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Consumer Protection

Consumers are often at a disadvantage in terms of education and bargaining power and are not able to maintain their rights as adopted by the UN in 1985: right of access to non-hazardous products, as well as the right to promote just, equitable and sustainable economic and social development and environmental protection. They also have the right to obtain redress for grievance and to be informed and educated about the quantity, quality and standards of products. In India today, consumers are largely in the dark about many key issues that affect them directly and indirectly, and not many are aware of the important role they can potentially play in ushering in better policies, quality products and services and improving their immediate environment. Our work responds to the gap in consumer rights protection and awareness. We create research and documentation, and conduct education and capacity building programmes to raise awareness about a range of issues that affect consumers. We also conduct research that informs policy on consumer protection and interact with government agencies to strengthen the regulatory framework.


Consumer awareness

As consumers, people need to understand that they can be protected against products that are harmful to life, unfair trade practices, and have the right to redress for exploitative or unfair trade practices. Consumers also have certain responsibilities that compliment their rights. They should be aware of the social and ecological impact of their consumption choices. and must take actions that protect other citizens, particularly disadvantaged group, and conserve the environment. To inform consumers about their rights and responsibilities we create information and communication materials, and conduct education and capacity building programmes. We also run awareness campaigns and exhibitions that support socially responsible consumption and production behaviours.

In Tamil Nadu, we are active members of the Federation of Consumer Organisations Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry (FEDCOT), the Coastal Action Network (CAN) and the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC). We are also members of the South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal, which operates in the region and Consumers’ International, London, which is a global network of consumer organisations.

Consumer protection

Consumers experience several problems when they purchase products. Malpractices in pricing, measurement and labelling, artificial scarcity and adulteration are only some of the ways that producers exploit consumers. Few consumers are able to access information and legal aid to address their grievances. Our consumer legal clinic addresses specific problems of consumers, handling over 1000 consumer complaints every year. We screen all complaints and accept only those that have merit. If we accept a complaint, then we engage with both parties in order to mediate a solution and aim for an amicable settlement of the dispute. In cases where this is not possible, we support the consumer explore other available options, such as through litigation at the appropriate fora.

We are also members in various regulation-mandated consumer grievance fora, such as the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Protection Council, Tamil Nadu Electricity Generation and Distribution Company (TANGEDCO), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the High Court-mandated Committee on the Adyar River Restoration project. In the past we have been members of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC), and Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling), Bureau of Indian Standards, Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee, Southern Railways; and special invitees to the Pharmaceutical Advisory Forum, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and the Central Consumer Protection Council at the national level.


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