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Sunday, February 21, 2010

What is consumer education? What is the scope of consumer education, and what should a consumer observe while buying any product?

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A person, who consumes or uses different types of goods and services, is called as consumer. Goods that a consumer buys, may include consumable goods like rice, salt, sugar, vegetables etc. or Durable Consumer Goods like television, bicycle, scooter etc. Services that a consumer may buy include electric power, telephone, transport services, theatre etc. Anyone who obtains  goods or services for resale or for any commercial purpose (except self employment) or one who obtains any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service is not called a consumer.

A process of teaching, training and learning to improve knowledge and develop skills among consumers, is called as Consumer Education. The Consumer Education relates to imparting knowledge to and developing skills in consumers regarding consumer rights, consumer laws, product quality- standards, health aspects of various products, availabilities of various public and private services, units and measurements, redressal of consumer problems and making correct choices while buying different commodities etc.

What are rights of a consumer?

A consumer has following basic rights-

1. Right to SAFETY against hazardous goods and services  
2. Right to be INFORMED about the quality, quantity, purity and standard price 
3. Right to CHOOSE from a variety at competitive prices
4. Right to be HEARD
5. Right to seek REDRESSAL. 

The above consumer rights are being explained below-

1. Right to Safety against hazardous goods and services

This right protects consumers against hazardous products and services. The product offered for sale should not pose undue risk or physical harm to consumers or their family members. Impure food, defectively manufactured automobiles and tyres, drugs having harmful side effects and unsafe appliances can cause harm, risk or injury to consumers. Consumers should observe marks of quality standards before buying products.

2. Right to be Informed

Consumers have rights to know about the quality, quantity, purity, potency, standard, price etc. about the product they go for buying. They have rights to know everything regarding the product regarding composition, preservatives used, colouring agents mixed in the product, date of manufacture & expiry date and also about nature of the product like vegetarian or non-vegetarian etc.

3. Right to Choose

Consumers have been given a right to buy things of their choice and likings. They can compare varieties and prices of products and can purchase items to the best of their satisfaction.

4. Right to be Heard

Consumers have been given the rights to file complaint in case of any cheating or defect in the purchased product. They have right to seek a refund, replacement or remedy or they can file a case in the consumer court or consumer forum.

5. Right to seek Redressal 

Consumers have right to get protected from unfair trade practices by filing complaints in consumer forum or court. Many consumer organizations have been formed to protect consumers and get their problems properly redressed.

6. Right to Consumer Education

Every consumer has the right of keeping knowledge and skills regarding purchase, use and effects of products. He has a right to get educated about various products, markets and related things so as to protect him against any possible exploitation.

The Consumer Education covers following areas-

•Health, Nutrition, food-borne diseases and food- adulteration,

•Product hazards like hazards due to storage and consumption of a particular product,

•Product labelling -  pasting labels on the packaging of products regarding their composition status, weight, ecological impacts, purity standards, colour, preservatives used, date of manufacture and expiry, address of producer/ manufacturer, matters pertaining to registration, trade marks, marks of standards etc.

•Protective Laws – Laws framed by the government to protect rights of consumers and seeking redressal, how and whom to approach for redressal etc.

•Information regarding weight, measure, packaging, price quality and availability of basic needs etc.

•Environment, different types of pollutions, sustainable consumption etc.

A buyer is a person, a private business firm or a government office that chooses goods and services and spends money to obtain them either for own use or for sale. A buyer may not be a consumer in all the cases. Any one who uses or consumes a product is called as consumer. We buy commodities to meet our requirement, to raise our standards of living, to use quality products, to respond to changes in trade and fashions, to fulfil our social requirements, to maintain durable goods in working conditions or to run a business.

Consumer must check following things before buying anything-

1. Verification Certificate: 

All shops using weights and measures must display an ILM (Inspector of Legal Metrology) verification certificate. A weighting balance must be must be made of metal and it should also have a straight pointer. Every weight has to be stamped on the reverse with last two digits of the year and the unit number of the inspector. A consumer must refuge non-standard weight like stones, iron pieces etc. and if the lead filling on the reverse is not there.

2. Balance and Weights:

    (i) Any balance and scale if it is made of wood with strings to suspend the pans is illegal.

    (ii) The consumer must verify the verification scale on a plate fixed to an electric weighting instrument.

    (iii) Weight of the tray is not included with the material to be brought.

3. Buying Clothes, Alcohol and Sweets

    (i) A consumer must check the measuring rod while buying cloth. He must see that it is made of steel and it has ILM’s seal at either end.

    (ii) Packed readymade garments should have sizes mentioned only in cms. and not the XXL, XL, L, M, S etc.

    (iii) For dispensing alcohol the peg measure must be of glass or silver plated brass can. Volume of standard peg is 60 ml.

     (iv) Sweets having sugar syrup must be sold by weight & not by numbers.

    (v) Weighting scales at ration shops and jewellery shop must be close to the consumer.

     (vi) Jewellery shops must use Class I or Class II balances protected from any disturbance.

     (vii) Consumers must insist on HALLMARK gold ornaments having BIS logo and marked fitness.

4. Buying Packaged Commodity: While packaged commodities a consumers must see that package carries –

•Name and address of manufacturer and packer.

•Net quantity of the package when packed.

•Number of items contained in the package when it is to be sold by number.

•Month and year of manufacturing, expiry date and “last before’ (the date).

•If it is imported the package must bear the name and address of the importer alongwith valid registration number.

•Consumer must know that no pre-packed commodity can be sold above the declared MRP (Maximum Retail Price) in shops, hotels, restaurants and bars (including bottled water, soft 7 hard drinks).

5. Buying LPG: While buying LPG the consumer must check the weight with the spring balance which must be available with the distributor. The net quantity is 14.2 Kg and the wt. of the empty cylinder is 15 to 17 kg.

6. Buying Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants (P.O.L.): Consumers should keep in mind that fuel stations must display conspicuously a verified 5 litre can by which you can the quantity of the actual supply. To check the accuracy of the dispensing unit every fuel station must have a Totaliser. The fuel station must have Anti- adulteration cell to check any complain regarding spurious oils. 

7. Kerosene Oil: The consumer, while buying Kerosene oil, should check ILM’s verification on the measure and the bottom that should have no cut mark or dent or re- welding mark. He should ensure that the measure is filled to thetop hole and it is not containing sponge or wax.

Looking for Standards, Seals and Marks: 

A consumer must observe the following marks of standards while buying commodities-

Key Words : consumer, education,consumer rights, product, quality standards,MRP, hazardous goods, XXL, XL, M, S, verification certificate

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