Consumer Rights

Consumer right also relates to privacy, information, data banks, and similar emerging issues. Consumer information collected, merged and exchanged through computer and communications technologies has become the main resources that business and government use to facilitate the millions of daily  transactions engaged in by consumers. Timely, accurate and complete consumer information is needed by variety of organizations such as banks,  retailers, commercial lenders, mortgage lender, financial service  organizations direct response marketers, advertising agencies, insurance companies and public utilities. The purposes for consumer information may include such things as approving or denying credit, issuing credit cards, writing insurance policies, selecting people for direct mail solicitation preventing fraud, determining eligibility for government aid, investigating and law enforcement purposes and many other activities.

–Only relevant and socially approved personal information should be collected by private or public organizations to determine people’s access to rights, benefits and opportunities.

— Individuals should be informed about what information needs to be collected about them and how it will be used.

–Individuals should have practical procedures  for inspecting their records  and for raising  issues as to the  accuracy, completeness and propriety of information used to make evaluative decisions about them.

–Organizations must create and apply effective data security measures so that they can keep the promise of confidentiality that they have made to individuals whose information they are holding in a trustee relationship.

However, new consumer privacy issues have surfaced recently. For instance,

*Featured stories in magazines newspaper and on TV inform the public  that information given for any one of these purposes such as – credit , insurance, employment, organizational memberships, publication, subscriptions, charitable  donations etc – was being  widely used for other commercial purposes without the individual’s knowledge or consent.

A major survey of consumers and industry leaders in the privacy intensive sector (e.g. banks and thrifts, insurance companies direct marketers credit bureaus etc.) made the following conclusions regarding consumer privacy in the information age.

Lowering general public concern  over threats to privacy will not  be easy  but there are important ways to enhance consumer privacy interest.

Develop more proactive consumer privacy protection policies by business and consumer advocacy groups.

It is high time that the government identified and took necessary steps to bridge the gap in implementation of an otherwise friendly Consumer Protection Act because only then will the very purpose of the act be fully achieved and the consumers garner its benefit.

Despite its shortcomings, the act is still a handy weapon for consumers to ensure accountability as well as compensation for defective goods and deficient services. It is one of the nicest gifts we, through our government, have given to ourselves as consumers.

Many people have been able to get back their money from sloppy builders, dishonest shopkeepers, shady sellers of all kinds and even from public utilities such as the railways, electricity boards, transport corporations and others. The consumer forum is based on the philosophy of ‘sellers beware’, contrary to the earlier philosophy of ‘buyers beware’.

For instance, there was a complaint pertaining to a motorcycle. The company had guaranteed a mileage of 100 km per liter but when the consumer started using the vehicle, the actual mileage was only around 70 km per liter. The consumer immediately approached the dealer.

However, even after repairs by the company’s service engineers, the assured mileage could not be achieved. Disappointed, the consumer demanded a replacement with compensation, which was denied by the company and the dealer. Left with no option, the consumer approached the consumer forum and the complaint was finally settled. He was awarded a replacement vehicle, monetary compensation as well as costs.

Defaulters can be fined or even imprisoned. Once, a general manager of a telephone company was threatened with such an order. He immediately complied.

The market place offers a bewildering variety of choices and we often end up getting a raw deal. It is, therefore, very important for us to make informed choices. You could use the buying tips mentioned in ‘Taking Control’ and greatly reduce post-purchase hassles.

*Get advice and price quotes from several sellers of various brands and compare

*Check for any extra, hidden charges such as delivery fees, installation and service costs

*Read and understand any contract or legal document that you are asked to sign. Make sure there are no blank spaces. Insist that any extras you are promised orally be put in writing. Never assume things

*Read and follow product and service instructions. If there is a defect, take the product only to an authorised service centre of the manufacturer. This helps you make a legal claim in case of a recurring problem.