The New Indian Express, December 24, 2014

By Pradeep S Mehta

KOCHI: How many of you are aware that if a shopkeeper issues a cash memo with the wordings ‘Goods once sold cannot be taken back’ he can face legal action? How many consumers know that imposing ‘incidental charges’ (the charge imposed by the dealers to transport a vehicle from the manufacture’s yard) in addition to showroom price is not legally valid. How many of you have approached a Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum in case of any medical negligence cases? The answer is ‘a few’. To be precise only 17 percent of people in Kerala as per a survey conducted by the Union Ministry with the help of Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) in 2012.

Interestingly, Kerala tops the list with 17 per cent against the national average of three percent. But to bask in the glory of this success in its true sense, the state has to go a long away. The officials of the Ernakulam Consumer Redressal Dispute Forum, one of the efficiently working forums in the state say that they get only 1,000 cases a year which is very low as Kochi is the commercial capital of the state. When asked the reason behind low number of consumer cases, Adv A Rajesh, president, Ernakulam Consumer Redressal Forum says, “Primarily, consumers are not organised and hence they are easily exploited”.

Ernakulam Forum recently entered the Limca Book of Records for disposing off 152 cases in a single day, a first of its kind in the country. “Those who are aware of consumer rights and know about consumer forums still consider it a platform of the elite. Call it a paradox, majority of the law students have scant knowledge about the functioning of consumer forums. The end result? Consumers paying dearly for this unawareness,” said Adv Sheen Jose, another member of the forum.

For instance, many vehicle dealers have wrung money out of their customers in the name of ‘incidental charges’. “It could have been avoided, if they knew that imposing incidental charge is illegal and they stand a chance to get their money back, if they approach consumer forums,” pointed out Rajesh.

Advocate Beenakumari, another member of the Ernakulam forum said that public need to be aware that consumer forums are a platform which can be approached by anybody. “There are no trappings which might frighten them off. Senior citizens, women or differently – abled, anybody can approach us and there are no complicated procedures involved,” she said.

She adds that it is a relief to see that the number of women standing for their rights are increasing slowly but steadily. The toll free helpline for making complaints is 1800 425 1550 20 more consumer clubs to be opened: Minister

Minister for Civil Supplies Anoop Jacob said that 20 more consumer clubs will be opened in the government schools in Kannur and Kasargode. “Apart from these 20 new ones, we have 220 consumer clubs in schools which are doing a wonderful job. This year, in connection with national Consumer Rights day, 10 days will be set aside for all the activities pertaining to the observance of National Consumer Rights Day. The leaflets which will highlight the prominent points of Consumer Protection Act, the jurisdiction of each forum and how they operate will be distributed at crowded places such as markets, malls etc. Besides, we are also giving best consumer award to the eldest consumer who will be selected from among the ration shop beneficiaries. Last year, we picked up a consumer from a ration shop in a taluk. This year we will pick three ration shops and the eldest consumer will be selected from their beneficiaries,” he said

When to approach?
If there is deficiency in the services rendered by central/state/public/private and individuals
If a trader/shop keeper demands amount which is above the legally permissible limit
If the Packaged Commodity Act and the prevention of Food Adulteration Act are violated
Trading of any product which could lead to harmful repercussions
Misleading advertisements intending to spruce up the trade.

This news item can also be viewed at: