Reasons for growth of consumerism in India

01/09/2022 0 By indiafreenotes

In marketing and economics, it is said consumer is the king. Consumers are supposed to direct and control all economic activities, but the reality is a far cry from this in India.

The reasons are many:

  1. Some products, some of which are of strategic importance, are short in supply. Producers exploit the consumer as in the situation of excess demand, supplier and not the consumer becomes the king in the market. Trading in such products gives rise to black market and hoarding.
  2. In certain products, even if there is no actual shortage, markets due to oligopoly (market with few sellers) and monopoly (market with one seller), create an artificial demand by restricting the output so that they are able to push up the price. Under such conditions, consumers often get products paying a high price for a low quality.
  3. Ignorant and uneducated consumers. Lack of education has spilled its ill effect on every sphere of the society, including in consumption. Consumers are ignorant and uneducated about the market conditions and the availability of products. In such situations, the marketer has a tendency to exploit the consumer. The situation is really unfortunate when the so called educated people turn out to be ignorant consumers. In India, there are many such cases.
  4. People are very scared of the legal procedures. People are apprehensive about Police and Courts. Many consumers, to avoid legal action, will not exercise their rights. People are unaware of the simple procedures under the Consumer Protection Act.
  5. Last but not the least, India is a country of low and middle-class income people. Most of them struggle for their “bread and butter” and consider raising voice, against injustice towards them from the market or a Government institution, a time wasting activity, This needs an attitudinal change, and consumerism can go a long way in achieving such attitudinal change.

All these points emphasise one aspect. There is a real need in our country to have a good and effective “Consumer Protection.” Such a protection will go a long way to build a healthy economy. A strong market is made up by strong supply and demand side. Consumer Protection, which is the core of consumerism alone, can give necessary strength to the demand side in the market, which is generally biased in favour of the supplier. To strike a balance in the buyer-seller relation, “consumer protection” plays an important role.

To have an effective consumer protection, a practical response on the part of three parties, viz., the business, the Government and the consumer, is essential. Firstly, the business, comprising the producers and all the elements of the distribution channels, all have to give due importance and regard to consumer rights.

The producer has an inescapable responsibility to ensure efficiency in production and quality of output. Producers are always tempted to charge “exploitative price” that should be resisted, especially when the product is of high importance and relatively low supply. In other words, if it is a seller’s market, a socially responsible producer should see that product reaches the consumer within a reasonable time and at a reasonable price, i.e., products should not be hoarded and black marketed.

As the veteran business executive of a multinational observes- “Restraint is best exercised voluntarily than through legislation, which will, otherwise, become inevitable. Advertising agencies and marketing management have a very important role to play in this respect. By overplaying the claims, they will be cutting the very branch on which they are perched.”

Secondly, the Government has to come to the rescue of the “helpless” consumer by preventing him from being misled, duped, cheated and exploited. The motive of private gain tempts business to maximise income by socially undesirable trade practices. These are calls for Government intervention.

Statutory action, to protect the interests of consumers, has become quite common everywhere in the world. The most common example of Government’s intervention to protect consumer’s interest is the policy of price cycling in the case of house rent, kerosene, etc.

Thirdly, consumers themselves should accept consumerism as a means of asserting and enjoying their rights. This brings us to the next important issue in consumerism:  “Consumer’s Rights.”

Indian Scenario on Consumer Protection

Protection of consumers is necessary because an average consumer is less informed and less powerful than the seller. Both voluntary measures and law can be used to protect consumers.

Anyone who buys goods and avails services for his/her use is a consumer. Any user of such goods and services with the permission of the buyer is also a consumer. Government of India has enacted more than thirty laws to improve the lot of the consumers.

Some of these are; The Contract Act 1882, The Sale of Goods Act 1930, The Laws of Torts, The Essential Commodities Act 1955, Tine Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954, The Standards and Weights of Measures Act 1976, The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act 1969, Agriculture Produce (Grading and Marketing) Act 1937 and the Consumer Protection Act 1986.

Despite the plethora of laws and rules, the status of consumers in India remains deplorable. There are several loopholes in many laws. The implementation of many laws has been tardy and faulty. The enforcement machinery is lethargic and corrupt.

Consumers are ignorant of the rights and remedies available to them under different laws. Even if a consumer is aware of these laws, he does not go to the courts due to complicated, time-consuming and expensive legal procedures.

In the absence of strong consumer movement, legislation has failed to improve the lot of the consumers. Further, the various laws provide no direct relief to the consumer as the focus is on punishment to persons violating the laws.

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted for better protection of consumers’ interests. It provides effective safeguards to consumers against defective goods, unsatisfactory services, unfair trade practices and other forms of exploitation.

The law lays down a time frame for disposal of cases. It provides for simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal of grievances because no fee or other charges have to be incurred by a consumer. He can make a complaint on a simple paper without any legal or stamp paper.

Unlike other laws, which are punitive or preventive in nature, this law is compensatory in nature. It provides for three tier machinery consisting of the District Forum, State Commissions and National Commission.

The law also provides for formation of Consumer Protection Councils. These Councils are expected to promote the cause of consumer protection in every State of India through education.