Special Correspondent

Working group wants independent body

National Consumer Protection Authority on U.S. model may be set up Thrust on critical areas affecting consumer health Spurious products result in estimated annual loss of Rs. 45,000 crore to Government and industry

NEW DELHI: A Working Group on counterfeit, fake, spurious and contraband products has recommended the setting up of an independent authority with "wide ranging powers" to initiate suo motu action for protecting consumers from the menace of such products. The group was set up by the Department of Consumer Affairs in June 2004.

The Department is already toying with the idea of setting up a National Consumer Protection Authority incorporating the best features of Consumer Products Safety Commission and the Federal Trade Commission of the U.S. Government dealing with products and services respectively. "This Authority should have investigation as well as enforcement control and should be given effective powers to protect consumers. . Thrust should be given to critical areas affecting consumer health and provision of safe drinking water, milk, food and drugs," the report said.

It underlined the need for concerned Ministries to launch a joint campaign for enhancing consumer awareness in relevant areas. Infrastructure facilities should also be provided to consumers to get doubtful products tested to pursue further action.

Onus on industry

It is estimated that illegal activities relating to counterfeit, fake, spurious and contraband products result in an annual loss of about Rs. 30,000 crore to industry and Rs. 15,000 crore to the Government. Hence the Working Group has suggested that industry has to take the onus of protecting consumers from fake products sold in the market by imitating their brand, through latest technology, extensive awareness campaign, and exhibition of products.

As per estimates of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance, counterfeit automotive parts sold in India annually accounts for about Rs. 20,000 crore, constituting nearly 35 per cent of the market share. A survey conducted by the BIS had shown that about 88 per cent of gold jewellery tested was found to be of much less value than claimed.