Do you know that you have the right to seek redressal for a faulty product or sub-standard service? Parents can ensure that they are not duped of their money, by being aware of their consumer rights
By Sahana Charan
When Nikhil Bhat brought a packet of cake from a neighbourhood store for his five-year-old son, he had not expected the worst. The child fell ill after eating the stale cake, as it was not stored under the right conditions. The father rushed the child to the doctor but was not aware that he could have filed a consumer complaint against the store.
In another instance, an airline recently lost a passenger’s bag due to negligence and was ordered to pay a hefty compensation to the aggrieved, after she filed a complaint with the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum.
Have you ever faced a situation where you bought a product that did not live up to the standards it was supposed to or paid more than it was worth? Sometimes, consumers may get a raw deal and suffer consequences because of a defective product/service or not reading the fine print in the labels. That is why, it is imperative that every consumer should know his basic right.
The rights of the consumer in India are governed by the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. There are other laws in India that can come to the consumer’s rescue – the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954; Drugs (Control) Act, 1950; Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
“In India, there are fast-track courts created under the consumer law for redress of your grievance and these are present at the district, state and national level,” says Nitesh Singh, a Delhi-based lawyer and partner at Patrons Legal.
Here are 10 things about consumer rights parents must be aware of:
1. Adulterated food/food with misleading labeling – If a consumer unknowingly buys a substandard food product, which may cause an adverse reaction, he can approach the manufacturer for a refund or compensation for the damage caused. In the case of unpacked goods, the entire chain which includes the manufacturer, distributor, middleman etc., are liable for penalty. The consumer may seek redressal from the District Consumer Forum under the Consumer Protection Act or the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. For a faster remedy, the consumer can also file a criminal complaint under specific IPC sections or approach the food inspector under whose jurisdiction his area falls.
2. Overcharging of Maximum Retail Price (MRP) – Many malls, restaurants and entertainment centres charge high prices on packaged goods, which may be more than the stipulated price. If a shopkeeper or hotel/restaurant charges more than actual price of a product, the consumer can file a complaint against them and the manufacturer under the law, based on the bill given to her and the MRP printed on the product.
3. Adulterated/expired medication – Often, we buy medicines from a pharmacist and forget to check the expiry date of the product. Moreover, some medical stores may not have the prescribed medicine and give an alternative one without checking with the doctor. Consumers should check with their doctor before buying an alternative product and always ask for a bill. The store owner is liable for punishment, if he is selling sub-standard or expired products under the Drugs (Control) Act and the Consumer Act.
“If the compensation sought is under Rs.20 lakh, one can approach the District Consumer Forum while for claims between Rs.20 lakhs to Rs. 1 crore, the consumer can seek help from the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. Any claim of more than Rs. 1 crore by the consumer will have to be addressed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission,” adds Nitesh.
4. Sub-standard baby care/personal care products – When you buy a personal care product such as a shampoo or a cream for your little one, make sure it is not past its expiry date. If a product is found to be defective or causes any medical reaction in the baby, the parents can file a criminal complaint or approach the consumer court for redressal.
5. Faulty service of automobiles/electronic goods – How many times have you hankered after a provider whose service is never up to the mark? Or, who causes damage to your car or electronic product by replacing a few parts with sub-standard ones, without your permission? Being a consumer, you have the right to get good service for your money’s worth and can complain to the district consumer forum against faulty service.
6. Defects in housing – You have finalised your dream home and are eagerly waiting occupy it. But the builder invariably delays in handing over the property. Moreover, when you get possession, you realise that the material used is sub-standard and could cause harm to you and your family. What do you do? Seek help under consumer law. If the property is worth more than Rs 1 crore, you have the right to seek redressal from the National Commission and simultaneously file a criminal complaint against the builder.
7. Bad service by banks – It has become a norm for banks to levy charges on any small thing, be it delay in payment of loans, non-maintenance of minimum balance, delay in payment of credit card dues and so on. Have you checked whether you are liable for such payments? According to legal experts, you can get redressal under the Consumer Protection Act, if a bank is charging various fees indiscriminately.
8. Negligence by hospitals/diagnostic centres – Often, we hear about cases, wherein a patient has suffered injury or lost his life because of medical negligence. If you or members of your family are at the receiving end of hospitals or doctors, do not hesitate to ask for compensation under consumer law. You can also file a criminal complaint in the nearest police station or approach the Medical Council of India with your grievance.
9. Faulty communication services – Mobile telephony and data service providers are liable for punishment and penalty if they provide faulty service, do not pay heed to complaints or overcharge the consumer.
10. Online shopping – Sometimes a product bought from an online store can turn out to be defective or not worth the amount paid for it. Even though online retail is not covered under the Consumer Protection Act, you can still file a complaint in the consumer forum about a faulty product purchased online. The Government has made provisions under the Information Technology Act and the Indian Evidence Act to redress such cases.
“Under the consumer forum, the onus of collecting evidence against the seller or service provider falls on the consumer, which can delay the process. So, the consumer can simultaneously file a criminal complaint against the wrong-doer under certain sections in the IPC, which may speed up the redressal,” says Nitesh.
There are various occasions when you can file a complaint with the appropriate authority when your consumer right is violated. These could be –
Food certification – The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been set up to lay down standards and regulate manufacture and sale of various food products. According to the FSSAI website, a consumer has the right to get complain and seek redressal for a bad food product he has purchased. If a consumer feels that a FSSAI certified product is making false claims, he can get it analysed by the authority and if the product is found to be adulterated/contaminated/wrongly branded, he will get a refund.
ISI certification -- Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is a certification body under the Consumer Affairs department that gives the ISI quality certification for various products. A consumer can lodge a complaint with the Bureau regarding quality of BIS certified products, hallmarked products, unauthorised use of BIS standard mark, false/misleading advertisements and claims by licensees/applicants/non-licensees, according to the Bureau website.
As parents, we should be aware of our rights as a consumer and fight for them, so that we can ensure a good quality of life for us and our families.
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