a Wise Consumer
many times have you felt cheated when you came from the market?
How many times have you wished that you could make a complaint
but did not know how and to whom?
Your answer probably would be, ‘Yes, many times.” Most of
us consumers have been cheated some time or the other while
making a purchase. Many of us wish that we had more knowledge
that would help us become wiser consumers.
go on in this state of ignorance? Certainly not. We can and need
to educate ourselves on our rights and responsibilities as consumers.
As consumers, we first need to be aware of all the different products
available in the market. You probably know some or most of them.
I today’s scenario, it may not be possible to know all the products
that exits, but what is more important is to be aware of the products
that could be useful to you. If you are a working mother, you may
be interested in different ready-mixes or masalas that make your
job easier. If you are at home, you would probably be interested
in some other products. So keep your eyes an ears open, to increase
your knowledge of the many choices available to you today.
from the many products that exist, there are many brands for
each type of category. Cooking oils, for instance. There are
oils made from different sources like groundnut, sunflower and various
other seeds. In each type, both the refined and filtered varieties
You may ask yourself, “If there is so much to know, where do
I start? What are the essentials that I need to know that would
help me make better purchases?
All food manufacturers require a
license. The prevention of Food Adulteration Act
(PFA) stipulates the information that is to be given on every food
product that is above a certain minimum weight. This information
could be used by you while making your purchases.
To start with, look out for the following details on the packaging.
date of manufacture.
This gives you an idea of when the product was manufactures
and is of particular importance for ready-to eat and canned
foods. In most cases, the month of manufacture is stated.
For some products the date of packing may be given. The date
of manufacture does not have to be printed on fast moving
perishable goods like milk, butter and ice-cream.
Expiry date is another important
piece of information to consider when buying
a food product. However, under the PFA Act, it is not mandatory
for the manufacturer to print the expiry date on the packaging.
This provision is currently under consideration and is, likely
to be incorporated under the act in the near future.
S.J Mehta, Joint Commissioner Food, FDA Maharashra, “the PFA Act
is being amended to include the printing of the expiry date on all
Europe and America, the scenario is quite different. It is mandatory
for all perishable commodities to have the date of expiry clearly
visible on its label. Every one customarily checks that expiry date
before buying any item, making rough calculations of the shelf life
of he product. Neither the retauiler, nor the dealer there, would
stock anything which has a current expiry date. In India, the expiry
date rule only applies to pharmaceutical drugs. In all other commodities,
the mention of it is not mandatory. This could e one of the major
reasons why Indian food products are not popular in EEC markets.
The risk of contamination and staleness is high. A few manufacturers,
particularly multinationals, print ‘best before date’ on their products.
This is another way of stating the expiry date.
You may have noticed that canned and bottled food products like
jams, pickles, sauces and jellies have the letters FPO and a number
printed on them. FPO stands for Fruits Product Order and
is the act that governs the manufacture and packing of fruit products.
Every licensed fruit product will have the FPO number printed on
Another important factor for any food product is the ingredients
used in it. Every packaged food product
has to have an ingredient list on its label. The ingredients
are mentioned in descending order of quantity. The ingredient list
for a soup powder would be as follows – dehydrated vegetables, salt,
corn flour, etc. This means that dehydrated vegetables are the largest
item, by weight in the soup powder. The ingredient list is of particular
importance to those who cannot eat certain foods like eggs, for
The PFA Act stipulates the type and quantity of flavours and colours
that can be used in food products. The label of every food product
must mention that it contains ‘permitted colours and flavours’.
The FDA regularly checks products for the type and quantity of colours
and flavours sued.
How do we know the quality of ingredients that go into the product?
We can only depend on the reputation of the manufactures. In most
cases, it is preferable to buy a product of a known or reputed manufactures
rather that that of an unknown one. The former is likely to have
undertaken quality checks than his smaller counterpart. Price is
another important parameter that we need to check when buying a
food product, particularly a high value one,. Like oil. In today’s
competitive scenario, prices may not differ too much between brands
but we still need to make comparisons to satisfy ourselves.
The price of a product is stated as MRP (incl. of all taxes). This
is an all-inclusive price. A retailer can charge you a lower price
but not more than the MRP that is printed on the product. The packaging
act specifies the various sizes in which products can be packages
and sold. Some manufactures charge a higher price by selling in
a non-standard pack size. Any product that is of a different size
needs to mention the unit price so that the consumer can make her
Packaging is another important element of a product. One of the
important functions of packaging is to protect a product. Avoid
buying or refuse to accept a products with a soiled or damaged packaging
as the product it contains may have been pilfered or contaminated.
You may choose to accept a product with damaged packaging only if
you are sure that the product inside is unaffected by the damage
to its packaging.
Having seen what we need to know as a consumer, we also need to
know the procedure to be followed to make a complaint. Vanmana Manjure,
a consumer rights activist and panelist of the Consumer
Disputes and Redressed Forum (CDRF), an arbitrating body,
elaborates on the procedure. “When a consumer is dissatisfied with
a product, he should dispatch an acknowledgement due registered
letter to the, marketing division of the concerned company. If the
matter is very serious, the consumer can send the letter to the
MDS of the company too. Send in details of your complaint, along
with the mention of the shop from where you purchased the products,
the details about the packaging and also what kind of compensation
you are seeking.”
The penalties on the company will depend on the nature of the consumers
complaint. If the consumer is seeking a replacement of the product
or a money-back response, the company will have to comply. In case
of money-back, the amount will be refunded along with 18 per cent
If the company does not respond, the consumer will have to take
his grievance to the Consumer Guidance
Society of India (CGSI) or in Mumbai, to the Mumbai Grahak
Panchayat. The CGSI is based in Mumbai and has branches in the following
cities - Calicut, Goa, Hyderabad, Kottayam, Pune, Trichur and Udaipur.
If the need arises you can contact their local office. These organizations
will make a representation to the company concerned , on behalf
of the consumer. If the company fails to respond, then through these
bodies, the consumer can approach the CDRF which will hold a Consumer
Court, summoning all parties involved and arbitrate on the issue.
In the event of any complaint, all the costs of litigation have
to be borne by the company. The consumer is not charged anything.”
Vijay Jathan, Hon Gen Secretary of the CGSI, calls the process “righting
a wrong’. You as a consumer, have been wronged and now it has to
be set right.”
Every consumer should be aware of his or her rights and responsibilities
and should exercise them accordingly. Next time you have
a grievance, act immediately and refuse to be short changed. If
the country requires an active consumer movement it will be effective
only through vigilant consumers.
Contributed By : Maria Peres I have a Certificate
of Competence from the Writers Bureau and have published articles
in The Education Times and a couple of magazines for women. I have
over 15 years of experience as a Marketing professional and have
worked in the FMCG sector, in Market Research and in the Development
sector in India.
Writing Services, India |