Consumer Rights – Do You Know Your’s?
By Naina Marvaha
Ralph Nader. Rings a bell?
I came across this article in an on-line American Textbook, which said that ‘Since the mid 1960’s, Ralph Nader has been America’s leading consumer advocate. He denounced soft drinks for containing excessive amounts of sugar (more than nine teaspoons a can). He warned Americans about the health hazards of red dyes used as food colorings and of nitrates used as preservatives in hot dogs. He even denounced high heels: “It is part of the whole tyranny of fashion, where women will inflict pain on themselves … for what, to please men.”
He earned his law degree from Harvard where he says to have found his initial cause: automobile safety. He launched a research after he found out that auto accidents were the fourth leading cause of death at that time.
“His research convinced him that the law placed too much emphasis on driver mistakes and not enough on the unsafe design of cars.” This was the driving force behind him being labeled as the ‘nation’s nag’ today. In America, Nader is the man behind the establishment of a lot of consumer protection laws.
Emerging of consumer rights can be traced way back to 1920-1930’s. Along with Ralph Nader, John F. Kennedy also played a major role in the development of consumer rights. Kennedy introduced the Consumer Bill of Rights in 1962 in the US Congress. Consumer Protection since those times has developed a lot. There is more awareness amongst the consumers and people have become more cautious about their decisions.
Consumer Protection Laws vary from country to country. But, the basic consumer rights can be summed up as follows:
1) Right to Safety: This protects the consumer from any potential threat that the service or product could have on the consumer. Nevertheless, it is the consumer’s responsibility to use that particular service/product for its intended purpose only.
2) Right to Choose: This right allows the consumer to choose from the wide variety available of products/services in the market. Based on factors like advertising, pricing and other features the consumer makes a decision what to buy and what to leave behind.
3) Right to be Informed: It is the company’s responsibility to provide the consumer with all the necessary details that are essential to make a decision. This right also states that it is illegal for any manufacturing company or service provider to mislead the consumers with dishonest advertisements or claims.
4) Right to be Heard: It is for taking into consideration consumer interests while implementing policies. It is the consumer’s right to be heard and the company’s responsibility to address the concerns of the consumers.
5) Right to Redress: It ensures that consumers receive a fair settlement or a compensation for any faulty or unsatisfactory performance of the product.
6) Right to Consumer Education: The right to acquire available knowledge and skills that a consumer must have to make an informed choice. Also, to be educated on the basic consumer rights and how they are enforced.
Other consumer rights such as, right to healthy environment, satisfaction of basic needs etc. came about too. It is very important for us as consumers to know our rights. Only when know about our rights can we enforce them. When a consumer buys a product, he/she has a certain set of expectations from it. These expectations arise from the claims or advertising of the product, leaving the consumer either satisfied or not. If he/she is not, certain instructions need to be kept in mind:
- Making clear copies of the documents you need for your complaint ie, receipts of a transaction/ bill of communication between you and the seller.
- Return the faulty item to the store, not the manufacturer.
- You can also take the matter to a small claims court in your area.
- Don’t think purchasing something online means the consumer has no right. A consumer has all the rights, due to ‘distance selling regulations’.
- Take legal consultation if necessary.
According to the official site of UAE’s consumer rights, the Consumer Code of Rights was issued under UAE Federal Law (24) 2006 by the Ministry of Economy (MoE). In Dubai, the Department of Economic Development’s (DED) Commercial Control and Consumer Protection Division has been charged with the responsibility to ensure that consumers and retailers alike comply with the Consumer Code of Rights, understand their responsibilities and, where resolution is sought, facilitate this process between retailers and consumers.