Consumer protection law has been promulgated recently. While this is a welcome step I would say promulgation of a law without a well thought out process will continue to be a reactive piece of legislation and will fall far short of the objectives that a consumer would want to see it achieve.
Laws in our part of the world, even if not deficient in their own intent and wording, are at the mercy of a process which winds through red tape, palm greasing and a stately reluctance on the part of those who should be enforcing them. And above all, unless there is a suo moto culture in the judiciary, laws themselves never help by just sitting there. An active and justice-seeking society is equally important to make triumph of justice a reality. While this new law is one good step in the right direction it should be taken as just a beginning of a journey and now more rests on pressure groups and active members of the society to make an otherwise reactive process into a proactive one.
It is necessary that dedicated NGOs having a full time objective of protecting consumers’ rights play an active role. If that is not possible because funding such organizations may be a matter of low priority for donors whose focus is more on primary social issues of the rural, Universities should encourage their students to form societies for consumer protection and they network across the country’s universities to establish a uniform voice on behalf of the society. These individual bodies can form a federation to promote a single voice and the funding can be done by the students’ bodies through a number of means starting from a humble beginning and ending up at an indirect taxation on the consumer, eventually through an act of parliament.
The importance of such a move should be seen in the scope of consumer protection which actually transcends anti-adulteration, anti-hoarding and unjustified price hikes by producers. Ultimately it is the quality of the product or service that should come under constant scrutiny of these bodies (read society). Activities like sample tests of products picked from shelves, consumer polls, chemical lab analyses etc. will be the real service to the society in the realm of consumer protection. Finally through a culture of widespread information sharing a consumer must be made aware all the time which brand of goods is giving a fair value for money.
Empowering the consumer is the only check that can protect the society. A decision of the consumer to boycott a product is far bigger and staggering a punch then a case in the court of law. Society needs to move into that direction. Youth, are you reading?
By Anis Motiwala
Image courtesy : http://www.wfdsa.org/cepi/ConsumerModule/main.jpg