Survey by NGO reveals low consumer awareness levels

Express India, August 26, 2012

Around 93 percent of the consumers never make a formal complaint for any consumer issue as majority of them rate the grievance redressal process as ‘difficult’, according to a survey conducted pan India, over the last year.

Consumer Unity and Trust Society, a Jaipur based non-governmental organization has implemented the project ‘Indian consumers in the new age: a forward looking agenda to address the concerns of the common people, ConsumersUP’, to assess the extent of realization of consumer rights. In Haryana, the project is being implemented in collaboration with Citizen Awareness Group (CAG).

The findings of the report are being discussed in various cities, based on the United Nations guidelines to access consumer awareness. On buying a commodity, only 38 percent ask for a bill, revealed the survey conducted over 11,499 consumers across 19 states and 3 Union territories.

“In Chandigarh, we have seen very low levels of awareness about the consumer courts in the people who approach us for assistance. They take notice of the consumer disputes redressal process only when they need it and even then they are reluctant to complain and prefer to settle it outside the court,” says Surinder Verma, Chairman of CAG.

Only 20 percent of the respondents were aware of the Consumer Protection Act. Of the total respondents, only 3 percent approached the consumer forums for grievance redressal, while 0.1 perecnt approached the sector ombudsman. Seventy-eight percent rated the grievance redressal process as difficult. As per the responses to the survey, 75 percent of the cases were not properly redressed while 18 percent of such unresolved cases were taken to a higher authority for redressal. Over 68 percent of the cases were not redressed within stipulated time frame and the major reasons for delay in redressal was found to be adjournment sought by advocates or parties followed by lack of adequate administrative or support staff.

“Every year out of the thousand consumers who have a grievance, only one actually approaches the consumer courts. No service provider is afraid of the consumer courts and only a rare consumer approach them with the hope that maybe he will return satisfied,” says Anand Sharma, a consumer activist based in Jaipur who was in the city to discuss the findings of the report in UT, Punjab and Haryana.

Madhu Singh, President of the Consumer Court at Faridkot says that rampant corruption at various social levels comes in way of a consumer seeking justice. “Consumer right is a natural right, applicable the world over. Yet speaking about my district, the consumer awareness is zero and just about thirty cases are filed in the courts every month,” she said.

This news can also be viewed at: