Importance of World Consumer Rights Day: Advocating for Consumer Empowerment

The Consumer movement observes World Consumer Rights Day on March 15 of each year to promote consumer empowerment, protection, and rights around the world, which was inspired by US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s US Congress address on March 15, 1962. He introduced four consumer rights which were the

    • Right to safety, 
    • Right to be informed, 
    • Right to choose, 
    • Right to be heard.

He became the first global leader to discuss consumer rights, addressing the topic and highlighting its significance. Several organizations, including Consumer International, commemorate the day annually with activities and campaigns aimed at defending consumer rights. With 200 consumer advocacy members spread across more than 100 countries, Consumers International is honored and happy to be in charge of organizing this day of international cooperation. Five consumer organizations from the US, Western Europe, and Australia founded Consumers International, formerly known as the International Organization of Consumers Unions, in 1960. 

Last year, in keeping with the theme, the main focus is on using technology to lessen reliance on conventional energy sources like fossil fuels and facilitate a quick switch to clean energy options that, over time, will increase affordability, accessibility, security, and sustainability for consumers. They gathered energy experts last year to safeguard consumers during the shift to sustainable energy, and millions of consumers globally heard their appeal for equitable digital finance in 2022.
Online mediation was another option being investigated for the alternative dispute resolution method that the Act envisions.

The Department has built a “Right to Repair portal” in accordance with the LiFE campaign, which was started by the Hon. Prime Minister, to safeguard customers against planned obsolescence, or the design of a device with a limited lifespan that increases e-waste. It was anticipated that the portal would solve issues related to spare component cost, authenticity, and warranty. 

The subject for World Consumer Rights Day in 2024 is “Fair and responsible AI for consumers,” chosen by Consumers International this year. Advances in generative artificial intelligence have swept the digital world. People’s lives will be significantly impacted by technology in a number of ways, including how we work, communicate, obtain information, and much more. Additionally, it will have a significant impact on digital justice and consumer safety. Concerns include misinformation, privacy violations, and discriminatory practices, as well as the potential for AI-driven platforms to propagate misinformation and reinforce prejudices. It will concentrate on generative AI chatbots, which have been employed in support of customer service for a long time. Leading internet firms have already begun implementing generative AI in search experiences, such as online search, where these chatbots are progressively integrating AI systems to simulate human speech in sophisticated and targeted ways.

Consumers utilize search technology on a regular basis, often without realizing it. It makes use of sophisticated algorithms to produce search results that are customizable for each user. This already opaque technology runs the danger of being even more harmful to customers when generative AI is included. The goal of the campaign is to investigate how much customers can trust chatbots that use generative AI. 

Importance of celebrating World Consumer Rights Day

Ensuring that customers are not subjected to commercial exploitation or injustice that might compromise their rights is the primary goal of World Consumer Rights Day. Customers are aware of what their rights are and how to use them in their daily lives.

Consumer rights in India

In order to provide consumers more authority, the Indian Parliament approved the Consumer Protection Act on December 9, 1986. The primary objective of the legislation is to resolve consumer complaints through the creation of consumer councils, forums, and appellate courts.

Recent initiatives related to Consumer Rights

On July 20th, 2020, the amended Consumer Protection Act, 2019 came into force in India, swapping the previous enactment of 1986. The new Act completely restructures how consumer complaints are handled in India. Strict penalties are outlined in it, including jail sentences for adulteration and deceptive advertising. In order to raise consumer awareness, the Act authorizes the creation of Consumer Protection Councils in the District, State, and Center. The Minister in charge of the State Government’s Department of Consumer Affairs leads the State Councils, while the Minister in charge of the Central Government’s Department of Consumer Affairs leads the Central Council. Additionally, it offers a three-tier system for the National Commission, State Commissions, and District Commissions to quickly resolve consumer complaints.

Redesigned by the Department, the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) now serves as a single point of contact for consumers nationwide seeking pre-litigation grievance relief. 

Via a toll-free number, 1915, NCH is available in more than 17 languages, including the recently added Maithili, Kashmiri, and Santhali languages. Through an Omni channel system that incorporates the NCH app, email, SMS, and phone, it is accessible whenever needed. Also, there has been an increase in the quantity of dockets submitted.

In 2022, the total number of cases submitted stood at 1,73,457 while the cases resolved of stood at 1,82,248 last year. Nidhi Khare, assistant secretary, of the Department of Consumer Affairs, stated during a news conference on the eve of World Consumer Rights Day that there are now almost 5.4 lakh pending complaints across consumer commissions.

Sources:

PIB: World Consumer Rights Day, 2023 to be celebrated on 15th March, 2023

World Consumer Rights Day 2024 to call for consumer protection for an AI future

NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION

Number of consumer cases disposed in 2022 exceeds total cases filed last year: Govt

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Krishnaveni S

Krishnaveni works as a Sub-Editor at You Turn. She completed her Master's in History from Madras University. Additionally, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Tamil Literature. She was a former employee of an IT company, and currently, her role involves verifying the factual accuracy of news on social media to identify and expose fake news.
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