We use a lot many types of goods for a reason. These goods are both tangible (goods) and non-tangible (services). Together goods and services are known as commodities. The reason for their use is what can be called as satisfaction of wants. Wants are satisfied by using goods and services. The process of using various goods and services to satisfy a want is known as consumption. When we pay a price for good or a service and use it for to satisfy a want, we become consumers.
With advertisement in production, consumption becomes more difficult. There is growth in the number and services. Outside pressures become increasingly refined and harder to resist. It is necessary that the present generation keep themselves well aware and active to be able to take the ultimate decision in the market. If this is not so then the consumer is often exploited or cheated by the seller or the producer. So it is important to be aware of how we can be cheated as consumers. We must know our rights and duties as consumers. Even the law provides us protection as consumers.
Consumer is exploited when in any form he/she is cheated or not informed adequately about the product. There are many ways by which consumers can be exploited. They may be exploited by giving incomplete or wrong information. They may be exploited by sellers who may weigh less or measure wrongly. Sometimes a consumer may be given low quality if good. One of the very common and a serious problem by which a consumer may be exploited and cheated by the shop-keeper is by providing impurity or adulteration with harmful substances.
Consumer not only pays more they also suffer bad health and may even risk their like. Sometimes consumers are exploited when they purchase medicines and electronic devices. Inadequate safety measures adopted in making such devices may harm consumers physically. An electric heater may give a shock or a generator may give a high voltage harming the electric wiring or bulbs and tube-lights in the house. To be able to charge a high price a supplier may store the commodity (hoarding) and create an artificial scarcity. The consumer may panic and be forced to pay a high price for the same. Sometimes, some articles are copied and sold in its original brand name such as creams, soaps etc. The quantities of these duplicate materials are much inferior.
Sometimes the producers don’t give the harmful effects of using their product for long or they may deliberately conceal information and circumstances in which the product must be used or the accompanying devices to be used with the product are not spelt out. The consumers then feel trapped and helpless.
For some items like a telephone or a gas connection, license or a passport or even for doctor’s treatment, the consumer may be made to undergo delays and roughness and rudeness. This harasses and displeases the consumer.
Consumer durables like refrigerator or a sewing machine or scooter etc, need maintenance. The sellers may not give these after sales services or may charge a high amount for them.
There are many factors of causing exploitation of the consumer. Illiteracy is one of the causes. An illiterate consumer can be cheated easily as she can neither read the name of the product nor the instructions. Illiteracy also affects the level of consumer awareness.
Lack of information is another cause. The seller may take advantage of the freedom of the market and keep away, important or correct information from the consumer. Price, composition, quantity, conditions of use, and terms of purchase all must be given to the consumer.
Monopoly is also a cause of consumer exploitation. In market where only one or few producers or sellers operate, the consumer is more vulnerable. This is all the more so in case of essential commodities like life saving drugs and food items. The consumer in such areas is charged with high price; given a low quality and his/her problems are not taken seriously.
In Indian consumer protection was given importance in the past. Kautilya’s Arthashastra mentions the protection of consumer’s interest against exploitation by producers and sellers. Malpractices such as adulteration, overcharging and underweighting of the goods were considered as punishable offences.
The Indian ethos and culture promotes wise consumption. Consumption which does damage the environment and which generates a spirit of abstinence and sharing is held supreme. It believes in simple living when consumer’s purchase irrationally and start responding indiscriminately and play into the hands of the producers and sellers, they make themselves vulnerable to exploitation. Thus, an ideal consumer is alert, responsible and environment friendly, buys only when there is need, prevents himself/herself from being cheated and knows his/her rights and duties.
An economy, in which consumers are aware, can practice their duties and exercise their rights freely, efficiency of the sellers and producers will be higher and so the economy will be more developed.