Gargi Parsai

“A legal system and a strong dispute redress mechanism must also be in place”

Says aggressive marketing makes the consumers vulnerable

Often they are ill-equipped to make the correct choice

NEW DELHI: President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Wednesday called for strong consumer protection measures in the face of aggressive marketing strategies of manufacturers and service providers.

She was inaugurating the plenary meeting of the Committee for Consumer Policies of the International Standards Organisation (COPOLCO) organised by the Bureau of Indian Standards here.

“While aggressive marketing results in wider choices for consumers, it also makes them vulnerable. Often they are ill-equipped to make rational choices for lack of full or correct information about new technologies that enter the market. To protect them from trade and business-related disinformation, consumers must be made aware about the quality of products and of possible deficiencies in services. Evolving a network of institutions to safeguard the interests of consumers can do this. A legal system and a strong dispute redress mechanism must also be in place,” she said.

Giving a call for strengthening the standards systems at the national and international levels, she pointed out that in a globalised world, companies were producing the same product in more than one country or had a process of production, wherein various components were produced in different countries and, thereafter, assembled in a third country.

“In such a scenario, countries should look at a coordinated approach to meet the needs of the consumer satisfactorily by developing standards that take into account their concerns. It is equally important to expeditiously conclude mutual recognition agreements of standards between countries to promote international trade and to enable faster movement of goods. A common set of accepted standards will avoid unnecessary trade disputes and will be a guide to exporters for supplying standard goods overseas.”

Sustainable development

Sharad Pawar, Minister for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, said that standardisation helped both, the consumers and the industry.

‘High standards’

“High standards help foster a more meaningful and sustainable pattern of growth and development. The relationship between the consumers on the one hand and the industry and business on the other has to be seen as a non-antagonistic relationship. If we view this relationship from a healthy partnership perspective, both sides will gain.”

The Minister pointed out that India recognised the need for a strong framework of regulation to protect the interests of consumers. Apart from the benefit that it directly brings to the consumers, higher standards of manufacturing and service delivery help to make the country more competitive.

“Therefore, consumer protection and emphasis on quality and standards are an integral part of any development strategy,” he said.

Online redress

Talking about the growth of the consumer movement in the country, he said 1.91-lakh cases were filed in different consumer courts in 2008, and 1.68-lakh cases were disposed of. All the 657 consumer courts would be linked through computers.

The ISO meeting is being attended by about 120 delegates from 38 countries and international organisations. The COPOLCO influences policy decision relating to consumer awareness, evolving standards, consumer dispute redress and other areas relating to consumer protection.