Who is a Consumer ?
1. Buyer of any goods for a full or party paid promised on consideration or under any system of deferred payment.
2. Use of such goods with the approval of actual buyer.
3. Hirer or receiver of any services for a fully or partly paid and partly promised consideration or under any system of deferred payment.
Consumer Rights :
In the 20th century, the presence and influence of the market grew dramatically in consumer life. We began to purchase things from the market for a price. Soon, mass production and industrial production came into being, giving the consumer world an entirely new dimension. Have you ever wondered how much urban consumers depend on the market for fulfilment of even their basic needs. This over-dependence on the market and the inherent profit motive in mass production and sales has given manufacturers, and dealers a good reason to exploit consumers. As a consumer, you would know how market products are constantly under-weight, of inferior quality and do not prescribe to quality standards specified by quality-control agencies. Consumers not only do not get value for their money but also often have to suffer losses and inconvenience due to market manipulations.
III. The 8 Consumer Rights
In order to safeguard consumer interest, 6 consumer rights were initially envisioned by consumer rights activists of the West, namely:
Right to Safety
Right to Information
Right to Choice
Right to be Heard
The Right to Redress
The right to consumer education
These rights were conceptualised in the developed world's consumer context where consumers are wealthy and completely dependent on the market to fulfil their needs. These rights had to be redefined keeping in mind the realities of a developing country like India. Consequently, two very important rights were added viz.:
The Right to Basic Needs and
The right to a healthy and sustained environment.
These two rights are very closely linked with the realities of developing countries where environment plays a very important role as a resource and support-structure for the people. In a country like India, a large section of the population looks for food security, assured safe water supply, shelter, education and health services. Most consumers relate very little to imported goods stacked in supermarkets or for choice among latest models of cars, as is the case in the developed world. For India's 1 billion population, food security and a safe environment are more pressing needs than any other consumer options and rights. The developing country natural resources also serve as a resource base for the developed world's industrial output.
Right to Basic Needs
Access to food, water and shelter are the basis of any consumer's life. Without these fundamental amenities, life cannot exist. In September 2001, India's stock of foodgrains were around 60 million tonnes, yet one third of the Indian population lives below the poverty line and consumers often go hungry or remain severely malnourished, leading to poor health. The recent starvation deaths in Orissa are a case in point. A very crucial objective of the conceptualisation and existence of consumer rights is to ensure that consumers have an assured food supply, safe and permanent dwellings, basic amenities of life like sanitation and potable water, and power supply.
Urbanisation is seen as a mark of development but for rural migrant population, living conditions in cities is very poor. The population of cities is growing rapidly in India and after 1988, the percentage of urban poor has been more than that of the rural poor. Around 20 to 25 per cent of the urban households live in slums, make-shift colonies or refugee settlements due to non-availability of affordable and decent habitat in urban areas. . According to some estimates, in urban areas alone, there is a housing shortage of 17 million units. This has led to a habitat crisis in Indian cities. In rural India, the situation is equally bad, with a large part of the population still living in make-shift dwellings and hutment. With non-permanent housing comes lack of sanitation facilities and other amenities like running water and electricity supply. Due to burgeoning population, most people do not have access to dry toilets in rural and urban areas.