As market players get intensely competitive, it's imperative that the consumer is on his guard

Globalisation has resulted in an extremely competitive market. Due to this, entrepreneurs, sellers and other players go to extraordinary lengths to preserve and promote their goods, even if it means exploiting consumers. No doubt, competition is required for any economy to grow. But shouldn't the exploitation of consumers be considered breaking rules in this wild game? So, where rules are violated, the penalty should be immediate.

In the present scenario, rules are not always followed, and with as tough a game as this one, the onus of being involved and vigilant while buying goods and opting for services lies with the consumers.

Consumer awareness plays a key role in decision making while purchasing goods or availing oneself of services. A healthy economic environment exists when consumers are well-informed. One of the most important means of gaining this knowledge is from advertisements. Hence, companies advertising their products have a moral responsibility towards society and should ensure that they give the correct information. Sadly, it is not so today, and as a result, consumers are often taken in by misleading advertisements and deceived into buying products / getting services. Only later do they realise their mistakes, which, by then, become almost irrevocable.

A recent complaint we received clearly demonstrates this. An educated man had flown his wife to Delhi from Chennai so she could take a one-sitting slimming treatment at a slimming centre there, and paid Rs. 60,000 for it. He'd seen the centre's advertisement that guaranteed a weight loss of up to 10 kg in one sitting of two hours. When he contacted the centre, he was assured a minimum of at least six kg weight loss. However, to his dismay, the wife had not lost even a single kg after the treatment. Behind the payment receipt, there was a mention that the result was not 100 per cent guaranteed, and that it could vary from person to person. Now, this is a typical case of consumer exploitation and unfair trade practice, which comes within the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act. The consumer might have to approach the Consumer Forum in Delhi, which could pose practical problems as he is based in Chennai.

Is it not the duty of the consumer to evaluate the rationality behind the advertisement in the first place? This is where awareness and intelligent decisions comes in. In doing so, consumers could sit back comfortably and watch while the rat race unfolds — because this time they sure aren't going to be cheated!

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details / queries contact 2491 4358 / 2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012