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Increasing awareness of consumerism

In the 20th century, the presence and the influence of the market grew dramatically in consumer life. We began to purchase things from the market for a price. Soon, mass production and industrial production came into being, giving the consumer world an entirely new dimension.

Consumerism is an organized movement of citizens and government to strengthen the rights and power of buyers in relation to sellers. It is the ideology and a concept which has came to stay in business literature. The consumer is exposed to many hazardous physical and environmental and exploitation due to unfair trade practices.

The need of strong consumerism in our country is on account of the following reasons:

1) Poverty, lack of social awareness, accepting life as it is and passive outlook are some of the factors which make consumer movement difficult to increase.

2) There may not be a positive common objective for the consumers except their desire for safe quality products, for reasonable price and a feeling of strong negative reactions against the products. In wake of large scale production and the variety and choice conferred on the consumers, a consumer needs guidance which can only be appropriately provided by a consumer organisation.

3) The advertisements bombarded on the consumers make them quite confused and hence again a need for consumer guidance.

Consumerís rights and responsibilities

***Consumerís rights

Consumer rights are now an integral part of our lives as ours is a consumerist way of life. They have been well documented and much talked about.. Market resources and influences are growing by the day and so is the awareness of oneís consumer rights.

These rights are well-defined and there are agencies like the government, consumer courts and voluntary organizations that work towards safeguarding them. While we all like to know about our rights and make full use of them, consumer responsibility is an area which is still not demarcated.

The consumer has the following rights:

1. Right to safety:

It is the right to safety against such goods and services as are hazardous to health, life and property of the consumer. For example, spurious and sub-standard drugs ; appliances made of low quality raw material, such as, electric iron, pressure cooker, etc. and low quality food products like bread, milk, jam, butter etc. Consumers have the right to safety against loss caused by such products.

2. Right to be informed / right to representation:

The consumer has also the right that he should be provided all those information on the basis of which he decides to buy goods or services.

This information relates to quality, purity, potency, standard, date of manufacture, method of use, etc. of the commodity. Thus, the producer is required to provide all these information in a proper manner, so that the consumer is not cheated.

3. Right to choose:

Consumer has the full right to buy good or services of his choice from among the different goods or services available in the market. In other words, no seller can influence his choice in an unfair manner. If any seller does so, it will be deemed as interference in his right to choose.

4. Right to be heard:

Consumer has the right that his complaint be heard. Under this right the consumer can file complaint against all those things which prejudicial to his interest. First there rights mentioned above (Right to safety; Right to be informed; Right to choose) have relevance only if the consumer has the right to file his complaint against them.

These days, several large and small organisations have set up consumer service cells with a view to providing the right to be heard to the consumer. The function of the cell is to hear the complaints of the consumers and to take adequate measures to redress them.

5. Right to seek redress:

This provides compensation to consumer against unfair trade practice of the seller.

For instance, if the quantity and the quality of the product do not confirm to the promise of the seller, the buyer has the right to claim compensation, such as free repair of the product or taking back of the products, changing of the product by the seller

6. Right to consumer education:

Consumer education refers to educating the consumer constantly with regards to their rights. In other words, consumers must be aware of the rights they enjoy against the loss they suffer on account of goods and services purchased by them.

7. Right to basic needs :

The basic need means those goods and services which are necessary for the dignified living of people. It includes adequate food, clothing, shelter, energy, sanitation, healthcare, education and transportation. All consumers have the right to fulfil these basic needs.

8. Right to a healthy environment:

This right provides consumers the protection against environmental pollution so that the quality of life is enhanced. Not only this, it also gives stresses that the need to protect the environment for future generations as well.

****Consumerís responsibilities

The consumers have a number of rights regarding the purchase of things, but at the same time they have some responsibilities too. It means that the consumer should keep a few things in mind while purchasing them. They are as follows:

1. Consumer should exercise his right:

Consumers have many rights with regard to the goods and services. They must be aware of their rights while buying. These rights are: Right to safety, Right to be informed, Right to representation, Right to seek redressal, Right to consumer education, etc.

2. Cautious consumer / Do not buy blindly:

The consumers should make full use of their reason while buying things. They should not take the sellerís word as final truth. In other words, while buying consumer must get information regarding the quality, quantity, price, utility etc. of goods and services.

3. Filing complaints for the redressal of genuine grievances:

It is the responsibility of a consumer to approach the officer concerned there is some complaint about the goods purchased. A late complaint may find that the period of guarantee/warrantee has lapsed. Sometimes, consumers ignore the deception of businessmen. This tendency encourages corrupt business practices.

4. Consumer must be quality conscious/Do not compromise on quality:

The consumers should never compromise on the quality of goods. Therefore, they should not buy inferior stuff out of greed for lower prices.

If the consumers behave like this, there cannot be any protection for them from any quarter. It is also the responsibility of the consumers only to buy goods with the ISO, SLS etc., printed on them. All these symbols indicative of the good quality of the goods.

5. Advertisements often exaggerate/Beware of false advertising:

The seller informs the consumer about their things through the medium of advertisement. The sellers exaggerate the quality of their goods. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the consumers to recognise the truth of advertisement.

6. Do not forget to get receipt and guarantee/ warrantee card:

One should always get a receipt or bill for the things purchased. In case a guarantee/warrantee card is also offered by seller, it should also be taken.

In case the goods purchased are of inferior quality or some defects appear and bother the customers, these documents will be of great help in settling all kinds of disputes with the seller.

7. Do not buy in a hurry:

The first important responsibility of consumers is that they should not buy in a hurry. It means that the consumers should make an estimate of the things they want to buy along with the quantity required by them. They should also take into consideration the place from where to buy the things.

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