The festive season is also known as the season of discounts. The middle class is waiting for it to buy household goods, jewellery and other items. The shopkeepers offer various discounts to consumers. Our cities will get the festive look with attractive hoardings, colourful banners offering various discounts to consumers. National as well as local dailies come out with special editions containing advertisements of various companies/shops offering discounts and freebies to the consumers.
It is needless to say that the innocent consumer becomes an easy prey to this vicious propaganda. It is the duty of the law enforcement authorities to protect the consumers. The consumers should also protect themselves from being cheated. The union consumer affairs ministry, before the start of the festive season, advised the states and the union territories to enforce the law relating to legal methodology strictly, so that the innocent consumers are not cheated on weight and price. This is possible only by surprise checks and intensive inspections by the authorities concerned, on the restaurants, hotels jewellers and of course, sweetmeat shops to ensure compliance of all statutory provisions.
One should not think that by mere issuing of certain directives by those concerned will improve the situation. The consumer activists and organisations should also carry out surprise checks and assist the law enforcement authorities in identifying the shops that are flouting the rules. It is also learnt that the consumer ministry has written to the consumer organisations to keep in touch with the law enforcement authorities in their respective areas so that intensive inspection can be carried out by the authorities in the presence of the consumer groups.
Consumers should first understand certain terms like 50 per cent discount and up to 50 per cent discount. In up to 50 per cent the real discount is only between 10 and 12 per cent. In festive season, the sales of gold jewellery and silver ornaments will double, as it is auspicious for the Indians to purchase the yellow metal or some silver ornaments during the festive season. The ministry apprehends that since both the metals are costly even a small error in weight/quality will cause sufficient loss to the consumers.
Recent studies proved beyond doubt that the traders are short weighing gold ornaments, as they are not using balances approved by the department of legal metrology. Similary, some of the consumer groups have reported incidents of packed goods including oil, ghee, tea, biscuits, toilet soaps, wheat, flour weighing much less than claimed on the pack. Under the Weights and Measured Enforcement Act, short selling is an offence and attracts a fine of Rs 5,000 in the first instance and imprisonment up to five years if the offence is committed second time within three years. Consumer should beware before taking any deceision specially during festival season.
(The writer is a consumer activist & President of All India Consumer Education Society.)