Home CATEGORIES Business Ethics & Philanthropy Upholding Consumer Rights in India: Complicated, Uncomplicated or In-between? 

Upholding Consumer Rights in India: Complicated, Uncomplicated or In-between? 

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On World Consumer Right Day we delve into three case studies to understand the workings of consumer rights and redressal in India.

Every year on March 15th, the world celebrates World Consumer Rights Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about consumer rights and advocating for fair practices in the marketplace. In India, this day holds significant importance as it serves as a reminder of the essential rights bestowed upon every consumer and the ongoing efforts to protect and uphold these rights.

The Essence of World Consumer Day

World Consumer Rights Day traces its origins back to March 15, 1962, when President John F. Kennedy first addressed the issue of consumer rights. Since then, this day has been observed globally to emphasise the importance of consumer protection and welfare.
In India, where a diverse population engages in various economic activities, the significance of World Consumer Day cannot be overstated. It serves as a platform to educate consumers about their rights, promote responsible consumption, and highlight the need for fair trade practices.

Consumer Rights in India

Consumer rights in India are safeguarded by the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which replaced the earlier Consumer Protection Act of 1986. These rights include:
Right to Safety: Consumers have the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services that are hazardous to health or life.
Right to Information: Consumers have the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard, and price of goods or services.
Right to Choose: Consumers have the right to choose from a variety of goods and services at competitive prices.
Right to be Heard: Consumers have the right to be heard and to seek redressal for grievances regarding the purchase of goods or services.
Right to Redressal: Consumers have the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices.
Right to Consumer Education: Consumers have the right to be educated about their rights and responsibilities as consumers.

Consumer Protection Mechanisms in India

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, strengthened the legal framework for consumer protection in India. It established the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect, and enforce consumer rights. The Act also introduced the concept of product liability, holding manufacturers, sellers, and service providers accountable for defective products or deficient services.
In addition to legislative measures, consumer forums at the district, state, and national levels provide a platform for consumers to seek redressal for their grievances. These forums offer a speedy and cost-effective mechanism for resolving consumer disputes.
Let’s understand the essence of consumer rights in India through three compelling case studies.

Case Study 1: Bournvita vs Revant Himatsingka

Influencer Revant Himatsingka also known as FoodPharmer took to social media to highlight the high sugar content in health drink Bournvita. Explained through the brand’s tagline, “Tayyari Jeet Ki” (Preparation for Victory) positioned in the children’s health drink category, ironically has extremely high sugar content. On which the influencer suggested a more apt tagline change to, “Tayyari Diabetes Ki” (Preparation for Diabetes). This sparked many reactions by netizens and soon the video became viral. The brand got the influencer to take down the video, eventually suspending the account as well. But a group of 8 doctors and nutritionists did further research and validated the influencers claims. Mondelez International, the parent company of Bournvita dismissed the claims as “unscientific”.
Finally the Indian Government’s National Commission For Protection Of Child Right (NCPCR) intervened and asked Bournvita to withdraw their misleading ads or serve fines. This fiasco led Bournvita to reduce the sugar content by 14.4 percent. The Bournvita controversy is a prime example of consumers “Right to Safety” where they have the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services that are hazardous to health or life.

Case Study 2: State Bank of India vs Rajesh Sakre

Tea Vendor Rajesh Sakre had Rs. 20,000 in his State Bank of India account and had withdrawn Rs.10,800. But on his next visit to the ATM he realised that all his money was gone. On asking the bank authorities, he received no satisfactory answer and got blamed instead. Then he went to the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF) and since he couldn’t afford a lawyer he argued the case himself.
The court ruled in his favour and ordered State Bank of India to return the Rs. 9,200 with 6% interest, Rs. 10,000 as compensation for mental anguish caused by the issue and Rs. 2,000 for legal expenses. This case showcases a consumer’s “Right to Redressal” where they have the right to seek redressal against unfair trade practices or restrictive trade practices.

Case Study 3: Pepsi vs Rajesh Rajan

Ahmedabad’s Rajesh Rajan bought the famous aerated drink Pepsi from a local store and found a packet of gutka (tobacco) floating in it. He sent a legal notice to the company immediately and approached a State Consumers Dispute Redressal Forum (CDRF) claiming that there was a deficiency in service that could have caused a health hazard to him. He demanded compensation of ₹5 lakh for the same.
The consumer forum passed an order in favour of Rajesh, asking the company to pay Rs. 4000 for compensation and Rs. 8 for the Pepsi he purchased. He moved the State CDRF and asked for a higher compensation stating that Rs. 4008 was too low as he had spent Rs. 500 for sample testing itself. Finally the commission passed an order asking Pepsi to pay Rs. 20,000 as compensation and Rs. 2000 towards cost, finding Rajesh’s argument reasonable.

Complicated, Uncomplicated or In-between?

To answer the question stated at the beginning, it is complicated to seek redressal for consumer rights in India, since there are many government bodies involved in the ruling of a case. But it is also less complicated since sometimes even taking up to social media can grab the attention of the government and the concerned company. Consumer Rights in India are an in-between process depending on the perseverance of the consumer. Having said that, the growing misleading ads in the country are definitely amounting to stronger actions from individuals and autonomous bodies alike.
On World Consumer Rights Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to protecting and promoting consumer rights in India. By empowering consumers with knowledge, advocating for fair trade practices, and fostering a culture of accountability, we can create a marketplace that is transparent, inclusive, and conducive to the welfare of all stakeholders. Through these case studies, we witness the tangible impact of consumer rights in India striving towards a marketplace where consumer rights are respected, upheld, and celebrated.