In-Depth Jobs

Volume-51, 17-29 March, 2018



World Consumer Right's day

Dr. Sheetal Kapoor

A consumer movement refers to the collective power of consumers to take a country forward with respect to awareness, education and development. Consumer movement is a social movement which attempts to improve the quality of living of the people by enhancing the economic well-being and bargaining power of consumers.

According to Philip Kotler, "Consumerism is a social movement and government agencies to improve the buyer's rights and powers in relation to sellers." Consumerism or consumer movement is basically directing the market to be a buyer's market instead of being a sellers' market and empowering the consumers about their consumer rights. The consumer movement exercises a considerable influence on the socio-economic environment of business. In a country like India where there is a high percentage of illiteracy among people, where people are less informed and where critical goods are always in short supply, the Government has a significant role in safeguarding the interests of consumers by promoting a climate of fair competition and preventing exploitation of consumers

History of World Consumers' Rights Day

15th March is observed as the World Consumers' Day in different parts of the World. This day has a historic importance    as it was on this day in 1962, when the Bill for Consumer Rights was moved in the US Congress by john F Kennedy. John F. Kennedy had equated the rights of the ordinary American consumer with national interest. During his speech President John F. Kennedy had remarked: "If a consumer is offered inferior products, if prices are exorbitant, if drugs are unsafe or worthless, if the consumer is unable to choose on an informed basis, then his dollar is wasted, his health and safety may be threatened, and national interest suffers."  It was President Kennedy who declared the consumers' rights for the first time in his message to the American Congress on 15th March 1962 and called for the right to information, the right to choose and the right to be heard as basic rights for consumers.

Later, International Organisation of Consumers' Union presently Consumers International added four more rights, viz, the right to redress, the right to consumer education, the right to healthy environment and the right to basic needs. These rights were incorporated in the United Nation's Charter of Consumer Rights. The United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection are a valuable set of principles that set out the main characteristics of effective consumer protection legislation, enforcement institutions and redress systems.

Furthermore, the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection assist Member States in formulating and enforcing domestic and regional laws, rules and regulations that are suitable to their economic, social and environmental circumstances; they also help promote international enforcement cooperation among Member States and encourage the sharing of experiences in consumer protection.The Guidelines were first adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 39/248 of 16 April 1985, later expanded by the Economic and Social Council in resolution 1999/7 of 26 July 1999, and revised and adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 70/186 of 22 December 2015.The Government of India also recognised these rights and Section 6 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 enshrines six rights of the consumers which include: right to safety, right to information, right to choose, right to be heard, right to seek redressal and right to education.

Recent Developments in Consumer Protection in India

A. The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018: A comprehensive up gradation of the existing Consumer Protection Act, 1986, by way of introduction of a new Bill is currently under consideration of the Parliament, aimed at making the consumer law more effective, functional and purposeful. Salient features of the Bill include:

(a) Establishment of the central consumer protection authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers, to investigate and intervene when necessary to prevent consumer detriment arising from unfair trade practices, and to and take action against misleading advertisements.

(b) Provisions for "product liability" action for or on account of harm caused by or resulting from any product by way fixing laibility the liability of a manufacturer

(c) Provision for "mediation" as an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism which aims at giving legislative basis to resolution of consumer disputes through mediation, thus making the process less cumbersome, simple and quicker. This will be done under the aegis of the consumer fora.

(d) Several provisions aimed at simplifying the consumer dispute adjudication process in the consumer fora are envisaged. These include, among others, enhancing the pecuniary jurisdiction of the consumer disputes redressal agencies, increasing minimum number of members in the consumer fora to facilitate quick disposal of complaints, power to review their own orders by the state and district commission, constitution of 'circuit bench' to facilitate quicker disposal of complaints, reforming the process for the appointment of the president and members of the district fora, enabling provisions for consumers to file complaints electronically and file complaints in consumer fora that have jurisdiction over the place of residence of the complainant, and deemed admissibility of complaints if the question of admissibility is not decided within the specified period of 21 days.

B. Smart Consumer Application: The Government has launched a mobile application "Smart Consumer" to enable the consumer to scan the bar code of the product and get all details of the product such as name of the product, details of manufacturer, year and month of manufacture, net content and consumer care details for making complaint in case of any defect.

C. Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements(GAMA): In its endeavor to address the problem of misleading advertisements, the Government has launched a portal called "Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA)" for registering complaints online. A Consumer can register a complaint along with a copy / video / audio of such advertisement through the web portal.

D. Online Dispute Resolution: An Online Consumer Mediation Centre, established at the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India aims to provide for a state-of-the-art infrastructure for resolving consumer disputes both through physical as well as online mediation through its platform. The center will provide innovative technology for consumers and organisations to manage and resolve conflicts and to propel online mediation as a first choice to resolving consumer disputes. This is an innovative tool that affords consumers better access to justice through quick and easy redressal mechanism and at the same time provide opportunity for businesses to maintain good customer relations.

E. Online Consumer Communities: In association with the Local Circles, a social media platform, the Government has launched a platform 'Online Consumer Communities' for citizens to discuss and opine about governance and daily life issues. Through this, a citizen can get connected with their Government, City, Causes, Neighborhood, Interest, needs and  any other communities they are a            part of.

F. Campaign On Internet Safety: India has currently one of the largest number of internet users. With the rapid increase in digitization across all spheres, the message of internet safety needs to be integrated into the everyday tasks that the consumer undertakes online. Government in association with a Partner Company has initiated a year-long campaign organizing 'Digital Literacy, Safety & Security' workshops to educate users about the challenges of internet safety and security.

G. Consumer Awareness: The Government has been conducting a countrywide multimedia awareness campaign since 2005 on various issues related to consumer rights and responsibilities across diverse subjects. "JagoGrahakJago" [Awake Consumers awake] has today become a household axiom. In order to create awareness among the people living in rural and backward areas, the Government has decided to take part in important fairs/festivals of various states/UTs, in view of the fact that such fairs/festivals draw a large number of people from rural and backward areas.

About RERA Act, 2016

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (RERA) is an Act passed by the Indian Parliament. The RERA seeks to protect the interests of home buyers and also boost investments in the real estate sector. The Government of India enacted the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016 on 26th March 2016 and all its provisions came into effect, from May 1, 2017. The Act has given the Indian real estate industry its first regulator. It is now mandatory for each state and union territory to frame its own regulator and frame the rules that will govern the functioning of the regulator, on the basis of the model rules framed under the Central Act.

For long, home buyers have complained that real estate transactions were lopsided and heavily in favour of the developers. RERA and the government's model code, aim to create a more equitable and fair transaction between the seller and the buyer of properties, especially in the primary market. RERA, it is hoped, will make real estate purchase simpler, by bringing in better accountability and transparency, provided that states do not dilute the provisions and the spirit of the central act.

One of the primary reasons for delay of projects was that funds collected from one project, would invariably be diverted to fund new, different projects. To prevent such a diversion, promoters are now required to park 70% of all project receivables into a separate reserve account. The proceeds of such account can only be used towards land and construction expenses and will be required to be certified by a professional.

How can Consumer's File a Complaint under RERA

Complaints can be filed under Section 31 of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, either with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority or the adjudicating officer. Such complaints may be against promoters, allottees and/or real estate agents. Many state government have laid out the procedures for filing applications under the RERA. The complaint must be in the form prescribed as per the respective state government rules.

The complaint can be filed with respect to a project registered under RERA, within the prescribed time limit, for violation or contravention of provisions of the act or the rules or regulations framed under RERA in the format provided by the respective state government. Buyer need to visit the RERA portal of the respective state government. The fee for filing a complaint under RERA varies from State to State. For example, in Maharashtra the fees is Rs. 5,000 while in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh it is Rs 1,000.

RERA law states that the Regulatory Authority should endeavour to dispose of the complaints within 60 days from the date of filing. However, the Authority can take more time and is only required to record the reasons for not completing the proceeding within the 60-day period. A major benefit for consumers included in the Act is that builders will have to quote prices based on carpet area not super built-up area, while carpet area has been clearly defined in the Act to include usable spaces like kitchen and toilets.

Until 2017, most consumers aggrieved by real estate developers used to file their case under the Consumer Protection   Act, 1986. With RERA the consumers can look forward for expeditious disposal and early resolution of their complaints. For cases pending before any consumer fora, the complainants/ allottees can withdraw the case and approach the authority under the RERA. Thus, as we celebrate the World Consumer Rights Day,RERA and many innovative schemes started  by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs are there to empower the consumers in recent years.

The author is Associate Professor and Convenor Consumer Club Kamala Nehru College
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