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A guide to understand consumer rights in the Indian marketplace



A consumer refers to an individual who buys and uses goods or services. For every company to prosper, it is the consumer who is to be kept at the core of business development strategies. A happy consumer is one who will drive more potential consumers, thereby implying their importance. Every consumer has the liberty to raise a complaint for any deficiency in services or goods used by them. In today’s article we will be providing a guide to the rights we as consumers have, and how we can use them.


Firstly, let us understand what the term means. Moving forward from the literal definition, a consumer is not defined as people who use goods and services for commercial purposes. For instance, if a person operating in a factory buys a large machine to employ in his firm, he is not a ‘consumer’. But, if a person is self-employed, such as beauticians, tailors, artists, etc, these are categorised under the segment of consumers. Moreover, an individual raising concern in relation to issues such as food adulteration, poor quality of food, lack of proper service from restaurants, etc are also termed as consumers.

Let us now move on to what consumer rights mean.


For every individual who accesses the marketplace, virtually or physically, should always be aware of the rights they possess. A consumer with no such knowledge is vulnerable in such settings. With proper knowledge of these rights, consumers can make their choices confidently, and with due regard to their interests. On the company’s part, to preserve consumer rights, they should produce goods and services in a way which not only meets the consumers’ immediate needs, but also fulfils their long-term interests, without causing any harm to the consumer. For instance, if a consumer uses a medicine to cure a short-term ailment such as flu, but then goes ahead to suffer worse side effects from the same medicine, such consumers are qualified to file a consumer complaint.


In the Indian marketplace, a consumer possesses three core rights-

  1. Right to be informed- as it states, every consumer has the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods. It is important that sellers put out authentic information on the product labels and not make false claims. In the Indian market, the government also publishes a price monitoring list for essential commodities. Even governments of several states have published advisories to educate consumers.

  2. Right to choose a variety of items at competitive prices- consumers should have the right to get basic goods and services at fair prices. For example, an individual should possess the right to buy medicines either from the hospital store or from any general store at fair prices.

  3. Right to file a complaint at consumer redressal forums - as a consumer, we have the right to use redressal forums to file our complaints. Every consumer has a right to file a complaint and be heard so their grievance can be resolved. Consumers generally seek redressal against unfair trade practices such as cheating, defrauding of consumer through schemes or advertisements and more.

Let us now move on to the types of consumer complaints which individuals can file under the consumer protection law of India.

  1. E-commerce complaints- e-commerce transactions refer to buying and selling of goods or services over digital or electronic networks. It includes production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means. E-commerce platforms such as amazon, Flipkart or Myntra work as a service provider, who by working for their profit provides platform to consumers to buy or sell products and services. In case a consumer right gets violated, these platforms are held liable. In case a consumer files an e-commerce complaint, it becomes the responsibility of the e-commerce entity to respond within 48 hours of filing a complaint. A consumer can file the complaint anywhere, regardless of where the purchase was made. Under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, e-commerce platforms are now also required to display the details of the sellers, such as their legal name, contact details and geographic address. It comes under the responsibility of such platforms to not act manipulatively or adopt any unfair or deceptive methods of sale. In such way, they are also prohibited from exaggerating the quality of a product or posting any fake review. The Act also calls for protecting the consumers’ personal information so that personal details are kept confidential and the privacy of consumers is protected.

  2. Complaints about misleading advertisements- a misleading advertisement is one that says untrue things about the goods and services, which can mislead the consumer in buying them or deliberately conceal important information about the product. Advertisers can even be sued for making misleading claims in their advertisements.

  3. Complaints about unfair trade practices- under the consumer protection act, an unfair trade practice is a broad spectrum, which may include false statements about the goods’ standard, quality or quantity, and marketing of used or second-hand goods as new goods. It also includes making false claims about warranty of a product or the warranty period being scientifically untested, etc.

  4. Complaint about restrictive trade practices- a restrictive trade practice is one which manipulates the price or delivery of goods, which in turn, affects the flow of supplies in the market. These practices are usually executed in ways such as price fixing, dealing exclusively with certain clients, restricting the resale values of sold goods and more.

  5. Complaints about defective goods- goods with a fault, imperfection or shortcoming in the quality, quantity, purity, or standard which is required to be maintained by the seller are called defective goods.

  6. Complaints about spurious goods- spurious goods are those which are falsely claimed to be genuine, fake, or imitative of real, original products. Such goods are often of inferior quality,

  7. Consumer Complaints against E-commerce Platforms- consumers can complain against unfair trade practices involving products bought through e-commerce platforms and retailers. Any person who owns, operates, or manages any digital or electronic platform offering goods or services for sale, is an e-commerce entity. An e-commerce entity is separately governed by e-commerce rules in India. These rules are only applicable to professional and commercial businesses and not to an individual acting in their personal capacity. For instance, a consumer can complain against Amazon as it is an e-commerce entity regularly engaged in the activity of the sale of goods through its e-commerce website. Interestingly, the product liability for an e-commerce entity extends beyond India. This means that these platforms are equally liable under Indian consumer protection law, in addition to their own country’s domestic laws.

 

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