Consumer Protection and Competition Policy
11.1. Promotion of consumer welfare is the common goal of consumer protection and competition policy. At the root of both consumer protection and competition policy is the recognition of an unequal relationship between consumers and producers. Protection of consumers is accomplished by setting minimum quality specifications and safety standards for both goods and services and establishing mechanisms to redress their grievances. The objective of competition is met by ensuring that there are sufficient numbers of producers so that no producer can attain a position of dominance. If the nature of the industry is such that dominance in terms of market share cannot be avoided, it seeks to ensure that there is no abuse on account of this dominance. Competition policy also seeks to forestall other forms of market failure, such as formation of cartels, leading to collusive pricing, division of markets and joint decisions to reduce supply. Mergers and acquisitions also need to be regulated as they reduce competition. of civil society. The main reason for this is the rapidly increasing variety of goods and services which modern technology has made available. In addition, the growing size and complexity of production and distribution systems, the high level of sophistication in marketing and selling practices and in advertising and other forms of promotion, mass marketing methods and consumers’ increased mobility resulting in reduction of personal interaction between buyers and sellers, have contributed to the increased need for consumer protection. 11.3. Protection of consumer rights in modern times dates back to 1962. On 15 March 1962, the Consumer Bill of Rights was proclaimed by the United States President in a message to the Congress. The message proclaimed: (i) the right to choice, (ii) the right to information, (iii) the right to safety, and (iv) the right to be heard. Subsequently, the right to consumer education, the right to a healthy environment and the right to basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter) were added by Consumer International. In India, 24 December is celebrated as National Consumer Rights Day as the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted on that day. 15 March is observed as World Consumer Rights Day since 1983, when International Organization of Consumer Unions declared it so. In India, 15 March was also adopted as the National Consumers Day and has been observed since then. Another significant day in the history of world consumer movement is 9 April 1985, when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a set of guidelines for consumer protection and the Secretary General of the United Nations was authorized to persuade member
CONSUMER PROTECTION POLICY
11.2. The consumer movement in India is as old as trade and commerce. In Kautilya’s Arthashastra, there are references to the concept of consumer protection against exploitation by the trade and retailer with respect to quality, short weight, measurement and adulteration of goods. Yet until the late 1970s, there was no systematic movement in the country for safeguarding the interest of consumers. But now it is widely acknowledged that the level of consumer awareness and protection is a true indicator of development of the country and progressiveness
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countries to adopt these guidelines through policy changes or law. These guidelines constituted a comprehensive policy framework outlining what governments need to do to promote consumer protection in the following areas: (i) physical safety, (ii) protection and promotion of consumer economic interests, (iii) standards for safety and quality of consumer goods and services, (iv) measures enabling consumers to obtain redressal, (v) measures relating to specific areas (food, water, and pharmaceuticals); and (vi) consumer education and information...