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March 15 is the National Consumers' Day : Consumer rights awareness

March 15 is the National Consumers
Highlights

Mahatma Gandhi said that customer is the God for the businessman and he gives opportunities to the Trader to serve him. Consumer � trader relation has...

Mahatma Gandhi said that customer is the God for the businessman and he gives opportunities to the Trader to serve him. Consumer � trader relation has grown multi fold with ever increasing population and corresponding rise in need for consumption. In the course of time many Governments realized the need for development of strong consumer policy as the hazard to health in safety of the consumers had grown multi-dimensional.

Each business or trade is endowed with inherent character of profit motive. Earning by means of oneself engaged in business or trade is essential for those who could not secure employment or those who by choice opt for it. However, one element of profit in business has given way to their greed which is the seedling of thought for exploitation of the consumers' helpless plight.

Consumer Organizations across the globe came into existence to fight against the malpractice adopted and unfair trade practice employed by the traders. Ralph Nadar of the USA was courageous enough to fight battle against General Motors. The president of the USA John Kennedy propounded from consumer rights, which had taken shape of bill on 15th March, 1962.

The United Nations keeping in view of imbalance the consumers face in economic terms, educational levels and bargaining power framed guidelines which were expanded in 1999 and 2003 in order to develop strong consumer group to make available the effective consumer grievance redressal.

Roscoe Pound classified interest of a person protected by law into three kinds; private interest, public interest and social interest. Justice is administered in accordance with law. Prolonged litigation counter claim and appeals have led the Government to constitute various tribunals to render swift and inexpensive justice. Various tribunals such as Railway Claims Tribunal, Motor Vehicles Accident Claims Tribunal, Administrative Tribunal etc., have been functioning in consonance with the object of the enactment which created them and so is with Consumer Forum.

Fora created by other piece of legislation are named tribunal when it comes to Consumer Forum, it is made known as Forum rather as tribunal with the predominant intention that it should be more accessible to the consumers than any other tribunal. Fundamental difference between consumer Forum and other Tribunals is that any other tribunal is created to meet the necessity of adjudicating the disputes pertaining to certain section such as employees, travelers, patients where as Consumer Forum is constituted to adjudicate the disputes of several kinds in connection with provisions of banking, finance, transport, entertainment etc.

The purpose of enacting Consumer Protection Act, is to make the consumers aware of their rights and extend all possible assistance to them in fighting against unfair trade practice and in protecting the consumer's interest. Consumer Protection Act has undergone amendments in 1992, 1993 and 2002, each time expanding the scope of protection of the consumers' rights.

Consumers' awareness is propagated by consumer protection councils, consumer organizations and non-governmental organizations. Consumer International an umbrella body of 240 organizations in over 120 countries expanded the character of consumer rights contained in the United States bill to eight consumer rights. Consumer International held three world conferences successively in Latin America and in South Africa. It has focused its attention on its member participation in trade, food and technical standard activities and it has built a powerful movement to help, protect and empower consumers everywhere.

The role and importance of Consumer Protection Councils is made apparent by their inclusion in Chapter-II of Consumer Protection Act, Central Council consists of the Minister In-charge of consumer affairs in Central Government as its chairman and the Minister of State or Deputy Minister in the same department as its Vice Chairman and 33 members.

The State Consumer Protection Council consists of 100 members designated by the State Government. District Consumer Council consists of the District Collector as its chairman and other official and non-official members. The National Commission disposed of 68,812 cases out of 79,473 cases filed since its inception till 31.1.2013 and the Andhra Pradesh State Commission stood first in the country by adjudicating 28,675 cases till 31.12.2012.

It has disposed of 96% of the cases in the prescribed period. The Former President of the State Commission, Justice D. Appa Rao has rendered Yeoman service in swift adjudication of the cases and by making valuable suggestions defining the legal, national and international dimensions of Consumer Protection.

It is saddening to see many consumers in the country are not aware of their rights and enactment of consumer protection Act as also existence of Consumer Protection Councils and Consumer Fora. The illiterate consumers have to be made aware of their rights through media and by conducting consumer rights awareness camps at village and mandal or taluk levels.

Delay in appointment of members in District Fora, State Commission and National Commission can be addressed by amending the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, so that the sitting members would be given extension instead of reappointing them. Number of cases filed in Consumer Forum has to be considered as parameter to determine consumer awareness in the particular district.

I am glad to inaugurate the first Consumer Club in women's college in Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh. I suggest that more consumer clubs at school and college levels should be encouraged as a student being a member of family would broadcast the scope of a consumer activism and any awareness of consumer right protection in a family as a unit would certainly contribute to achieve the purpose of implementation of Consumer Protection Act.

The writer is Member, Andhra Pradesh State Commission, Hyderabad

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