CONSUMER AWARENESS & SUGGESTED MEASURES TO INCREASE
The need for empowerment of consumers as a class cannot be over emphasized and is already well recognized all over the world. The advancement of technology and advent of sophisticated gadgets in the market and aggressive marketing strategies in the era of globalization have not only thrown open a wide choice, for the consumer but all the same also rendered the consumer vulnerable to a plethora of problems concomitant to such rapid changes. There is an urgent and increasing necessity to educate and motivate the consumer to be wary of the quality of the products, and also the possible deficiencies in the services of the growing sector of public utilities. In short, the consumer should be empowered with respect to his rights as a consumer. He should be equipped to be vigilant with a discerning eye so as to be able to protect himself from any wrongful act on the part of the trader. In order to be able to position the consumer in such a state, there is every need not only to evolve legal remedies but also provide reliable and exhaustive information, which he can access without much effort and expense. Recognizing the importance of the problem, the Government of India and State Government have initiated steps to introduce dispute redressal mechanism by way of Consumer Protection Ac, but a lot more has to be done in the area of creating awareness on the part of the consumer to facilitate his seeking suitable remedy wherever there is a need. This becomes more important in the rural areas, where there is wide spread illiteracy.
He should undertake steps to create a facilitative mechanism with the following objectives:
1. Promote General Awareness of the rights of the consumer by encouraging consumer education and supplying information.
2. Publish periodical and product specific booklets, pamphlets, cassettes, CDs, slides, documentary films and other devices of mass communication for promoting consumer awareness in English and regional languages, highlighting the problem in specified areas like real estate, public utilities, non-banking financial agencies etc.
3. Enlighten the business community on its ethical and legal obligations to maintain quality of the products or services and to be transparent in dealing with consumers.
4. Encourage consumer activities to strengthen the existing institutional set up of consumer dispute redressal by acting as a facilitator between consumer and the institution.
5. Study the available legal remedies, analyze and suggest new measures for the effective and better consumer protection.
6. Bring together the consumer, traders and policy makers to exchange information of mutual interest for better coordination. Bring together the NGO’s/Consumer activities operating in different areas and equip them with suitable and required nformation and knowledge to enable them to act as nodal agents of change in rural areas.
7. Organize and conduct seminars, workshops and group discussions and thus provide a platform for threadbare discussion of the issues and evolve suitable remedial action. Conduct motivational campaigns for groups of potential customers both in urban and rural areas.
8. Coordinate programmes organized by Central and State Governments, State Legal Aid Authorities, Academic Institutes, National and International Consumer Organizations.
9. Periodic interaction with electronic & print media on success stories of consumers.
10. Establish links with educational institutions like universities, colleges, high schools to emphasize the need for improving consumer education in the curriculum. Consumer clubs which were started recently by the A.P. Consumer affairs, Food & Civil Supplies Dept. would go a long way in acheiving this.
11. Interact with national level organizations like NISIET, NIRD, ASCI etc. to explore possible collaboration and organize awareness programmes for their clientele and undertake research projects.
12. Organize a database enabling the consumer retrieve the required information in a less expensive and quick way. Set up a website http://scdrc.ap.nic to publish information, news including judgments, articles, on product analysis and related matters for the guidance of consumers to have informed choice of product services, redressal agencies and mechanisms.