The wake up call for consumers-‘Jago Grahak Jago’ now needs to be tweaked a little to awaken the government instead to the mounting problem of unfair trade practices that encompass a variety of false and deceptive marketing practices.
In recent years, consumer complaints about unfair trade practices have seen a sharp rise in the insurance, banking and telecom sectors. We need a strong base and a foolproof system to combat the exploitation of consumers in the marketplace. In a growth oriented economy, competition among various companies allows the consumer wider choice over the goods. The companies offer lucrative deals to attract consumers. But on the flip side, manipulating companies with huge wealth, power and reach indulge in devious selling practices to stand aloud in the competition of monopoly. At times false information is passed on through media and sources to lure consumers. For instance, a company for years sold powder milk for babies all over the world as the most scientific product claiming to be better than mother’s milk. It took years of struggle before the company was forced to accept that it had been making false claims. Similarly, a long battle had to be fought with court cases to make cigarette manufacturing companies accept that their product could cause cancer. Unless nipped in the bud, such misleading information can strike the consumers hard.
To protect the consumers, a major step taken in 1986 by the Indian Government was the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act, popularly known as the COPRA. Under this, several consumer forums were set up for the redressal of consumer disputes. But the government failed to plug some major loopholes in this system. Consumer courts do not have any power to investigate into cases of unfair and deceptive practices on behalf of consumers. They can only adjudicate over complaints on the basis of the evidence brought before them. As a result, the consumer redressal process is becoming cumbersome, expensive and time consuming.
In a nutshell, the government should pay attention to these major lacunae in the protection of consumers. The consumers too need to be well informed. It should be a voluntary effort and struggle involving the participation of one and all.