George Cheriyan from CI member CUTS International discusses the results of a recent survey showing the poor state of consumer awareness in India.
Even after 25 years of the Consumer Protection Act (CoPRA) in India, only 20 percent of consumers know about it and only 42 percent have heard about consumer rights. Fifty-three percent of consumers are unaware of the country’s redress system, the objective of which is to give consumers access to simple, speedy and inexpensive redress of their grievances.
These are some of the key findings of a national survey conducted by CUTS International as part of a project entitled ‘Indian Consumers in the New Age: A Forward Looking Agenda to Address the Concerns of the Common People’ (ConsumersUp).
The purpose of the study is to get a closer look at the consumer’s level of awareness of their basic rights and to present a forward-looking outline to the Indian government to help guide ongoing action based on the recommendations.
The study has been conducted in the backdrop of the establishment of a working group to give input into the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection (UNGCP) . The UNGCP are an international reference point for the consumer movement and Consumers International will be working with its members over the coming months to feed in proposals on how the guidelines can better address the concerns of today's consumers.
The CUTS study also shows that, of the 47 percent of consumers who do know about India’s external redress mechanisms, only 28 percent believe that it is easily accessible to common people. Sixty-seven percent of the complaints are redressed beyond the stipulated time frame of 90 days or 150 days, whichever is applicable.
Ninety-three percent of consumers have never made a formal complaint. And of the seven percent who have filed a complaint, only 0.3% have achieved redress. If this is an indication of consumers losing faith in an existing system, then the matter needs serious attention.
Still, these percentages are encouraging because compared with the situation five years back, the trend is upward. For example, a survey by CoPRA commissioned by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India from May 2006 revealed that only 18 percent of consumers were aware of CoPRA and 34 percent of consumer rights.
The key findings of the CUTS survey, along with eight chapters on each of the consumer rights and a synthesis chapter, are part of the ‘State of the Indian Consumer 2012’ report released in New Delhi on 11 October 2012 by the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Prof. K.V. Thomas.