of such goods on the ground of ‘privity of contract’. The rule of ‘privity of contract’ provides that only parties to the contract can sue and not a stranger . Thus a third person who is not a party to the contract cannot sue. But now under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, any user of goods with the approval of the buyer may make a complaint even though he is not a party to the contract for purchase of those goods.

Consumer of Goods

Under sub-clause (i) of section 2 (i) (d) a consumer for the purpose of goods means any person, who-
(a) Buys any goods for consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, and
(b) Includes any user of such goods other than the person who buys them, when such use is made with the approval of the buyer, but
(c) Does not include a person who obtains such goods for resale or for any commercial purpose. Commercial purpose does not include use by a person of goods bought and used by him exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood by means of self-employment.

The above provision reveals that a person claiming himself as ‘consumer’ should satisfy that –
(1) There must be a sale transaction between the seller and the buyer
(2) The sale must be of goods
(3) The buying of goods must be for consideration
(4) The consideration has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised or under any system of deferred payment.
(5) The user of the goods may also be a consumer when such use is made with the approval of the buyer.

However, the term ‘consumer’ does not include a person who obtains any goods for resale or for any commercial purpose. It is obvious that the parliament intended to restrict the benefits of the Act to ordinary consumers purchasing goods either for their own consumption or even for use in some small venture which may have embarked upon in order to make a living as distinct from large scale Manufacturing or processing activity carried on for profit. Persons buying goods either for resale or
For use in a large-scale profit making activity will not be ‘consumers’ entitled under the Act.

Consumer of Services

The second category of consumer laid down under the Act is that of hirer or user of services. Under
Sub-clause (ii) of section 2 (1) (d) of the Act, a consumer for the purpose of services means any Person, who-
(a) Hires or avails of any services for consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised or under any system of deferred payment.
(b) Includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hire or avails of them, when such services are availed of with the approval of the hirer, but
(c) Does not include a person who avails of such services for any commercial purpose. Commercial purpose does not include a person of services availed by him exclusively for the purpose of earning his livelihood by means of self-employment.

The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 2002 has excluded from the definition of ‘consumer’ any person who avails of services for commercial purpose. The commercial undertakings which are already excluded from approaching the redressal agencies in respect of defective goods will thus be excluded from seeking relief from such agencies in respect of deficient services as well.

Consumerism (Meaning And Needs)

Consumerism is an organised movement of citizens and government to strengthen the rights and power of buyers in relation to sellers. It is the ideology and a concept which has came to stay in business literature. The consumer is exposed to many hazardous-physical, environmental and exploitation due to unfair trade practices. He needs protection, for instance, against products which are unsafe for consumption such as drugs and adulterated food products and products which may cause badly injury such as defective electrical appliances. He needs protection against mal-practices and deceit by sellers. He should have adequate rights and right of recourse to redressal measures against defaulting businessmen. He needs protected against environmental pollution of air, water and noise and effective measures should be devised to keep the surroundings neat and clean.

Need And Reasons

The need of strong consumerism in our country is on account of the following reasons:

1. In vast country like India, it is very difficult to organise the consumers. The people besides being the backward have linguistic, cultural and religious difference which makes the problems quiet intricate or complex.
2. Majority of our population is illiterate, uneducated, ignorant and ill-informed.
3. Poverty, lack of social awareness, accepting life as it is and passive outlook are some of the factors which make consumer movement difficult to increase.
4. There may not be a positive common objective for the consumers except their desire for safe quality products, for reasonable price and a feeling of strong negative reactions against the products. In wake of large scale production and the variety and choice conferred on the consumers, a consumer needs guidance which can only be appropriately provided by a consumer organisation.
5. The advertisement bombarded on the consumers make them quite confused and hence again a need for consumer guidance

Consumer’s Rights And Responsibilities

Consumer’s Rights
Consumer rights are now an integral part of our lives like a consumerist way of life. They have been well documented and much talked about. We have all made use of them at some point in our daily lives. Market resources and influences are growing by the day and so is the awareness of one's consumer rights. These rights are well-defined and there are agencies like the government, consumer courts and voluntary organisations that work towards safeguarding them. While we all like to know about our rights and make full use of them, consumer responsibility is an area which is still not demarcated. In this chapter, I will give an overview of the 8 consumer rights, their implications and significance for a developing country like India, and also define the various aspects of consumer responsibility.

