25 years on, not many consumers aware of their rights

The Hindu, October 23, 2011

Consumer Protection Act exists since 1986

In the 25th year of enactment of the Consumer Protection Act (COPRA), 1986, in the country, a majority of the population in Rajasthan has not even heard about the law, not to speak of making use of its provisions to protect their rights as consumers.

A recent field research survey indicated that 63 per cent of the people in the State have not heard of the Act. It turned out that in rural Rajasthan 35 per cent of them were unaware of their rights as a consumer. Similarly, almost 42 per cent confessed their ignorance of their responsibilities too. A very small number, 10 per cent, went to any consumer forum seeking redress.

Survey result

The survey was conducted by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), Jaipur, under its ongoing project, “Grassroots reach-out and networking in Rajasthan through consumer action” (GRANIRCA), supported by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in 12 districts of the State.

Though 86 per cent of the respondents indicated knowledge of the general definition of consumer, only 37 per cent had heard about the Act as such. Of this 37 per cent also, only 38 per cent possessed the knowledge of compensation limit in the three tier quasi-judicial system.

General awareness on weights and measures was found to be comparatively better.

As many as 69 per cent checked packed items, their expiry and manufacturing dates, and were sceptical of purchasing the items on which no expiry date was mentioned.

The survey also revealed that products like ghee, edible oil, spices and basic commodities like atta (wheat flour), milk, pulses and even petroleum products are not available to consumers in their purest form.

In the survey, 2,349 consumers belonging to different educational status and socio-economic background from 12 districts were targeted. Seven per cent of the respondents were illiterate, whereas 62 per cent belonged to rural areas. The survey was conducted to gauge the status of consumer in Rajasthan with regard to awareness in the silver jubilee year of the enactment of COPRA, 1986.

With regard to demanding bills after purchasing goods and awareness on MRP, there has been reasonably good awareness. Almost 53 per cent respondents routinely asked for bills and 55 per cent said that they knew about MRP. The respondents were not much aware on the impact of misleading advertisements. Though misguided by such advertisements, 57 per cent people in the past preferred not taking any action.

A majority of 51 per cent were aware of the Government’s anti-adulteration drive, “ Shudh ke liye yudh ”, though 50 per cent of them termed it as only partially successful. In a nutshell, the respondents were not satisfied with the role of the Government in curbing adulteration despite its recent initiatives.

Suspicious quality

The respondents were critical of the quality of sweets, sugar, vegetable and packed/bottled commodities. They were suspicious of the quality of commodities like cement, cosmetics, ornamental items and medicines while some even termed liquor available in the market as impure.

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