My last post about consumer rights invited a lot of debate and criticism. Some of it justified, it is these justified thoughts I will handle in this post.
The last post was only a build up on consumer rights awareness, I had given an example of an experience that we all face with credit cards. I gave a possible solution that, possibly, we are not aware of. Think of it, we are privileged in the sense we have access to useful information something that is not as easy to someone who lives in rural areas. Most of them are not aware of their consumer rights. (Yes, Right to Information Act has not penetrated yet.)
Let’s take a rural example I read in The Telegraph. India is supposedly agriculture-based countries, yet we witnessed a sad phase of farmer suicides in the recent past. Farmers rarely file cases in consumer courts for their defective seeds, fertilizers, or pesticides, but when they do, it is on priority as it is about their livelihood. Justice was delivered to them by consumer courts in 14 long years! No prizes for guessing that they must have withered away long before justice arrived at their doorstep.
Imagine if Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was well known and well exercised, it would have been implemented as a fast and inexpensive method just as it was envisioned, and then it would have made a hell lot of difference to these farmers. The consumer courts have huge backlogs. Recently Supreme Court ordered the consumer court to award 10, 000/- to each complainant to whom justice was not delivered in the stipulated time of 90 days. (To be honest, I don’t think it worked.) I think it is also not working because people who choose to exercise this right are very few. Very few voices are raised and heard on the issue.
Granted farmers are not going to read this blog, but we can perhaps campaign online about speedy priority-based trials on free web sites such as petition online. There have been some individuals who have raised a voice and set a precedent. Someone won a court case that gave way to the judgment that mental agony faced by the consumer needs to be compensated as well. Thank that individual who laid that precedent for others to reap the benefits. We need more such individuals who set such precedents. Complaining/suing may not stop a company to swindle its consumers but they will think twice to do it next time.
For me, awareness about consumer rights is the first step. There will always be need for new laws, but if we don not exercise the existing ones, we would not be sure what we want in new laws to make them succeed. If we complain we are too busy to campaign, I do not think any new law can help and protect our rights as a consumer.
Jaago Grahak Jaago
Last but not least, my friend Ramesh, who being a management graduate has a business perspective in mind, shared his candid perspective on the issue. He argues that awareness about consumer rights could be first step in cure of the consumer maladies but where is the protection to these maladies? Why do companies swindle their consumers in the first place—is it money or resource crunch, or our government policies toward these companies? Click Consumer Issues-Other Perspective to read more about what he wrote.
Though the vocal consumer in me did not agree with his viewpoint, but I was forced to think about it. Perhaps he has a point. Few government rebates to companies that meet consumer satisfaction may result in better consumer service.
But then I read about this documentary called The Whistle Blowers at Hindu. It raised a point as said by the documenatry makers: “Our stand is when they can provide zero-pesticide drinks in Europe, why can’t they do it in India when they have the resources.” I refuse to believe that if these companies would provide pesticide-free water in our country, they would cease to make profits.
Accountability to Consumers?
What do you think? Is it possible to expect accounbtability of the corporates to the consumers?