Krishna Mohan KS
In a society that is interdependent, every person purchases either goods or services from traders or service providers almost every day. If those purchases are not directly related to entrepreneurial or business activities, ie. if it is meant for personal, social, family, household and similar needs, the person making the purchase or availing a service becomes a consumer. Groceries, Household goods, Furniture, Consumer Durables, Drugs & Cosmetics, Packaged Foods & Beverages, Jewellery, Petroleum Products and Real estate are some of the products that people purchase while Insurance, Banking, Travel, Hotel, Telecom, Broadband, DTH, Courier, Cargo, Education, Healthcare and digital payments are some of the services. The buying patterns have gradually drifted from compulsive to impulsive with more and more offers provided by Super Bazaars, Malls and Online Stores. There is every possibility that a consumer gets cheated either by innocence or ignorance in some transaction or the other.
In order to shield the consumer from being deceived by the traders and to address the deficiency in service, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India introduced the Consumer Protection Act in 1986. That was to provide 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. Every District had a Consumer forum, at the next level was a State Commission followed by the National Commission. Later, The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), was set up in 1988 as a quasi-judicial commission under the aegis of which the consumer councils operated. With the advent of ecommerce, it became imminent to bring it under the ambit of CPA 2019.
Right to Safety, Right to be informed, Right to Choose, Right to be heard, Right to Redressal and the Right to Consumer Education are the six Consumer Rights guaranteed by the Consumer Protection Act. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution has provided a National Consumer Helpline (NCH) with a toll free number 1800114000 OR 14404 which works on all days except National Holidays from 09:30 AM to 05:30 PM. The website https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/ also provides a chat facility for consumers to discuss their problems.
The Integrated Grievance Redress Mechanism (INGRAM) portal was launched for bringing all Stakeholders such as Consumers, Central and State Government Agencies, Private Companies, Regulators, Ombudsmen and call centres etc. onto a single platform. The portal also helps in creating awareness among consumers to protect their rights and inform them of their responsibilities. Consumers can also register their grievances online through this portal. Grievances on Misleading Advertisements can be filed online through https://gama.gov.in/
Consumer empowerment has been done by the government through various laws, rules and regulations. But it is the duty of the consumer to be aware of these provisions, stay alert and assertive while making any purchase or utilising any service. ConfoNet (Computerization and Computer Networking of Consumer Forums in Country) is yet another initiative by the government. The portal https://confonet.nic.in/ caters to a wide range of beneficiaries with disparate needs and requirements including Consumers, Consumer Activists and NGOs, Members of Consumer Fourms, Bar Councils and Advocates. ConfoNet aims at improving operational efficiency, co-ordination, accessibility, speed in judicial administration and to set Information Communication Technology (ICT) Infrastructure at Consumer Redressal forums all over India.
The latest feather in the cap of Consumer Empowerment is the provision for e-filing of cases through the https://edaakhil.nic.in/ .
Be an Assertive Consumer
For a consumer to be empowered and to assert the rights, the consumer must first ensure the quality and quantity of the goods being purchased, check the dates of manufacture and validity, know the maximum retail price and discounts, collect bills and warranty certificates, understand the terms of agreement and scope of services before availing services from service providers and above all, make it a habit of preserving
The latest feather in the cap of all the documents. A consumer should never hesitate to raise the voice in assertion against any trader or service provider when cheated.
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