The Hindu, September 22, 2012

Even as multi-brand retail chains are knocking at the country’s doorsteps, consumer awareness in Rajasthan appears to be depressingly low. Only 16 per cent respondents in a field survey held in the State as part of “State of the Indian Consumer report 2012” were found to be aware of consumer rights as compared to 42 per cent at the national level.

Again, if 20 per cent have heard about the Consumer Protection Act 1986, at the national level, the percentage of such informed persons in Rajasthan is only 11. Of the total sample size surveyed, only seven per cent have filed any complaint in any of the external grievance redress mechanism and out of them, only 0.3 per cent has approached the consumer forums.

Only 13 per cent surveyed were aware of the process of public consultation or consumer representation in government platforms and just one per cent participated in such consultation. Those who were aware of environment-friendly certifications and initiatives were 4 per cent. Interestingly, those in the know always showed the tendency to go in for such products. A majority of respondents (92 per cent) said they did not mind paying the extra.

“Lack of awareness among people (90 per cent) is the main reason for people not asserting as consumers,” said George Cheriyan, Director of the consumer body CUTS International, sharing the findings of the field research done by CUTS (Consumer Unity and Trust Society) here before a gathering of stakeholders.

“The situation on the consumer front should be termed as disturbing if the low level of awareness among the people is because of any loss of faith in the consumer fora at the district, State and at the national levels due to the inordinate delays in deciding on complaints at present,” noted Mr. Cheriyan.

Former State Chief Secretary and CUTS President M. L. Mehta, who chaired the meeting, said the knowledge of law was a pre-requisite for the people to seek redress. “Right to live is of no use unless one has the right to livelihood and basic needs,” he said, emphasising the need to spread knowledge on consumer rights through schools and allocation of more funds for awareness campaigns.

The project officer for the survey, Abhimanyu Singh, said that in Rajasthan only 29 per cent of the respondents were found to be satisfied with the present grievance redress mechanism and only 9 per cent had the confidence that the present mechanism carried the authority to compensate an aggrieved consumer. Only 21 per cent respondents were found to be fully satisfied with the government effort to ensure adequacy, accessibility and affordability of basic needs, he informed.

Some of the interesting finds of the survey: A good 60 per cent of the respondents were aware of the campaign “Jago Grahak Jago” ; ISI is the most known certification referred by 24 per cent of the respondents, followed by AGMARK (1 per cent); 49 per cent reported television as the most effective means of communication for consumer education, followed by seminars (35 per cent).

The survey discovered that about 39 per cent of the respondents checked weight/quantity of product before purchasing, while 18 per cent checked price. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was the most common name recognised by 31 per cent respondents followed by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) — 16 per cent. Three main barriers for choosing an alternative product or service were access time (5 per cent), documentation requirement (4 per cent) and cost of transaction fee (3 per cent).

It was found that over 92 per cent consumers normally voiced their complaints to the seller (the last person in the supply chain who directly interacts with the user) while 98 per cent respondents had never made a formal complaint.

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