Consumers in the developed countries such as the USA and UK are much more conscious of their rights. But in countries such as India consumers are quite a vulnerable lot due to their poverty, illiteracy and lack of awareness of legal rights. As a result, manufacturers and suppliers of goods and services generally exploit the consumers by adopting unfair and restrictive trade practices.
However, consumer awareness is constantly increasing in India too and the consumers who have been deceived or exploited are increasingly approaching the consumer forums or councils set up by the government for redressal of their complaints and settlement of their claims for damages.
The following are the important consumer rights:
The Right to be heard:
The consumer has the right to be heard if he has any complaint or grievance regarding the good or service received. This implies that consumers’ complaints and grievances must receive due attention and consideration at an appropriate forum.
The Right to safety:
The consumers are entitled to protection of their health and safety from the goods and services they buy. They should not be supplied goods or services which are hazardous to their health and safety.
The Right against exploitation:
This covers right to protection from unfair trade practices and unscrupulous exploitation of consumers by charging excessive prices by suppliers of goods or services.
The Right to be informed:
This implies that consumers should be given correct and full information about the quality of goods that they buy. They should be provided information about the ingredients of the product, freshness of the product, any side effects that may occur as a result of consumption of a commodity. This right applies especially to the drug manufacturers and suppliers.
The Right to choose:
This implies that consumers should be provided a variety of products from which they can make a choice of their liking. The opportunity to choose from limited options restricts their right to choose.
The Right to get redress:
This implies that consumers’ complaints and grievances about the products and services supplied to them must be redressed. That is, they should not only be heard but their complaints must be redressed and compensated adequately.
In India, the Consumer Protection Act 1986 was passed which was later amended in 2002, wherein most of the consumer rights have been provided and mechanism for redressal of their complaints have been put in place.