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New portal for redressal of grievances against misleading advertisements
Tuesday, 24 March, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
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Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution, has launched two new initiatives of the department of consumer affairs aimed at enhancing consumer awareness and strengthening support services to consumers in the country. The initiatives were launched during National Conference on Consumer Rights, which was held here recently.

The initiatives included a dedicated portal to register Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA) and Grahak Suvidha Kendras – one-stop consumer centres at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Patna and Delhi.The conference was organised by department of consumer affairs.

Inaugurating the conference before the launch of the initiatives, Paswan reiterated the commitment of the government to consumer protection. He pointed out, “Government alone, regardless of the sector it deals with or the domain it regulates, cannot adequately address several of these challenges whether from the perspective of the market or that of the consumer.”

There is a need, he emphasised, for all stakeholders – the Central government, state governments, voluntary consumer organisations and elected representatives to work together to achieve this. He urged that a consumer advocacy strategy should be adopted uniformly across sectors and geographies and must include: consumer empowerment through awareness and education programmes; enhancing the quality or type of information provided for products and services and standardising contracts to ensure that they are not unfair to the consumer.

Mandating ethical firm behaviour by enforcing codes of conduct; extending a simple, speedy and affordable grievance redress window and using the institutional framework extant to reach out to the targeted consumer populations, especially in the rural areas should also be part of the strategy, according to him.

Keshav Desiraju, secretary, department of consumer affairs, noted that the challenges that we confront would require policy coherence; coordinated programme implementation, harmonisation of regulatory action and an institutional mechanism by which the interventions of government produce optimal results. It will also require harmonisation of the legislative framework and the regulatory apparatus.

Towards this end, he said, the department of consumer affairs has undertaken the task of modernising the legislative framework that governs consumer advocacy. Comprehensive amendments to the Consumer Protection Act as well as the Bureau of Indian Standards Act have been finalised to ensure timely executive interventions to ensure quality and safety of goods and services, prevention of unfair trade practices, address the problem of misleading advertisements, provide for speedy, simple and affordable consumer grievance redressal to enhance consumer protection.

On the occasion, Justice D K Jain, president, National Consumer Disputes Resolution Commission (NCDRC), noted that India enjoyed a unique position in the consumer advocacy movement with a dedicated three-tier quasi-judicial consumer dispute redress mechanism established at the district, state and national levels under the law. He emphasised the need for governments at the Centre and the states and consumer courts to work closely together to provide effective and timely grievance redressal to consumers.

GAMA Portal
The explosive growth of multi-media marketing and the virtual market has seriously challenged the concept of ‘Consumer Sovereignty.’ Increasingly subliminal advertising and peer pressure are influencing consumer behaviour.

Consumers are today exposed to large number of misleading advertisements often making claims that are dubious or unverified. Till date there is no single platform or agency to serve as a central registry for complaints against misleading advertisements. The department of consumer affairs has taken the initiative to establish a dedicated portal to enable consumers to register GAMA (Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements).

Any consumer in any part of the country can register on this site and can lodge a complaint against misleading advertisements. A well-defined protocol then ensures that the complaints are taken up with the relevant authorities in the state or Central government concerned and appropriate action taken. The portal also enables the consumer to be informed of the action taken. The portal will be linked to all state authorities concerned, select voluntary consumer organisations in the country and the sector regulators in the Government of India.

Grahak Suvidha Kendra

Department of consumer affairs has already set up and is supporting the national consumer helpline where consumers can lodge telephonic complaints regarding their grievances. Similarly the department has assisted 22 states to set up and run state helplines by which services are provided in regional language to aggrieved consumers. Building on the success of these initiatives the department has now conceptualised and launched the Grahak Suvidha Kendra – a one-stop centre that will provide a host of services to consumers under one roof. Select voluntary consumer organisations with funding support from government will run the kendras. The services envisaged include information dissemination, consumer awareness, mediation, grievance redress, assistance in filing complaints before the relevant consumer forum and counselling. The kendras are being launched on a pilot basis in six locations: Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Patna and Delhi. Based on the performance of these pilot centres a decision to extend the scheme to other parts of the country will be explored.
 
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