5 New Consumer Rights Every Family Should Know
Guess what? The next time you receive a defective product, you can raise a complaint and get compensated. This is just one of the 5 new consumer rights for you. Find out what the others are!
By Ashwin Dewan
Trips to the supermarket, online shopping and just about buying new products anywhere, anytime, are part and parcel of any household and day-to-day family life. And as a consumer, you often face various issues when making new purchases or with the quality of products.
And even if you want to raise a complaint against the manufacturer or retailer, the current process in place to file a complaint is tedious, cumbersome and difficult to follow through. Hence, to tackle these issues and more, the Rajya Sabha passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 that seeks to strengthen the rights of consumers. It provides a mechanism for effective redressal of complaints and consumer disputes, regarding defects in products and shortfalls in customer services.
So, now in addition to the existing consumer rights, there are five new rights you get as a consumer. But before we get to the new ones, it’s essential that you get a clear idea of what consumer rights are all about in the first place.
What are consumer rights?
The definition of a consumer right is the ‘right to have information about different aspects of a good or service such as its quality, quantity, potency, purity, price and standard.’
The Consumer Protection Act 1986 describes the consumer right as ‘the right to be protected against marketing of goods and services, which are hazardous to life and property.’
Further, there are other laws in India that can come to a consumer’s rescue such as the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954; Drugs (Control) Act, 1950; Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
Consumer rights refer to a body of law that has laid down certain rules that manufacturers and producers of goods must follow to protect the customers from any harm or distress. And, it is important for every consumer to know these rights.
The existing consumer rights
According to the department of consumer affairs, India, the current consumer rights are:
- Right to safety: Consumers have the right to insist on the quality and safety aspects of the products they wish to purchase. They have the right to know that it comes with a guarantee. This becomes particularly important in cases when the products or services can be hazardous to life such as electronic goods or gas cylinders. It is advisable to buy products that come with quality marks such as ISI, AGMARK, etc.
- Right to information: Every consumer has the right to be fully informed about the performance and quality of the goods and services they opt for. You can insist on getting all the information about the product or service before making a buying decision. You have the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or service so as to stay protected from any unfair practices.
- Right to choose: As a consumer you have the right to choose the goods or services that you wish to buy based on your needs and criteria, and not be forced to buy from one particular brand by the retailer or anyone. The right to choose also implies an assurance of availability and access to a range of product/service choices at competitive pricing.
- Right to be heard: Consumers have the right to an assurance that the government will take notice of the concerns of the consumers and, in turn, protect those interests or address these concerns through administrative regulations and decision-making processes.
- Right to seek redressal: The right constitutes to seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices; or in the event of exploitation/infringement of the consumers’ rights. This right addresses the consumer’s issue through compensation in the form of money or replacement of goods or repair of defective product.
- Right to consumer education: Through this right, every Indian citizen, both literate and illiterate, has the right to education on matters regarding consumer protection, to safeguard themselves from unfair practices and know how to take appropriate action.
Each of these rights are well-defined with various agencies like the government, consumer courts and several voluntary organisations working towards safeguarding them. Despite these, there were several other grey areas that the consumers felt required attention. And hence these were addressed with the addition of the five new consumer rights.
The 5 New Rights For Every Consumer
- Right to file a complaint from anywhere: According to this new right, consumers can now file a complaint with the District Consumer Commission or State Consumer Commission from anywhere, home, office or while on a weekend trip. Presently, the consumers are required to file a case only at the place where the product was purchased or where the seller of the product has his registered office. The consumer affairs ministry will now frame rules for electronic filing of complaints and specify norms for paying the required fee digitally. This will reduce harassment of consumers to a great extent.
- Right to seek compensation under product liability: Any complainant can file a case against the manufacturer or seller of a product for any loss caused to the complainant on account of a defective product, which applies to all services. If there is a manufacturing defect or the product in question does not conform to the express warranty the manufacturer or the seller will be held liable. This provision brings e-commerce under its ambit.
- Right to protect consumers as a class: If you have a complaint that relates to violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices or misleading advertisements that are prejudicial to the interests of consumers as a class, you can do two things. Forward the complaint in writing or in electronic mode to district collector or the commissioner of regional office or the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) for class action.
- Right to seek a hearing using video conferencing: According to this, any complaint will be presented before the district commission based on an affidavit and documentary evidence placed before it. If an application has been forwarded by a consumer for hearing through video conference, the commission can allow for this provision.
- Right to know why a complaint was rejected: No commission can reject a complaint without hearing the complainant. The commission, in fact, must decide about admitting or rejecting a complaint within 21 days, by which if it is not decided then the complaint is deemed as having been admitted.
NOTE: In an incredible move, the new consumer rights put heavy pressure on brands to revisit their misleading advertising gimmicks and ensure they present authentic information about their products/services. It also urges them to perform quality checks of products to ensure they are not faulty or defective. Further, the new regulations lays out penalties for celebrities and popular personalities who endorse brands that promote false information or adulterated items.
Although, there are still some doubts regarding areas like healthcare and the presence of too many regulators, this is a step in the right direction for consumers who spend their hard-earned money on buying varied products and availing services.
About the author:
Written by Ashwin Dewan on 8 August 2019.
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