I have before me four advertisements of the union ministry of consumer affairs released in recent times in all leading newspapers.
One of them, spread over half a page, says 'Do not spit or litter the roads'. The message in another such advertisement is 'When we obey traffic rules, there is no traffic jam'.
Yet another exhorts consumers to 'Always follow traffic rules and be a responsible consumer'.
The fourth is a repeat of the 'do not spit' advertisement.
It is really unfortunate that the ministry is wasting consumers' money on such advertisements that are an anti-thesis of what Jago Grahak Jago campaigns were meant to be - provide consumers with information that would empower them.
When the 'Jago' campaign first began some years ago, I had written an article extolling the virtues of such a campaign and described the advertisements as 'infotisements' because of their strong information content.
It was a good beginning and one hoped that the advertisements would improve over the years and cover a much wider area of consumer interest.
The recent advertisements are thus a major disappointment.
Today consumers in India are starved of information and it is this lack of information and awareness that makes them highly vulnerable to the machinations of the marketplace.
Given this scenario, one would expect a ministry, created specifically to protect the interests of consumers, to utilise the huge funds at its disposal to provide consumers with information on their rights, leaving campaigns on traffic rules and civic sense to local governments, civic authorities and other ministries concerned.
If Jago advertisements are to serve the interests of consumers, if the money spent on them is to serve some useful purpose, then the ministry of consumer affairs needs to take the campaign more seriously. The information provided should be such that consumers should want to cut and file them as part of their reference material.
For example, since case laws are difficult for consumers to get, there could be a string of advertisements on important orders of consumer courts and supreme court on issues such as misleading advertisements (specially in the field of education), consumer's right to a refund vis-à-vis defective goods, right to information and choice in the area of health and medical care, right to compensation for deficient services
and defective goods, right to a fair deal in respect of all services including banking, housing, insurance and transportation.
Similarly, there could be a series on various laws and regulations meant to protect consumers.
Salient features of these laws along with addresses and phone number of agencies that enforce them would be highly relevant. The advertisements could also cover important circulars and orders issued by various regulators.
Equally important would be a campaign on consumer safety issues that would inculcate a safety culture.
A campaign on consumer safety would not only wake up consumers to such issues, but also force manufacturers and service providers to look at consumer safety more closely.
In short, Jago Grahak Jago advertisements should truly be aimed at empowering the consumers.
SN Murthy: I want to file a complaint before the consumer court against a public sector bank for failing to return the papers of my pledged property. Can you please give case laws to help me?
Answer: In the case of CL Khanna Vs Dena Bank (OP No 70 of 2002), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that failure to return the pledged papers constituted 'deficiency in service' and the bank had to pay for the consequences.
In the case of Thukaram Anandha Shet Vs The Manager, Karnataka Bank (RP No 255 of 2001) too it emphasised this point once again.
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