In the 20th century, the presence and influence of the market grew dramatically in consumer life. We began to purchase things from the market for a price. Soon, mass production and industrial production came into being, giving the consumer world an entirely new dimension. Have you ever wondered how much urban consumers depend on the market for fulfilment of even their basic needs? This over-dependence on the market and the inherent profit motive in mass production and sales has given manufacturers and dealers a good reason to exploit consumers. As a consumer, every one should know how market products are constantly under-weight, of inferior quality and do not prescribe to quality standards specified by quality-control agencies. Consumers not only do not get value for their money but also often have to suffer losses and inconvenience due to market manipulations.

As Under section-6 of Consumer Protection Act, consumer has the following rights:

1. Right to safety: It is Right to safety against such goods and services as are hazards to health, life and property of the consumer. For example, spurious and sub-standard drugs ; appliances made of low quality of raw material, such as, electric press, pressure cooker, etc. and low quality food products like bread, milk, jam, butter etc. Consumers have the right to safety against loss caused by such products.

2. Right to be Informed/ Right to Representation: consumer has also the right that he should be provided all those information on the basis of which he decides to buy goods or services. This information relates to quality, purity, potency, standard, date of manufacture, method of use, etc. of the commodity. Thus, producer is required to provide all these information in a proper manner, so that consumer is not cheated.

3. Right to choose: Consumer has the full right to buy good or services of his choice from among the different goods or services available in the market. In other words, no seller can influence his choice in an unfair manner. If any seller does so, it will be deemed as interference in his right to choice.

4. Right to be Heard: Consumer has the right that his complaint be heard. Under this Right the consumer can file complaint against all those things which prejudicial to his interest. First there rights mentioned above (Right to Safety; Right to be Informed; Right to choose) have relevance only if the consumer has right to file his complaint against them. These days, several large and small organisations have set up Consumer service cells with a view to providing the right to be heard to the consumer. The function of the cell is to hear the complaints of the consumers and to take adequate measures to redress them. Many newspapers like The Economic Times have weekly special columns to entertain the complaints of the consumers.

5. Right to Seek redress: This provides compensation to consumer against unfair trade practice of the seller. For instance, if the quantity and the quality of the product do not confirm to the promise of the seller, the buyer has the right to claim compensation, such as free repair of the product, taking back of the products, changing of the product by the seller.

6. Right to consumer education: Consumer education refers to educate the consumer constantly with regards to their rights. In other words, consumers must be aware of the rights they enjoy against the loss they suffer on account of goods and services purchased by them. Government has taken several measures to educate the consumers. For instance, Ministry of civil supplies publishes a quarterly magazine under the title “Upbhokta Jagran”. Doodarshan telecasts programme tittles “Sanrakshan Upbhokta Ka”.

In addition to this six rights of consumer given by govt. of India, The United Nations organisation also given two rights:

1. Right to Basic Needs: The Basic need means those goods and services which are necessary for the dignified living of people. It includes adequate food, clothing, shelter, energy, sanitation, health, care, education and transportation. All consumers have the right fulfil these basic needs.

2. Right to Healthy Environment: This right provides consumers the protection against environment pollution so that the quality of life enhanced. Not only this, it also gives stress that the need to protect the environment is for future generations as well.

Consumer’s Responsibilities

The consumers have a number of rights regarding the purchase of things, but at the same time they have some responsibilities too. It means that the consumer should keep a few things in mind while purchasing them.

They are as follows:
1. Consumer should exercise his right: Consumers have many rights with regard to the goods and services. They must be aware of their rights while buying. These rights are: Right to safety, Right to be informed, Right to representation, Right to seek redressal, Right to consumer education, etc.

2. Cautious consumer/ Do not buy blindly: The consumers should make full use of their reason while buying things. They should not take the seller’s word as final truth. In other words, while buying consumer must get information regarding the quality, quantity, price, utility etc. of goods and services.

3. Filing complaint for the redressal of genuine grievances: It is the responsibility of a consumer to approach the officer concerned there is some complaint about the goods purchased. A late complaint may find that the period of guarantee/warrantee has lapsed. Sometimes, consumers ignore the deception of businessmen. This tendency encourages corrupt business practices.

4. Consumer must be quality conscious/Do not compromise on quality: The consumers should never compromise on the quality of goods. Therefore, they should not buy inferior stuff out of greed for less prices. If the consumers behave like this, there cannot be any protection for them from any quarter. It is also the responsibility of the consumers only to buy goods with the ISI, Agmark, Woolmark, FPO etc. printed on them. All these symbols indicative of the good quality of the goods.

