consumer advocacy & the 8 consumer rights

Report
CONSUMER ADVOCACY
&
THE 8 CONSUMER RIGHTS
Adv. Shirish V. Deshpande
Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP - India)
The 8 Consumer Rights
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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
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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 Mark
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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
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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
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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 Needs
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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 selfhelp, 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
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Business and Industry are often seen trampling the consumer’s Right to
Safety.
Multi-national Pharma giant Glaxo (India) was caught for re-cycling substandards 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
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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
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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
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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 Redressal
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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
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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
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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
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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
Presented by:
Adv. Shirish Deshpande,
Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, India

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