Union Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan heavily criticised misleading advertisements on Thursday. Speaking at the Consumer Mela in New Delhi, Paswan took potshots at advertisements that make irrational claims including the ones that promise to cure a receding hairline within a matter of few days. “These advertisements are totally false and lack logic,” he said.
Paswan stated that celebrity actors often deceive consumers by endorsing things in an exaggerated manner that could have risky health implications. “Even celebrities who do endorsements should not make outlandish claims. Publish what exists in reality,” he mentioned.
He added that celebrities will be liable for prosecution in case of misleading claims. “We want to tell the celebrities to think wisely before endorsing a product. If you make misleading claims willingly then you will be liable for punishment,” Paswan asserted.
The minister pointed out that the central government is studying the laws in other countries to find a suitable punishment for such offences. The Consumer Protection Act, which was formulated in 1986, is set to be amended soon. “Consumer Protection Bill was framed thirty years ago. The manner in which goods and services are bought and sold has changed. You can buy things from kirana shops as also from e-retailers while sitting at home,” he said.
Paswan, who represents Hajipur constituency of Bihar in the Lok Sabha, opined that e-retailing had thrown up a number of challenges. The government is now entrusted with the dual responsibility of monitoring the quality and price of goods and services in both the offline and online world. The minister suggested that the new bill has provisions to take care of such concerns.
Under the draft legislation, the district, state and national consumer courts will deal with cases wherein claims have been made to the tune of Rs 1 crore, 10 crore and above 10 crore, respectively.
Lamenting at the thriving state of adulteration in India, Paswan said, “Nowhere in the world do people expect adulteration, especially in food. Nobody in India thinks that anything is available in the market without adulteration.” He admitted that medicines were also not free from adulteration.
“The consumer’s biggest weapon is the consumer court. We also have consumer helplines. Earlier, we had fourteen such help lines. Now we have sixty and all of them have the same phone number,” said Paswan as he batted for strengthening the existing mechanism of grievance redress.
He urged consumers to come forward and file complaints. “Act has been made. It says that the consumers will not be cheated. But the fact is that the consumers are being cheated on a daily basis. What should we do? For that, we will have to apply tact. Consumers will have to become aware. You will have to start filing complaints,” he told the gathering.
Paswan thanked industry bodies including FICCI and ASSOCHAM for supporting the consumer awareness programme. “India has a population of 127 crore. Everyone is a consumer including the President of India and heads of various companies present here,” he said.