5. Advertisements often exaggerate/Beware of false advertisement: The seller informs the consumer about their things through the medium of advertisement. The sellers exaggerate the quality of their goods. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the consumers to recognise the truth of advertisement.

6. Do not forget to get Receipt and Guarantee/warrantee card: One should always get a receipt or bill for the things purchased. In case a guarantee/warrantee card is also offered by seller, it should also be taken. In case the goods purchased are of inferior quality or some defects appears and bothers the customers, these documents will be of great help in settling all kinds of dispute with the seller.

7. Do not buy in hurry: The first important responsibility of consumers is that they should not buy in hurry. It means that the consumers should make an estimate of the things they want to buy their along with their quantity required by them. They should also take in consideration the place from where to buy the things.

Role of Different Organizations

Role of Judiciary
In our country judiciary plays a very vital role. On recommendation of the amendment of consumer protection Act in 2000 the consumer protection councils or forums are created at district, state and national level. Under the Act there is a provision of Three-Tier Judiciary to redress the grievances of consumers in a simple, speedy and inexpensive way; namely
1. District Forum at District level
2. State Commission at State level
3. National Commission at National level

1. District Forum: According to consumer protection Act, state governments can set up one or more district forums in each District. There are three members including the presiding officer. Out of this one member must be a lady. They must have a qualification of District Judge and must be appointed by state government. Its main feature is that it can hear cases up to Rs.20 Lacs. Any appeal may go to state commission within 30 days.

2. State Commission: One state commission is appointed by the state government in each state. It also has three members out of which one is a lady member but they must have qualification of High Court Judge and should be appointed by state government. It can hear cases involving sum exceeds Rs.20 Lacs and upto Rs.1 Crore. Any appeal may go to national commission within 30 days.

3. National Commission: It is appointed by central government. It consists of five members out of which one must be a lady member. They must have qualification equivalent to Supreme Court Judge. It has a Jurisdiction to hear complaints amounting more than Rs.1 Crore. Any appeal may go to Supreme Court within 30 days.

Role of Non- Governmental organizations

In addition to government many about 500 non-governmental organizations (N.G.Os) are making efforts in order to safeguard the interest of consumer. These organizations perform the following functions:
1. Accelerating consumer awareness/Educating consumers: The first priority of consumer organization is to accelerate consumer’s awareness towards their rights. To accomplish this task which they have to perform are:
(a) To publish Brochures, Journals.
(b) To arrange seminars, conferences and workshops.
(c) To educate consumers to help themselves.
(d) To provide special education to women about consumerism.
(e) To encourage to follow desirable consumption standards.

3. Filing Suit on Behalf of consumer: Whenever a consumer fails to raise his voice of protect regarding his complaints, these organisations come to his rescue and file a case in the court. By rendering services to consumers, the consumers get a feeling that they are not alone in their fight. They also run voluntary complaints for the guidance of consumers.

4. Helping educational institutions: These organisations tell the educational institutions the way to prepare courses of study keeping in view the interest of consumers.

5. Promoting network of consumer association: Consumer organisations are trying to grow their numbers. They want to cover all regions so that consumers of all regions get benefited by their services.

6. Extending support to government: Consumer organisations by informing government agencies about adulteration, artificiality, inferior quality products etc. This helps government to conduct proceedings in time.

Role of Consumer Coordinating Council

The name of the highest body of consumer Association is consumer coordinating council. This body has started many programmes for consumer protection. The main objectives of this council are:
(a) To establish coordination among consumers for their welfare.
(b) To educate and train activists working for consumer protection.

Role of Press/Media

Whenever there is any revolution or a campaign is run for Public Awareness, News papers and journals play a very significant role. Indian Express is the first for this noble cause . Press takes following steps to make consumer protection campaign a success.
(a) To publish articles
(b) To make available columns
(c) To show live telecasts.
(d) To publish consumer complaints

Role of Education Institutions

The importance of consumer protection is being realised at various levels of education Viz. School, College, University. At school level institutions like C.B.S.E. had prepared syllabus in which central guiding points of consumer protection have been highlighted. Similarly at University level INDIRA GANDHI NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY (IGNOU) has prepared a special course for under graduate and post- graduate students.

Role of Consumer Protection Council

The consumer protection council provides the establishment of a Central Consumer Protection Council by the central government and state Consumer Protection Council by state governments. The main objectives of the councils are:
1. To protect the rights of consumer
2. To promote the rights of consumer

Consumer protection laws are federal and state statutes governing sales and credit practices involving consumer goods. Such statutes prohibit and regulate deceptive or unconscionable advertising and sales practices, product quality, credit financing and reporting, debt collection, leases, and other aspects of consumer transactions.

