State of the Indian Consumer

There is a fairly well defined and formulated consumer policy statement at the international level: the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9th April 1985. The guidelines call upon governments to develop, strengthen or maintain a strong consumer policy, and provide for enhanced protection of consumer by enunciating various steps and measures around seven themes:


  1. Physical safety,
  2. Economic interest,
  3. Standards,
  4. Essential Goods and services,
  5. Redress,
  6. Education and Information, and
  7. Health

Implicitly it spells out what governments need to do to buttress the eight rights of consumers. The case for the guidelines is that they set out and codify the main elements of the consumer protection, and create an international framework within which national consumer protection polices can be worked out. They give consumer policy a clear set of objectives and provide a checklist against which governments can measure their own policies. Moreover, the guidelines cannot remain static. They need to change with time, especially when national economies are being globalised and the information revolution is shrinking the world every day.

The UN Guidelines, the most comprehensive policy framework aimed at protecting consumers rights around the world, has the following objectives to:

  • assist countries in achieving or maintaining adequate protection for their population as consumers;
  • encourage high levels of ethical conduct for those engaged in the production and distribution of goods and services to consumers;
  • assist countries in curbing abusive business practices by all enterprises at the national and international levels which adversely affects the consumers;
  • facilitate the development of independent consumer groups;
  • further international co-operation in the field of consumer protection; and
  • encourage the development of market conditions which provides consumers with greater choice at lower price.

CUTS had taken up a project to research, document and hold national consultation on the implementation of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection 1985 in India. The objectives of this project are to:

  • take stock of the implementation of the UN Guidelines by analysing policy, legislation and enforcement to enable the preparation of a National Consumer Policy Statement; and
  • prepare a citizens’ report on the State of the Indian Consumer, and develop a model for other developed/developing countries to emulate.
  • Curtain Raiser
  • Final Report