First Steps To Protect Your Rights

Updated: Mar 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
If an ad agency had advertised for How to Survive As A Consumer, the copy would have said that the first step a consumer should take is to buy the book. Well, almost. The book contains all a wronged consumer needs to know and do to get justice except take him physically to a consumer court.

Ban The Appearance Of Lawyers In Consumer Courts
There are few people in the country who have better credentials to write a book on consumer rights. One of the forerunners in the consumer movement in the country, Pradeep S Mehta runs Jaipur-based Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), which is perhaps the only southern consumer group with centres in Zambia, Kenya, and the UK, promoting South-South civil society cooperation, and better outreach to Northern consumers and policy makers. In an interview with The Financial Express on Sunday, the veteran consumer activist gives an overview of the consumer movement in India from a larger perspective
Aiming to write a reference book, veteran consumer activist Pradeep S Mehta has not only revisited the law for the lay person, but also dug into a mine of cases that not only illustrate the application of laws, but would also inspire a wronged consumer to fight back. So, you have often repeated grievances pertaining to post, telephones, railways and financial institutions as well as newly recognised consumer rights to clean environment deconstructed for easy understanding. Even interesting points to remember have been carried at the end of each chapter for a reader on the run.

Though some of the cases have been repeated, yet they dont bore you because these are the success stories that could well have been your own stories. Only if you had chosen to take your day to day fights to a logical conclusion. Of course, one wishes that more of the pending cases were also carried. That would have put into perspective the fact that for every case won, there are ten others that have been dragging on for years, which would also partly and indirectly explain why wronged consumers are wary of being doubly wronged by also having to take on the slow system in addition to all powerful goods manufacturers or service providers.

The book is not only for the uninitiated, but also for the informed. Some hitherto scarce nuggets of useful information are scattered here and there. For example, its common perception that only private medical care is covered under the Consumer Protection Act. But the author has quoted a case where even a government healthcare facility has been taken to court on the plea that the complainant is a taxpayer. The case is still pending, though. In any case, highlights the author, doctors can be charged under torts or Fatal Accident Act. Similarly, the book also deals in detail with the right to fresh air and clean water.

Despite an inherent dryness of the subject, the book is not without little bits of humour like when Pradeep S Mehta pointing out, while talking about financial services, that Harshad Mehta is not a relative of his.

Though its a useful book, it could have done well to have a detailed index for the consumer to look up a case similar to that of his to inspire him to fight back. And a detailed list of statewise consumer organisations would have come handy. May be the next edition would.

How To Survive As A Consumer by Pradeep S Mehta; CUTS; Rs 100; Pp 306