The goal of consumer protection laws is to place consumers, who are average citizens engaging in business deals such as buying goods or borrowing money, on an even par with companies or citizens who regularly engage in business. Historically, consumer transactions— purchases of goods or services for personal, family, or household use — were presumed fair because it was assumed that buyers and sellers bargained from equal positions. Starting in the 1960s, legislatures began to respond to complaints by consumer advocates that consumers were inherently disadvantaged, particularly when bargaining with large corporations and industries. Several types of agencies and statutes, both state and federal, now work to protect consumers.

We believe the more guidelines are required because there are always two sides of a coin, each instance of Consumer affairs could be easily termed as another ‘Consumer mistreatment’. By the time market forces have time to operate, far too many consumers are dead, maimed, or impoverished. Within a nation-state, national laws may prevent some of this harm, but once national boundaries are crossed, their effectiveness is limited, and consumers can hope for very limited protection, If online trade proliferates and consumer fraud becomes a major problem, nation-states and commercial interests that provide online access are fairly restricted in the action they may take to curb unacceptable and deleterious practices.

Certainly if consumers perceive online commerce as a hazardous place to make purchases, they will not choose this alternative, and a major opportunity for electronic commerce may be forfeited. Consequently, there is strong motivation for reputable business to observe high commercial standards of behaviour.

“Consumer is the king of market, if he is getting exploited than the market will be ruined.”

The author can be reached at: / Print This Article

Also Read:
Consumer the King:
The consumer protection in India is not a post modern thought, it has evolved through centuries. Its roots can be found in Manu Smiriti.

Consumer Protection Act, An analysis of Branch Office:
Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act states: "(2) A complaint shall be instituted in a District Forum within the local limits of whose jurisdiction,"

Product Liability: Who is liable?
Product liability and consumer protection laws both differ from country to country. But the basic reasoning behind this is to deal with the protection and safety of consumer, even if the damage is caused by consumer’s own negligence.

Instances of Disingenuous Advertisements and Consumers:
The sway of advertisements on consumer picking is incontrovertible. And it’s this information that makes it very important that advertisements be fair and truthful.

Consumer Justice In India:
In our day to day life we become consumer through buying goods or services. In the era of science and technology globalization, urbanization and modernization developed rapidly, which resulted into vast competition in market.

The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act:
The year 1986 is a ‘Magna Carta’ in the history of Consumerism. It was this year that witnessed the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act.

Maximum Retail Price:
Under the Weights and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, all packed goods should carry certain essential information on the contents of the package, such as its weight or volume, the name and address of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture.

Consumerism in the Globalize world:
It would be in fitness of the fact to recall the greatest of Arab historians, Ibn Khaldun saying: That in civilization there is a limit that cannot be overstepped.

Consumer Protection Act, 1986 - 2002 Amendments- Laurels and Loopholes:
It would not be an exaggeration to point out that the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is one of the most important legislations that governs the life of every human being in his transactions with the society for availing goods and services provided by others.

Services - Consumer Protection Act:
Consumer is the purpose and most powerful motivating force of production, yet at the same time consumer is equally vulnerable segment of the whole marketing system. Attempts have been made to guard the interest of the consumer.

Analyzing The Consumer Protection (Amend) Bill, 2002:
The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2001 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 26th April 2001. After certain amendments the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2002 was passed by the Rajya Sabha at its sitting held on 11th March, 2002 and was referred to the Lok Sabha.

Phenomenon of Consumerism:
Today, consumer is called the king of the market. He is at the centre stage of all market activities. It is constant endeavour of producers that the production of product must conform to the needs of consumer.

Consumer Protection Act:
An Act to provide for better protection of the interests of consumers and for that purpose to make provision for the establishment of consumer councils and other authorities for the settlement of consum­ers' disputes and for matters connected therewith.

SC Rules Relevant to Consumer Protection Act
In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 145 of the Constitution and all other powers enabling it in this behalf, the Supreme Court hereby makes, with the approval of the President, the following rules further to amend the Su­preme Court Rules, 1966

Rights of a Consumer:
Means right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life and property. The purchased goods and services availed of should not only meet their immediate needs, but also fulfill long term interests. Before purchasing, consumers should insist on the quality of the products as well as.

Commentary on Consumer Protection Act:
The moment a person comes into this would, he starts consum­ing. He needs clothes, milk, oil, soap, water, and many more things and these needs keep taking one form or the other all along his life. Thus we all are consumers in the literal sense of the term.


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