March 15th is observed as World Consumer Rights Day in order to raise global awareness about consumer rights and needs. Celebrating the day is a chance to demand that rights of all consumers are respected and protected, and to protest against market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights. Consumer rights are now an integral part of our lives. As a consumer, one should know how market products are constantly under-weight, of inferior quality and do not prescribe to quality standards specified by quality-control agencies. Today the consumer choice is influenced by mass advertising and other promotional devices which make people want things which neither they really need nor they can afford. Consumers not only get value for their money but also often have to suffer losses and inconvenience due to market manipulations. The Consumer protection law applies to the goods and services we buy every day, from grocery items and whitegoods, to vehicle repairs and hairdressing services. Consumers are legally entitled to refund, repair, replacement or repeat service, if there is a problem with any goods or services they buy. In our country, buyers have a very weak bargaining power and cannot assert their right of being heard. Consequently, manufacturers and traders are tempted to follow diverse practices which turn out to be unfair to consumers.Consumers therefore have an important role to play in persuading food companies and butchers to make the changes that are needed to stop global public health threat for prudent use of antibiotics and protect drugs for the future. Mahatma Gandhi had said, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work – he is the purpose of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him.” India is one of the few countries in the world, which has exclusive courts for consumer grievances redressal and is known for the rapid development of its consumers’ movement. World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is a fantastic annual celebration that unites consumers around the world. In fact the original Consumer Protection Act, 1986, was meant to ensure that the consumers themselves argue their cases in a friendly atmosphere but the experience has been different. One must remember that businesses can’t refuse to help, nor simply refer consumers to the manufacturer. There are many businesses do, as a matter of goodwill, give refunds and exchanges even when legally they don’t have to, so consumers should make a habit of checking a store’s refund policy before purchasing. “The law helps those who help themselves.” Hence consumerism is necessary. Self-regulation by business will minimise the need for extensive Government intervention. In order to check the onslaught on consumers, a host of legislations are implemented by the government. These include Sale of Goods Act, 1930; Essential Commodities Act, 1955; Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954; Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980; Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1956; Agricultural Products and Grading and Marketing Act (AGMARK), 1937; Indian Standards Bureau Certification Act, 1952; MRTP Act, 1969 etc. Despite various check and balances put in place by various institutions, we still have crimes. The only way to stem the cases arising from newer forms of technology is through consumer education. Consumers need to understand the new technology, which is must at present hour.Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
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